In the beginning there was… pantomime
The beginning of the path of Fire Theatre to THE FIRE DRAMA lies far back in time when in the mid-80s of last century, we – as members of the troupe of Mime-Studio “Alba” – discovered the street theatre…
The beginning of the path of Fire Theatre to THE FIRE DRAMA lies far back in time when in the mid-80s of last century, we - as members of the troupe of Mime-Studio "Alba" – discovered the street theatre and in particular the street pantomime and clowning. In Bulgaria, we - the mimes from "Alba", led by our teacher Prof. Dr. Alexander Iliev - were among the first to practice open-air theatre. Thanks to Alexander Iliev, we mastered the basics of the Italian traditional comedy of Мasks - “Commedia del'Arte” and along with it we fell in love with all theatrical and performative forms that go beyond the limits of the stage box. We started to practice them actively. So from the very foundation of FIRE THEATRE (1993) the open-air theatre has permanently entered our repertoire and so far occupies a significant part of it.
The other source of inspiration for us were the ideas of the famous English director and set and costume designer Edward Gordon Craig, and in particular his firm belief that there should be no sham in the theatrе, that everything on stage should be real - because it affects the audience and actors with its energy, essence, matter and independent quality. So, we started working mainly with natural materials and/or materials that are directly related to what we represent. We started experimenting. This eventually led us to the real - live fire, which we began to include in our performances… But until we do that 15 years passed, during which FIRE THEATRE was preparing. We created and played many other outdoor performances. For us and our hot actors, this was a valuable source of experience in working with circles of attention (attracting, leading, retaining attention), communication with and involving the audience, improvisation, etc. At that time we learned various traditional, fighting, carnival, etc. techniques, and we also gained considerable experience with the specifics of outdoor theatre in terms of the influence of space, wind and temperature, humidity, noise, street lighting and many other factors that we had not thought about before.
10.09.2006. This was the date when for the first time we included fire in our performance…
* In this type of performance the audience moves from one place to another, following the performers through the performance space. The performances are often site-specific and take place in interesting and unusual places, most often in the open air, and not in specially built theatre spaces.
In it, along with the performances of pantomime, songs, live music, dance, acrobatic attractions, etc. from our repertoire, for one of the scenes we invited a guest actor - a professional circus performer, who presented a fire attraction (fire-breathing). It turned out great and this served as a starting point for our journey to the Fire and its expressiveness. However, in order to start sustainably including Fire in our performances, we needed serious preparation. Such knowledge was not taught in Bulgaria, there were no specialists in the theatre academy either. We had to search for ourselves, self-train and train actors for the kind of theatre we wanted to create.
Three years of training and self-study followed.
At the beginning of this millennium, fire arts were still exotic to our country. When we decided to start, there were only two groups of enthusiasts who practiced this new art here, whose both main focus was mastering the techniques of fire props and fire performing. These were the fire artists from Naria Inri Magaria and the Divinitas Fire Arts Club, which was established a year before our first experience with fire. Unlike today, it was not so easy then to find teachers and acquire skills in this direction. In many ways we discovered things ourselves…
In 2008 we created FIRE Fest Studio at the Cultural House “Sredets” - a creative laboratory for open-air theatre and carnival, and we started working with our first group of young people, who we initially taught pantomime, working with masks, spinning sticks and flags, a little juggling, etc. mostly experimenting with the use of attraction techniques in a theatrical context (creating specific theatrical images, using attraction techniques in the spirit of Meyerhold, Eisenstein and Russian "eccentrics" - as a way to awake and provoke the attention of the viewer and to conduct and emphasize the message). Our way of working was in line with Peter Brook's famous description of the director as "one-eyed leading a group of blind people." We are grateful to everyone who shared with us then this fascinating adventure - without each of them we would not be what we are today :). Our laboratory work from this period created a solid basis for our further work.
In those years we traveled a lot and this gave us the opportunity to meet more experienced people than us, from whom to draw knowledge and ideas. We actively used the opportunities offered by European youth mobility programs such as “Youth” and later “Erasmus+”. So we met with colleagues from other European countries (Czech Republic, Poland, Germany) and started exchanging experience.
At the end of the summer of 2009, we sent three of the young talents we worked with at the time (a young man and two girls at the end of their studies at the theatrical academy) to volunteer in Norway's oldest and most reputable street theatre company "Stella Polaris”. They stayed there for a month to participate in the creation and presentation of a large-scale international open-air theatrical production (When the Dead Wake Up), a performance by Viking legends that included the usage of fire, and in the middle of September 2009 they returned to Bulgaria with new "fire" skills, know-how and contacts. The leader of the three young people from our organization was Dancho Kolev, who at that time joined the management team of FIRE THEATRE (together with its creators Elena Pap and Plamen Radev). From then until 2016, FIRE THEATRE works actively for the development of theatre with fire and the Fire Drama.
At the same time, Heodes Fardeau, a girl from France who was a spinner* and a European Volunteer, came to participate our project in Theatre-Art-Culture Foundation.
*This is one of the popular names of people who practice fireworks, etc. Flow arts.
Eodes stayed with us for eight months and became the first poy* teacher in the Fest Studio.
* The most popular and used prop in fire arts. It is a ball attached to a chain or rope.
A peculiar momentum was formed. Finally, we were ready to try what we learned and try to put into practice our ideas for combining theatre and fire.
