The National Academy for Theater and Film Arts is a factor in Bulgaria’s cultural life that has left few people indifferent. It was created and developed on basis of the understanding that these arts are necessary for our national identity. Today the academy is a modern educational institution, an integral part of the Bulgarian system of education, a symbol of the Bulgarian spiritual values.
After the World War II, Bulgaria experienced political, economic and social changes. Education became free of charge and thus a large number of young people could go in for theater. The number of theaters also increased and called for more actors and directors. On the other hand, as theater developed, the audience became more demanding. There was higher desire and strive for excellence; greater attention began to be paid to those elements, which, together, formed the complex artistic language of stage work. Articles calling for the creation of a higher school of theater began to appear in the media. All this lead to the adoption of a decree of the Council of Ministers of 28 January 1948, whereby the State School of Theater at the National Theater was transformed into a State Higher School of Theater which trained actors, directors and specialists in drama study for the needs of the Bulgarian theater. The students from the State School of Theater completed their education in the new institution.
The establishment of the State Higher School of Theater was the finale of a long-lived dream for an educational institution offering theater education on an academic level.
The first cohort included 22 students in acting and 9 students in directing; two years later were admitted 16 students in drama study. Initially the duration of study was four years for all specialities and was later extended to five years for directors and specialists in drama study.
The first seventeen professors appointed at the school were outstanding masters of Bulgarian theater art and theater criticism, some of whom had already proven themselves as pedagogues. These were the professors Dimitar B. Mitov, Boyan Danovski, Georgi A. Stamatov and Vladimir Trendafilov, the associate professors Pencho Penev, Stefan Karakostov, Lyubomir Tenev, Pencho Danchev, Dr. Lyubomir Andreychin, Stafan Sarchadzhiev, Filip Filipov, Dr. Krastyo Mirski, Gerda Glocke and the lecturers Olga Kircheva, Asen Popov, Lyuben Saev and Galina Tagamlitska. Soon two new professros were added - Nikolay O. Masalitinov and Georgi Kostov. Over the years, the number of professors increased and the curriculum was improved.
The first Rector of the State Higher School of Theater was Prof. Dimitar B. Mitov, an outstanding literary and theater critic, publicist, author of many monographs on Bulgarian and foreign writers, and publisher of a literary newspaper. Lead by his great love for the Bulgarian theater whose development he followed closely all of his life, he invested a lot of efforts and energy in placing theater education on scientific footing and raising the prestige of the School.
The building in which the School began its life was at 43, Tolbuhin Blvd. (now Vassil Levski Blvd.). It hosted just a couple of lecture halls and two training stages. The building soon became too small to accommodate the students and to provide normal conditions for their work. In 1951, on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the great Bulgarian actor Krastyo Sarafov, the School was named after him. In 1954, it was renamed to Higher Institute of Theater Art “Krastyo Sarafov”.
In 1955, the Institute was given a new building at 108A, Rakovski St., which was constructed specially for it. With its three stages and many more lecture halls, it offers better conditions for the educational process. The Training Theater – a major academic facility of the Institute, located in the same building – was opened on 1 November 1957 with the performance of the comedy “Duel” by Ivan Vazov, staged by Anastas Mihaylov. Its architecture provides opportunities for the realization of complex and diverse staging solutions. The hall features 430 seats in an amphitheater arrangement.
The speciality “Puppet Theater Acting” was introduced in 1962. “Puppet Theater Directing” was added ten years later. The first professors who laid the foundations of the specialities in this field were the directors Atanas Ilkov and Nikolina Georgieva who had already won recognition. Architect Ivan Tsonev was also attracted as a professor. Later the number of professors increased.
From the onset, these specialities enjoy unfading interest. Almost all actors in the modern Bulgarian puppet theater have graduated the Academy, as well as people from many other countries of the world where the Bulgarian school in this field of art is known and enjoys high recognition.
The Training Puppet Theater was opened in 1966 with the performances “The Carnival of the Animals” based on music by Saint-Saens, script and directing by Nikolina Georgieva, and “The Light Blue Peter” by Urban Gula, staged by Atanas Ilkov. The theater is situated in the building at 20, Stefan Karadzha St. and features a stage with modern equipment and a hall with one hundred seats.
Many of the performances of the Training Puppet Theater have won recognition in Bulgaria as well as abroad, and a lot of international awards and prizes.
