Founded in 1946 by Mara Penkova, who used her own meager resources to fund the troupe in those lean post-war years, the first Bulgarian puppet theater quickly succeeded in capturing the public’s attention. Only two years later, the troupe was awarded a state subsidy and became the first officially-recognized professional state theater in Bulgaria. Since its founding, the puppet theater has staged more than 300 plays.
The theater’s first international appearance took place in Bucharest in 1958, and only a mere two years later, the troupe received an award for “Originality and Imagination” at the Second Annual International Puppetry Festival in Bucharest for its adaptation of Sergey Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf”, directed by Atanas Ilkov and Nikolina Georgieva.
The 1960s were the theater’s golden era, characterized by highly successful performances that spread the theater’s reputation for high-caliber and wildly popular puppet productions throughout the world, from Cuba to the U.S. and Canada, and from Western Europe to as far away as Japan. For example, the theater’s productions of “King Marko” (1967) and “Pinocchio” (1968) were featured in Edinburgh’s prestigious theater festival; “The Watchmaker” (1965) was also noted for its striking visuals. Not limiting itself to children’s repertoire, the puppet theater also has performed classics from the general theatrical canon, such as “The Misanthrope” (1968), “The Decameron” (1972), “The Tempest” (1987), and “Macbeth” (1996). The theater’s adaptation of the cult classic “Ragazza” was sold-out weeks in advance of its opening. The theater also successfully staged the legendary shadow-puppet plays “Carnival of Animals” and “Pictures at an Exhibition” (1997). Finally, the theater is famous for the unflagging popularity of its “The Princess and the Pea”, which has had an unbelievably successful run of more than thirty years!