On September 13, 2009 we launched one of our most ambitious (so far) projects…
The premiere took place on September 24, 2009 in front of all participants and guests of the prestigious festival, who warmly applauded us. It is a curious fact that we played in the foyer of the Stara Zagora Regional library "Zachary Knyazhevsky" *:)
*The performance was planned to be played outdoors - at the Ancient Roman Forum of Augusta Trayana (archeological site in the center of Stara Zagora) - but at the last moment the host organizers changed the place and so the show was played indoors in the lobby of the library. Fortunately, it was spacious and entirely marble, so the use of fire was safe 🙂
Our success in Stara Zagora encouraged us to take the next step – to create a complete performance in which fire is the main protagonist….
Our success in Stara Zagora encouraged us to take the next step - to create a complete performance in which fire is the main protagonist. So, in 2010 were born our FIRE MYSTERIES - our first fire theatrical production. The performance consisted of three separate miniatures, connected in a common frame, in which we synthesized (semantically, technically and visually) fire and pantomime. The executive team consisted of four people - the actors: Elena Pap, Dancho Kolev, Plamen and Tsvetelina Radev.
On June 30, 2010, two of these miniatures were pre-premiered as part of the program of the Small Season‘2010 of the Sfumato Theatre Workshop, united by the title "In Search of Internal Fire-2", emphasizing that with them we continue the aproach of the above project with the same name.
Two weeks later - on July 16, 2010 we were guests of the National Poetry Festival " Javorov Days" in Pomorie, where we performed a remake of one of our earliest mime performances “ОUTDANCING“ (ethno-pantomime, originally intended for stage performance, premiere 1995, Mimе-studio "Alba" § Fire Theatre). And since this time it was to be performed outdoors, we took the opportunity to add a few key scenes and fire. This particular performance also included live performances by the folk singer Yanka Rupkina, who gained world fame with the vocal trio Bulgarka and The Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices.
On September 17, 2010 within the 6th edition of the "Puppet Fair" in Sofia on the square "Sveta Nedelya" took place the first complete performance of FIRE MYSTERIES*
*In a block-perfrmance with a light miniature of our colleagues from the Mime Theatre "Sofia" under the common name"FLASHES".
Within the same festival we played two more performances of the Mysteries at other locations in the city. It is a significant fact that this particular edition of the Puppet Fair, thanks to the selection of the organizers, created a unique situation - its program included three of the four active at the time fire formations: part of the pioneers of Naria Inri Magaria, just that the Theatre of Lights and Shadows, created by a breakaway member of this group, and our FIRE THEATRE, which from the very beginning distinguished itself from the others by the theatrical character of its fire performances. Yes, 2010 was the year in which fire art for the first time categorically stated its presence on the Bulgarian cultural scene.
In 2010 Diana Ivanova (Tankova) also joined the core team of FIRE THEATRE. This was the fourth very active and committed to the development of FIRE THEATRE and FIRE DRAMA artist (together with the management team - Elena, Plamen and Dancho). Diana successfully completed her studies at Fire Theatre Fest Studio and after graduating she devoted all her time and energy to her work in FIRE THEATRE. Gradually she became a leading fire actress in performances and one of the leading trainers in fire techniques in the theatre.
This is how the so-called core of FIRE THEATRE was formed, consisting of Elena, Plamen, Dancho (management team) and Diana, who gradually also gained serious artistic, pedagogical and administrative experience. In this composition, the core remained active until the 2015-16 season, when first Diana (2015) and then Dancho (2016) withdrew from it and took their own path in other directions, continuing to participate in separate actions and performances of FIRE THEATRE, but now less often and on a project basis.
The following year, on September 24, 2011, the play "Fire Mysteries" was presented already in an expanded cast (with actors from Bulgaria, Slovenia, Hungary and Serbia)* also in Stara Zagora at the seventh edition of the International Puppet Theatre Festival for Adults "Piero", where after the success of our previous show we were looking forward to our next fire production. After another year - on August 24, 2012 and once again a year later - on May 17, 2013 - the three miniatures were performed as part of a collective production called "The New Thracians" (director and screenwriter Elin Rakhnev), with which both consecutive years opened the festival "Celebrations in the Valley of the Thracian Kings" in Kazanlak.
* The full list of actors involved in this production can be seen here.
2011 was a year of a new big experiment for us. We dared to put on stage with an international team a performance (mimodrama) based on an almost unknown draft in our country for a screenplay (mime tale) of the classicist of Bulgarian literature Geo Milev, on which he had worked in 1922-23, preparing the libretto for an opera based on music by Pancho Vladigerov for the troupe of the great German avant-garde director Max Reinhard in Germany. The show (as well as the work of Geo Milev) was called THE FIRE DRAGON and in it we were also prepared to use fire….
The team, with which this mimodrama was created and performed, included 16 actors from Sweden, Lebanon, Spain, Poland, Macedonia, Serbia, Greece and Bulgaria. Despite the short life of the project (some of the foreign members of the team were in Bulgaria for only four months - from April to July 2011) the show was played with great success in Sopot, Lovech and Sofia (incl. on The Small Season of Sfumato on July 4) and managed to make a very strong impression to the audience - both with the topics covered in it and its message, and with its unusual (in the context of the Bulgarian theatrical reality) means of expression and vision.
Within this project we managed to qualitatively develop our methodology of work in relation to collective creativity in an intercultural team, which provided an opportunity for intercultural interaction and dialogue, enrichment of views and means of expression. We conducted a serious joint analysis, discussions, different opinions clashed, tested different ideas… This play remains special in the history of our theatre (in the context of our experience with the fire drama) and the fact that its fire part - the “Resurrection” miniature - served us as an inspiration and formed the basis of our first real large-scale fire (mime) drama - the show created next year: ”IGNIS: the rebirth of Sofia ".