In 1973 the correct decision was taken and the specialities Cinema and TV Directing, Cinema and TV Cinematography and Film Critical Studies were introduced. Hristo Hristov, Borislav Punchev, Atanas Tasev, Nedelcho Milev, Geori Karayordanov, Rumen Georgive were attracted as professors. In the first years they managed to overcome convincingly the absence of a well-developed methodology of the educational process and the hardships of the donated old equipment. They laid the foundations of the higher film and TV education in the country, in cooperation with the professors that followed them in the Academy. For the normal operation of the complex process of education of the students in the film department, the Institute was given two more buildings at 20, Stefan Karadzha St., near the first one.
The main structural units of the Academy are the departments. The different specialities are structured into eight departments. In addition, there are auxiliary structures ensuring the normal operation of the educational process.
The academic library ranks top among the service units. It actively supports the teaching and learning process and the research work of students and professors. From the moment it was established, the State High School of Theater Since created and began to develop its library. First the library fund had only 1000 books. Some of them came from the modest collection of the State School of Theater; others were donated by the National Theater and by individuals. The library occupied only one room which was simultaneously a book depository, a lending service and a reading room and this prevented the normal use of the library stock. In the new building of the Institute, the library occupies three rooms, one of which is a reading room. Over the years, the number of books, newspapers and magazines increased to 57 000 volumes including 52 000 books and 2 000 periodicals in our days.
Today the academic library has its place in the uniform library system as the only library specialized in the field of theater, cinema and other arts studied at the Academy. It has a rich collection ranging from Bulgarian plays from the National Revival period to the newest publications, as well as many foreign editions in original or in translation. Worth mentioning are also the Bulgarian and foreign books on history and theory of theater and film art, as well as the biographies of renown creative workers in the field of art and culture. Fiction has a large share in the fund and there are also many old and valuable editions. The books and magazines in the library stock boast of a language variety corresponding to the enhanced language capabilities and requirements of the readers.
In parallel with the introduction of the film specialities, the Audiovisual Training Сenter was set up, having its own material resources. It is a service unit in the technological and production process, as well as in the artistic and creative process in the film specialities and the place where all compulsory practical tasks for the semester are implemented and the diploma works of the final year students are produced. It supports the educational process with shows of films and videos and practical training classes; takes part in the organization of the student film reviews and fests enjoying success both in and outside the Academy; organizes also the participation of student films at international forums. Over the years, the center has enriched its film stock, which features now 350 copies of professional films, 110 video cassettes with records of audiovisual works, plus the diploma works of the final year students.
A Training Video and Computer Center was set up with funding from the European Programme TEMPUS.
An Academic Information Center was opened in the Academy in the late 1990ies. It offers to professors and students the latest information on the theory and practice of modern theater and film art across the world. On one part, AIC is closely linked to the overall international cooperation vision of the Academy and on the other part it organizes its own independent initiatives and projects at national and international level – seminars, guest visits of foreign professors, festivals. One should add here its intermediation for the establishment of contacts with foreign academic institutes. It offers the students information about their further education abroad in similar educational institutions in the field of arts. AIC has established contacts with the national focal points of the EU programs in the field of education. It initiated and coordinated a TEMPUS project for designing the websites of the three art academies in Bulgaria and implemented their connection to the world information system.
The professors in the Academy are authors of textbooks, books and studies in the field of science and culture; they take part in symposiums in Bulgaria and abroad, stage performances and make films outside the Academy. Many of the studies are focused on the problems of Bulgarian theater and theater education. This called for a special academic publication. A Yearbook of the Higher Institute of Theater Art began to be published in 1956, based on the idea suggested by Prof. Pencho Penev. He was for many years the editor of the yearbook and played an important role for its establishment and regular publication.
On 1 August 1995, the educational institution was given its current name – National Academy for Theater and Film Arts “Krastyo Sarafov”, which characterizes best its nature and essence.
The Academy is the oldest and so far the only state-funded higher school of theater and film arts. Its importance has many aspects among which there is one fact which focuses the attention on the question of generations, that is, of the fate of Bulgarian theater and cinema. The continuity of generations in the theater and film process is a factor for the normal and ascending development of these arts.
Academy’s success at national and international level speaks of its prestige. Many professors and students win awards at the most authoritative international forums. Awards and recognition win also renowned theater and film people who have studied at the Academy.
The past few years were ones of qualitative political, economic and social changes. The Academy was given autonomy and thus the State is no longer responsible for finding jobs for the young specialists. Therefore, the students have to prepare for an ever growing competition.
Besides the Academy, there appeared also other classes, schools and faculties where graduates of the institution prepare actors and directors. Despite its high prestige, the Academy will have to joint in the competition and continue to defend its leading place.