Apart from the work on the Fire Dragon, the international team we had formed in 2011 had several other theatrical performances, among which we will mention another related to fire and theatre:
It is about our participation with two allegorical pantomime miniatures created especially for this occasion (in one of which we also used fire) in a concert performance "Legends of the Small Town" (screenwriter and director: Dimitar Sharkov), with whom on March 3, 2011 The 145th anniversary of the declaration of the town of Botevgrad as a city was solemnly celebrated. Each of the mime legends lasted 6-8 minutes. The production was large - with over 800 participants, the hall was crowded, among the spectators were the then Minister of Culture - Vezhdi Rashidov, the then Speaker of the National Assembly - Tsetska Tsacheva, and all local administrative leaders and representatives of the cultural community of the city.
2011 is significant in our “fire story” for one more thing. Then for the first time we had the opportunity to show our fire and theatrical art outside of Bulgaria…
This first "fire" trip of FIRE THEATRE outside of Bulgaria was followed by others: France, Romania, Serbia, Jordan.
The fire 2012 started for FIRE THEATRE with new participation in a popular traditional festival – on January 27, 2012 we opened the XXI edition of the International Masquerade Festival “Surva” in Pernik with a fire carnival procession and a fire performance…
• the performance in the town of Kazanlak, crowning the procession organized by the Youth Center for Development "Mutual Aid" on the occasion of Water Day (March 22, 2012), which marked the beginning of an extremely fruitful and close cooperation • the performance on May 11 in front of Studio 5 of the National Palace of Culture in Sofia, which was part of the program of the fifth edition of "MIME JAM: Evening of Pantomime and its friends" (one of our favorite initiatives), when we had the opportunity to play in front of our colleagues and friends from the whole active Bulgarian mime community • the performance on May 21 (the feast of FIRE THEATRE) on Holy Sunday Square. The event itself lasted from 5pm until almost midnight. All friends and partners of FIRE THEATRE were invited, as well as journalists, representatives of the Ministry of Culture, Sofia Municipality, UBA, NCEMPI, journalists, volunteers from other organizations. More than 300 people gathered in the square. The show itself grew into a wonderful fire happening, during which over 100 people were able to touch the magic of fire and try for themselves what it's like to play and communicate with fire. The emotion was so strong and the energy was so great that we wonder if this was not the cause of the ensuing earthquake in Sofia 2 hours later, which fortunately did not cause damage and which we accepted as a good sign - Our team had gathered enough strength and self-confidence to shake up the world of theatre - we had something big ahead of us…
2012 was the year in which а happy coincidence created the momentum for a truly significant public application of the FIRE DRAMA as a new, attractive and promising form of theatre….
And since we especially appreciate the rich cultural and historical heritage of Sofia, we decided to focus on creating a large-scale plot fire-theatre show (then the term "fire drama" had not yet come into use) to immerse viewers in the depths of the history of our city, but not directly, but using the allegorical and poetic language of the ancient art of pantomime, enriched and enhanced by the energy of living fire.
Thus was born the idea for the show "IGNIS. The Rebirth of Sofia". As it is clear from its name, in it - the Fire ("ignis" - from the Latin "fire, flame"), personified in the face of the protagonist, played a leading role. The genre we focused on was mystery mimodrama, and we used the aforementioned fire-theatrical miniature "Resurrection" as the starting point for the creation of the show and the development of the story line, which ended our show "The Dragon of Fire".
To our great joy, the experts from the Culture Directorate and the independent evaluators invited by them saw the potential in our ideas and believed in us, and our project was approved and funded by the Culture Program of the Municipality*.
* Which probably contributed to the success of our project supported by the same program "BoulevART Vitosha", implemented last year.
Three months later, after preparing and working on the script, visual and musical concept, etc., in early August the practical activities of the production itself began. The team was again international (17 artists from France, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Spain and Bulgaria), including people with experience who already know our style of work and participated in our previous theatre projects (with or without fire) and several young actors and actresses who had just joined our team. The main male role (Ignis) was entrusted to Dancho Kolev, and the main female role (Sofia) to Diana Ivanova.
In order to introduce and involve the newcomers, to unite and work the team, as well as to try some ideas related to the usage of fire that we had not tried before, we decided as our first step to conduct a five-day intensive creative laboratory in the form of a camp in nature - something that had an extremely beneficial effect. This practice became part of our usual work process later - every time we had the opportunity to do so - when starting a new show. The camp took place from 08 to 12 August, 2012 in an eco-farm in the village of Praveshka Lakavitsa, Botevgrad Balkans.
Exactly one month after the end of the laboratory, after many intensive long hours of rehearsals and workshops of creating costumes, props and decor, on September 12, 2012 we held an open public rehearsal of IGNIS in front of about 60-80 people in the city park “Zaimov”. In addition to the feedback from them, which helped us a lot, this meeting with the audience gave the opportunity to those members of our team for whom working with fire was something new, as well to their spinner colleagues, who did not have much experience with theatre, to become convinced of their qualities, to "believe" in success, to cope with their "stage fever” and to gain self-confidence. In addition, the show was tested in front of spectators, in real conditions (not very easy, as it was windy and cool) and provided an opportunity for us to make final adjustments.
For the first time we included a composer to the creative team - the talented Sildar Borisov (Dari), who wrote wonderful music for the show.
During this month, along with the rehearsals, for the needs of the show was created the design and the following were made:
• 25 original theatrical costumes made of leather and textiles - 6 of them for actors on stilts
• a huge costume of the “god of the underground river” - a skirt with an area of nearly 30 m2
• 25 leather masks and dominoes and 7 papier maché masks
• 2 large fire dolls-heads (with a diameter of 1m.) on holding sticks with hair attached made by fire ropes with a length of 4m.,
• a huge mask: stone face (dimensions 3m. x 4m.) – a door to the underworld
• a large number of unique, specially designed props for playing with fire
• metal constructions - screens and two stage platforms, together with "clothes" for them.
For all participants in the process - it was a time of dedicated, tireless work, self-denial, self-overcoming. The rehearsals and the studios were open and they worked until midnight. We rehearsed often at night - until 3 or 4 am, when we had the necessary darkness and free space for work. This was possible only due to the great inspiration and faith of the team, dedication to art and to the common goal. We are deeply grateful to the whole team, in which everyone was important, everyone gave their creative contribution and was involved in every stage of the work (from creating the script and designs of the fire costumes and props, through rehearsals and work in the creation studios for costumes and masks, to the actual presentation of the show, then loading, unloading, setting stage decors, and so on).
The official premiere took place on the Day of Sofia City - September 17 on Sveta Nedelya Square, which in recent years has become our favorite place to play, located next to Serdica – a place rich in historical finds from the time of Ulpia and a part of the Sofia’s Largo from the centuries after. The show was greeted very warmly by the hundreds of spectators gathered in the square. Four more performances followed, realized at the same location until the beginning of October (21.09, 22.09, 30.09 and 01.10). One of these performances (30.09) was extraordinary and was performed at the request of the participants in the international team, who not only wanted to enjoy the fruits of their efforts, but also to meet the desire of the audience to play this show more. The audience interest was really great. At each performance, the square was narrow, to accommodate those wishing to see the unique for the Sofia theatrical poster performance. In total the five performances were attended by about 1,500 people (although one of the evenings was very cold and windy and did not offer the ideal conditions for outdoor play).
For us, it was half a month of creative triumph, during which we enjoyed the fruits of our efforts. We were already convinced: we had managed to create a unique new and original form of theatre. The FIRE DRAMA had finally been born and from that moment on it started living its visible and active life.
The life of "Ignis" continued next season, although partially renewed and reduced the international creative team. In 2013 the show was presented at:
• International Art Forum "EUROMEDINCULTURE (S)", Toulon - France (21-23.03, 2013)
• Sozopolis Festival, second edition - Sozopol, Bulgaria (29-30.05, 2013)
• Small Season of Sfumato - Sofia, Bulgaria (01.07, 2013)
• Night of Theatres - first edition (European Initiative) - Sofia (14.09, 2013)
In the meantime, we had already dedicated ourselves to the work on the second part of our fire trilogy about Sofia - the show SERDIRICON: Fire Legends of the Ancient City.
For the realization of this show we have chosen a new inspiring location – the ruins of Roman Serdica, exhibited in the courtyard of the presidency at the rotunda “St. George”.
The international team, carried out Serdiricon consisted of 33 artists (actors, directors, designers, musicians) from ten different countries (Spain, Italy, France, Germany, Slovenia, Poland, Hungary, Ukraine, Palestine, Bulgaria). The oldest participant in it (Jan Iliev) was 51 years old, and the youngest (David Kolev) was only 3.
We started the staging process again with an intensive creative laboratory, which this time took place on the beach - in the campsite "Dolphin" near the town of Ahtopol. There, as well as getting to know and unite the team, we had the opportunity to improvise over the proposals of the screenwriters and select those of them who had the greatest potential; after a series of improvisations and laboratories, we selected the cast for each of the miniatures to make up the show. Meanwhile, the composer, who was also involved in the process, sketched out his musical themes and offered us his music, inspired by what he saw, which we immediately tried out in action. Like in Ignis, the intensive work process continued in Sofia with staging rehearsals and workshops for making costumes, props and decors.
In the midst of work on "Serdirikon" we received an invitation to participate in the international youth festival of arts "A Different Look" in Stara Zagora. For us, this was a great opportunity to try in front of an audience once again (after we had done it on September 17 in the square in front of The National Theatre "Ivan Vazov" on the Day of Sofia and the Culture awards ceremony of Sofia Manucipality) separate parts (each one an independent story) from the show. As a result, we presented a concert-performance (consisting of the most spectacular miniatures, attractions and scenes from our already realized fire-theatrical productions: "Flashes", "A Quest for the inner fire", "Fire Mysteries" and "IGNIS: Revival of Sofia”- and the mentioned excerpts from “Serdirikon”). We called it The Path of Fire. The play was shown on the stage of the Summer Theatre in Ayazmoto Park in Stara Zagora on September 20, 2013 - ten days before the premiere of "Serdirikon" in Sofia.
Subsequently, the concept of this concert-performance was developed and it was enriched with additional scenes and attractions (with each subsequent edition we had the opportunity to choose what exactly to perform within the story frame, depending on the specific content of our team, desires of the artistic hosts, conditions and occasion, etc.). The most memorable for us new realization of this production was its presentation to our compatriots in Bosilegrad, Serbia at the organized by the Association "Voice" and the Bulgarian CIC in the city Easter Festival of Bulgarian Culture (April 20, 2014) and our first participation in the international open-air theatre festival "Puppets occupy streets" in Craiowa, Romania, on which closure we played on September 1, 2016.
Shortly after our return from Stara Zagora – on September 26, 2013 we also organized the first full performance of the play "Serdiricon" on the field in the original environment, on which the show was intended to be played. We had planned this to be a public dress rehearsal, and since we hadn't made a big public announcement, we didn't expect a serious influx of people. To our pleasant surprise, the rumor about our new show had spread quickly and more than 500 people gathered at the ruins. This extremely invigorating first contact with the audience gave us the opportunity to really assess the potential of the show and feel the unadulterated reactions of the audience. Another pre-premiere performance followed on September 28 and the premiere itself on October 1, 2013. Although the weather got much worse and it became cold (the temperatures dropped to zero during the night) we again enjoyed considerable audience attention. Two more performances followed - on October 4 and 5, after which, most of the foreign participants had to leave, so this show was no longer played in its entirety, despite the great audience interest in it. We have continued to perform individual miniatures of it over the years as part of our collective performances and programs.
2014 started with a bang and it turned out to be one of the strongest years of FIRE THEATRE by then. It was marked by several memorable participations in local and international festivals and with the success of our most mature fire drama performance – the third part of our fire trilogy for Sofia – the show “THE MEMORY OF FIRE“…
The plot of this spectacle, as well as the previous two, was inspired by and related to the ancient history of Sofia. Our story was metaphorical, multi-layered and full of interesting images and characters. After the usual introductory creative camp, intensive rehearsals and workshops related to this show started in mid-June. It was done in groups, on a laboratory basis. Our goal in this production was to try to summarize and use as effectively as possible everything learned so far about the fire drama. To create the music we invited the two composers who worked on the music of the first two parts of the trilogy - Sildar Borisov (Dari) and Yordan Vladev. Working in tandem for them and for us was one of our experiments. The others were related to the creation of spectacular fire costumes and large-scale fire decoration. Our international creative team included 16 actors, fire performers, musicians and designers from 5 different countries (France, Ukraine, Latvia, Jordan, Bulgaria). In this spectacle, as in the following ones, there were no "central" - leading - characters. The dramaturgy was such that it gave each of the participants the opportunity to express their abilities and create bright and memorable characters in the minds of the audience. Each of the actors, even the young David Kolev (who was near four years old at that time) played several different roles.
As in the previous year, in order to provoke and involve the community and the audience in our creative process, we conducted a series of open workshops and rehearsals. We held three such workshops and three fire rehearsals in Zaimov Park (July 8, 10, 17), as well as a long open rehearsal with a fire in situ (in the field - on the ruins of the rotunda of St. George) on July 30.
A month later - on August 29, the dress rehearsal (with audience) took place - a full performance of the spectacle on the field, which was attended by about 150 spectators and the international commission, which had to evaluate the candidacy of Sofia and the Southwest region for ECOC'2019 . On September 5, another public pre-premiere performance followed, which was also attended by 150-200 people.
The premiere of THE MEMORY OF FIRE took place on September 12, 2014. The interest was very high, about 500 people had gathered at the ruins to applaud the show. A week later -on September 19 - the following performance took place, which was included in the program of the eighth edition of the ITF "Puppet Fair". Earlier in the day, we participated with a report and presentation on our experience with fire drama and open-air theatre in the work of the International Conference on "STREET THEATRE AND ITS CHILDREN" hosted by Sofia Puppet Theatre within the festival. What we shared aroused great interest and in the evening among the large audience we were happy to see the faces of many respected directors and actors from Bulgaria and foreign participants in the festival. But the greatest recognition for the quality of our work came after the end of the show, when behind the scenes came the creative director of the festival – the famous Bulgarian puppet theatre director Kiryakos Argyropoulos, who delighted us with the words: "Congratulations! Fire Theatre has found its creative face!.
For us, this show marks a peak in the development of our art and the art of The FIRE DRAMA in terms of its overall composition and impact, and in terms of the balance and symbiosis between content and form, theatrical and fire means of performance.
The next day - September 20 - we were already at the next festival – "The Different Look" Festival of Arts in Stara Zagora, where we finally had the opportunity to realize our dream of playing at the renewed ancient forum of the city. The Memory of Fire gathered more than 600 people there. Spectators from Burgas, Sozopol and other cities had arrived especially for the performance.
More performances followed in Sofia - on September 27, October 12 and October 19 - as the last performance, preceded the day before by a fire procession with characters and excerpts from the show on Vitosha Blvd. (from the National Palace of Culture to Sveta Nedelya Square), coincided with at the plenary meeting of the International Performing Arts Network IETM, in which we took an active part and had the opportunity to present the fire drama to about 1000 participants from around the world. Some of them managed to see the performance live and were very impressed both by the performance itself and by the unique place where it was presented and by the readiness and efforts of Sofia Municipality to turn this and other similar spaces into active public areas for art and culture.
The last performance of "Memory of Fire" with this cast took place on November 15, 2014 within the framework of the international initiative THE NIGHT OF THE THEATRE. It was a real triumph. The audience that came to see us was over 800 people, twice the capacity of the space, the ruins were crowded, spectators who wanted to see climbed even on the roof of the rotunda, but despite the large crowd, the atmosphere was amazing and the show reached everyone of those present. The superlatives and the good reviews lasted for hours after the show ended. For us, this was a clear sign that the "fire drama" has a future and that this is the direction in which we want to develop.
The performance "Memory of the Fire" was restored (as part of the foreign participants from the original cast traveled specifically for this purpose to Bulgaria) and played again in 2016 in Varna (Open Air Cinema “Druzhba” ("Fellowship"), as well as on June 2, 2017 as part of the main programme of the the most prestigious international theatre festival in our country "Varna Summer". This time we had the pleasure to use as our stage another attractive archeological space - The Roman baths in Varna, one of the best preserved architectural monuments from the ancient period in our country. Once again we enjoyed serious interest (the audience was about 350 people, at least as many remained outside, as the space did not allow more spectators) and great feedback. The next day, especially for those who were interested in trying for themselves what it means to play with fire, we organized a two-hour fire happening called "Feel the Fire" at the main entrance to the Varna’s Sea Garden.
In 2014 the experience of FIRE THEATRE in the field of open-air theatre and fire theatre became object of scientific interest and was presented as part of a bachelor's thesis and a master's thesis:
• Viliya Monova: "Fire Theatre - outside and inside. Fire as aesthetics and practice of a non-traditional theatre" (diploma work for obtaining a bachelor's degree, supervisor Prof. Dr. Kalina Stefanova, NATFA "Krastyo Sarafov", Faculty of Performing Arts, Department of Theatre Studies, specialty "Theatre Studies and Theatre Management".
• Benita Nisim Primo: "Circus Nuovo in Bulgaria in the early 21st century" (dissertation for the degree of "Master of Arts", supervisor Prof. Dr. Alexander Iliev, NATFA "Krastyo Sarafov", Faculty of "Performing Arts", Department " Acting and directing for drama theatre ").
We are deeply grateful for the trust and support of the Culture Program of Sofia Municipality, which understood the potential of the Fire Drama and Fire Theatre and which supported us during the city's candidacy for European Capital of Culture 2019. Although the funds we disposed to create and realize these performances were not great, the moral and logistical support were of great importance for our development and creativity. When Sofia dropped out of the race for the title the priorities of the Municiplaity in the field of Culture and Arts changed but for us the achievements, the accumulated experience and the proven interest and approval of spectators and specialists remained. We are extremely grateful for the professionalism and support of the expert in the field of "Theatre" of Sofia Municipality, Culture Department - Nelly Goranova and of our colleague, actor, director and organizer - Ivan Nedyalkov, who has always helped us with advice or assistance on administrative and logistical issues.
After the election of Plovdiv as the European Capital of Culture ‘2019 (September 5, 2014), the cultural policy of the Sofia administration regarding the open-air theatrical events open to the general public (including the fire drama) has changed, which made us look new opportunities to preserve and develop what has been achieved so far….
In this period we laid the foundations of our concept of cooperation for the creation of an innovative product in the field of cultural tourism, based on the fire drama, aiming to achieve synergy in the efforts of the local administrations on the one hand, tourism and local business on the other and ours on the third, in the name of promoting the ancient cultural and historical heritage of Bulgaria (from the respective regions) to domestic and foreign guests. Later, this concept was further developed and shaped as a project called "A sip of fire from the antiquity of Bulgaria",which was presented to the experts from the Bulgarian municipalities engaged in the development of culture and tourism, as well as to the representatives of the leading Bulgarian travel agencies within the sixth working meeting between business and local government in Kyustendil (organized by ABTTA) (October 29 - 31, 2018), which was attended by over 80 people from both sectors, as well as academic partners and journalists. The meeting itself was opened by the then Deputy Minister of Culture - Mrs. Amelia Gesheva.
The other direction in which we focused our efforts was the rethinking and making sense of our pedagogical approach and teaching methods linked to the art of fire drama and to the training of artists for this specific form of theatre. Very useful experience in this regard gave us the conducting through September 2015 (04 - 17 September) of a two-week international youth cultural exchange called Illumination with the participation of 37 young artists from Romania, Poland, the Czech Republic, Portugal, Italy, Macedonia and Bulgaria, during which we actually tested the demo model of a future summer international academy for fire drama and open-air theatre, organizing and realizing what we plan in the near future. Within this project we worked with the participants in two directions - fire drama and light & shadow theatre. 15th of September we demonstrated the results of our work to the residents of Tsarevo (on the town square) in the form of an attractive fire and light show.
Realizing how important for the further development of the FIRE DRAMA is to provide a suitable space for work where purposefully to conduct both training and research and creative process at the end of 2014 we have prepared a concept for the creation of "Center for Fire Drama" in Sofia and presented it to the deputy mayor of Sofia, responsible for the Culture & Education field, to the Director of the Culture Department of Sofia Municiplality and other experts. The idea was the Municipality to provide us with a space to work in the Municipal Cultural Institute House of Culture “Sredets” (whose management has supported us from the very beginning and is our long-term partner) or elsewhere. Our thesis was that the new theatrical form created in Sofia could contribute to the original cultural identity of our city and that it would be a pity to lose the accumulated momentum, energy and experience and stop the development process, to something that is obvious has serious potential and people like it. 2015 was dedicated to meetings and talks in this regard, but alas, they were without results.
A few years later, we tried in vain to achieve something in this direction, until we finally realized that we had to look for a solution outside the big city, outside Sofia, in order to survive and keep developing.
In 2015, we also began experimenting with shorter and more attractive forms of fire drama, which we called boutique fire acts (stylish fire drama miniatures, with increased attention to detail and aesthetics), designed for self-execution or in a program of fire and visual acts.
Shortly afterwards, we prepared a compilation of fire drama miniatures for the opening of the permanent exhibition of the Municipal Cultural Institute "Museum of the History of Sofia" (now the Regional History Museum), located in a specially adapted for this purpose part of the bulding of the Central Municipal Mineral Bath – one of the most recognizable Sofia’s city landmarks. The opening ceremony took place on September 18, 2015 and on this occasion we performed on the square in front of the museum (Banski Square) created for this purpose our third assembled performance (after the "FIRE IN US" and "THE PATH OF FIRE"). It was called FIRE FLASHES. The international team held this special event consisted of 14 artists from Spain, Portugal, Northern Ireland, Italy, France, Macedonia and Bulgaria. The production was created during a two-week creative camp with a very active work program.
At the beginning of the spring of the following year, we were invited for the second time by the famous Bulgarian television and theatre director Dimitar Sharkov to join with three specially created by us for the occasion fire drama miniatures in the gala concert-performance named "MY CITY - TARNOVGRAD", dedicated to the celebration of the day of the medieval capital of Bulgaria – the city of Veliko Tarnovo. The show took place on March 22, 2016 in the crowded Palace of Culture and Sports in the city.
In April 2016, a group of Bulgarian youths, led by a member of the management team of FIRE THEATRE, participated in a ten-day youth project in Jordan, where the leader of the group, together with two Jordanian actors (who were trained by us for a year in 2014 and participated in the spectacle "The Memory of Fire") performed in front of the residents of the Jordanian capital Amman a fire performance inspired by our spectacle. This happened on the square in front of one of the biggest archeological landmarks of the city - the large Roman amphitheatre.
At the end of the month we played "The Memory of Fire" in the open-air cinema "Druzhba" (“Fellowship”) in the city of Varna, and on September 1, 2016 this was followed by our first visit to the International Outdoor Theatre Festival "Puppets occupy streets" in Craiova, Romania, where we played on the occasion of the closing of the festival a significantly enriched with new episodes and meaningfully developed version of The Path of Fire. Our stage was the main town square in front of the beautiful old town hall.
That same month we were again part of the program of the International Puppet and Street Theatre Festival "Puppet Fair" in Sofia, this time with a series of carnival laboratories and interactive fire happenings which we realized on regular basis during the period of 3 days (September 17-19) in the renovated Vazrazhdane Park (next to Mall Sofia).
In 2017, after a 2-year period during which we had not created a new large-scale show, our next complex creative project, which planned to develop in several stages, the last of which was a Fire Drama – was again supported and co-financed by the “Culture” Program of the Sofia Municipality…
This project of ours had its own World Premiere before its premiere in Bulgaria. For the first time it was realized in its entirety by August 28-31, 2017 at the festival "Puppets occupy streets" in Craiova, Romania, where we had won over the audience with our fire spectacle previous year. More than 40 people took part in our lantern workshops in two days, more than 600 people went through the interactive installation, and last night, when we played the fire drama part, which ended the event on the central square of the city (the same one we played last year ) had gathered over 1500 people. Our hosts were extremely pleased and expressed their gratitude with a very kind letter of thanks.
Our Bulgarian premiere took place in Sofia from September 15 to 17 in the Sofia City Garden on the square in front of the fountain opposite to the Ivan Vazov National Theatre, as part of the cultural initiatives of the Sofia Municipality to celebrate Sofia’s Day. And here, on the final night, more than 1,000 people had gathered to watch the fire performance.
One week after the premiere in Sofia (September 24-25, 2017), part of the project - the interactive light installation "The Angel of Dreams", together with the accompanying walk-about performance of the White Dreamers and specially prepared for the occasion finale with the release of flying fire lanterns-dreams, was realized in the city garden of Stara Zagora within the program of the tenth anniversary edition of Piero International Theatre Festival. The event was attended by over 300 people.
In 2017 the experience of FIRE THEATRE with the use of fire in a theatrical context it again became an object of scientific interest. This time it was described in a master's thesis wrote by the young Italian designer and fire performer Marzia Barbierato from the Accademia Albertina delle Belle Arti, Turin, Italy. To get to know us better she was part of our team for four months October 2016 - February 2017, researching all aspects of our work and practically participating in it.
In 2018, our activity was focused on two major projects, which were again intended for outdoor implementation, but were not in the field of the fire drama.
However – in the meantime, we presented our fire art on television and had the opportunity to present our activities in the field of fire drama and open-air theatre on conference within the Sibiu Internatinal Theatre Festival (FITS) – one of the three most prestigious theatre feastivals in Europe.
And this year the embers of the fire drama kept shining. We presented our fire art on TV. We were invited by the director Dimitar Sharkov, with whom we had successfully worked before, to participate in his TV production "Тhe Spirit of the Bulgarian Renaissance" - a musical film in which our fire performances were presented along with famous Bulgarian patriotic folk and original songs from the Bulgarian Renaissance (Vazrazhdane) epoch. The songs were performed by great Bulgarian pop and folklore stars. Our fire drama miniatures and impressions placed in historical context and based on historical themes were specially created for the purpose. The film (in two parts) was broadcast on BNT's Channel 1 March 3, 2018 and was repeated many times afterwards.
In June (June 7, 2018) we were invited to present the activities and experience of FIRE THEATRE in the field of fire drama and open-air theatre in urban environments within the doctoral conference "Performative spaces of the contemporary city: the local and the global", organized by the International Platform for Doctoral Research in Performing Arts and Cultural Management and hosted by Lucian Blaga University in Sibiu, Romania and Sibiu Fest (FITS)
Exported report: Fire Theatre & the City: sketches from a never-ending flirt. (Plamen Radev).
2019 for us started with one great fire challenge….
Later - in the summer of the same year, we received another invitation to do something with fire (it was a result of the already mentioned presentation of our project "A sip of fire from antiquity" to those working in the field of tourism and local administrations): to create a fire drama miniature aimed to finalize the event "ANTIQUITY COMES TO LIFE ON HISARLAK”- a historical promenade-performance, organized by the Municipality of Kyustendil on the occasion of the beginning of the popular regional festival-exhibition "Cherry Festival'2019". The performance took place in the medieval fortress "Hisarlaka" near Kyustendil on 06/21/2019.
2019 remains significant for us because of August 6 (the day on which both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches celebrate the holy Christian holiday of the Transfiguration) we found our home and began to realize our dream of creating a creative & research center where can keep developing the fire drama. It is an open space amongst the Nature, located 70 km. from Sofia, near the town of Yablanitsa, which in a long-term partnership basis we began to ennoble and arrange according to the specifics of our art.
In 2020, our activities were focused mainly on four interrelated areas. Two of them were directly related to the development of the fire drama…
In 2020, our activities were focused mainly on four interrelated areas. Two of them were directly related to the development of the fire drama:
On the one hand, from April onwards we started preparing the terrain in the new creative center near Yablanitsa. This included cleaning up the terrain and a small unfinished building on it, planning the layout of the space, and so on.
We also implemented a six-month project (May-October) in Yablanitsa itself, aimed at young people from the town. This project, called ART-IVISM: Together, Here and Now gave us the opportunity to get to know each other with the local young people (with whom and for whom we intend to work actively in the future), with the local administration, cultural and educational institutions and in general with people who love the town and people who live there. We also get the chance to learn about the local needs and the challenges that local people face and that we can help solve with our knowledge, skills and art.
In the summer of the same year we realized The 10th anniversary edition of our traditional carnival laboratories, enabling children, young people and all interested residents and guests of Sofia to get in touch with the carnival and street performning arts (an activity we started in 2010 and which we practice regularly and annually during the summer holidays, as an alternative way to spend free time in the big city).
We created and presented the Fire Drama Metamorphoses, inspired by the poem of the same name by the ancient Roman poet Publius Ovidius Naso.
Our team this time did not include foreigners (due to the limitations imposed by the security measures related to the Covid-19 pandemic), but it was composed of artists from various fields of art (actors and mimes, fire and street artists, musicians, artists and set designers, writers and makers) - a total of 18 people, of different ages, with different experiences, comming from different cities in the country. For the first time we tryed during the rehearsals of the spectacle the Fire Drums – new attractive technique and routine on which we have been working (preparation and laboratory) since 2015.
The place where the show took place in Sofia was another archeological location, turned by us into a scene for a fire drama - Archaeological Park "Western Gate of Sofia". Of course, like any new space, this presented us with a number of challenges - mostly because of its special shape and the need to protect the walls (not to step on them). On the other hand, the atmosphere of this place contributed a lot to the success of the spectacle.
Another feature of this performance (apart from the use of words and live music - which was again the work of composer Yordan Vladev) was its large-scale and impactful visuality. This was the first spectacle in which, in parallel with the action, we involved in the action specially constructed panels with large-scale fire drawings.
The fire drawings had a central place in the show. Our goal was to take this visual technique to a new level, using them not only as an attraction or decor, but also as part of the stage action. For this purpose, we designed and created special mobile structures that allow the rapid replacement of large in area (and powerful in impact) fire drawings - a total of 12 in number with dimensions of 2.2 x 2.5 m.
We continued to enrich our knowledge and experience in the creation and use of the fire puppets and fire costumes.
The premiere of the spectacle took place on 10/11/2020.
On October 14 we showed part of the performance in the courtyard of “Sredets” House of Culture on the occasion of the opening of the second edition of the Chamber Opera Festival.
And finally, on October 28 we opened with this spectacle the special edition of the "6Fest" Street Arts Festival, programming only theatrical performances using fire. This was the first event of its kind for Bulgaria, where most Bulgarian companies working in this field presented their productions, including two shows, in which participated some young artists who took part in the past in our fire projects and got acquainted with the concept of the Fire Drama with us.
2021 was dedicated mainly to the development of our Fire Center and the presentation of our concept for Fire Drama in front of colleagues from all over the world…
We won funding from National Fund “Culture” *, which allowed us to build and cover (rough flooring) open-air semicircular stage with an area of 500 m2, providing great conditions for rehearsals and performances with fire, including a large team and requiring a wide space, without bothering anyone. We called this stage FIRE ARENA.
* thorugh the One-year Programme for Support of Private Professional Organizations in the Field of Traditional and Contemporary Circus Art ‘2020.
Along with this, we continued the work on terracing the rest of the space, filling, providing running water, toilets, showers, a cooking area as well as a dining and working area.
In the period July 19 - 15 "FIRE ARENA" hosted the first international group for active and creative summer camp. The youth helped in the work on building the center, participated in discussions and brain-storm sessions for the future design of the space, as well as in introductory training (carnival laboratories and introduction to fire props and techniques). On July 24, 2021, a fire was lit for the first time on FIRE ARENA and the first public event - a fire happening ("Feel the fire") was realized.
In the meantime, we had the opportunity to participate in several prestigious international conferences and to present our work and our concept of "Fire Drama" to respected theatre experts, students and PhD students from around the world:
January 27 - 28, 2021: This and that and that: The Multiply Roles of the Theatre Artist - The Double Meaning of Performative Criticism. Conference organized by the prestigious Sibiu International Theatre Festival (FITS), the International Association of Theatre Critics (ISTC - Hong Kong), Scenes Critiques and the International Theatre Institute (ITI) and hosted by FITS, Sibiu, Romania
Presentation: Versatile artist - two sides of the coin. The multiply roles of the Fire Drama Artist. (Plamen Radev)
March 23 - 25, 2021: Contemporary Performing Street Arts: developing teaching methods. Conference organized by the European Federation for Education and Training in Street Arts (EFETSA); Circostrada, European Network Circus and Street Arts, Paris, France; Institute of Place, University of Winchester, UK and others and hosted by Ana Monro Theatre SUGLA - School for Contemporary Performing Street Arts, Ljubljana, Slovenia
• "Growing young talents. The power of the individual approach"(Plamen Radev)
• “Teaching Fire Drama”(Elena Pap § Plamen Radev)
May 11-12, 2021: “Island. Youth 2021”, Student and doctoral conference within the festival for literature and theatre BETWEEN.POMIĘDZY. Gdansk, Poland. Organized and hosted by ZIA Projektor Student Clubs, the Students 'Club Pomorania and The Students' Club of Managing Art Institutions.
• “Teaching Fire Drama”(Elena Pap § Plamen Radev)
In 2021 - through the ongoing "quest for the fire drama"- we came to clarify another of its characteristics. It is a deep and meaningful feature that underlies every performance that we define as Fire Drama (or FIRE MIME DRAMA) - another aspect of the connection with the element and essence of Fire and its relation with the Spirituality. THE FIRE THEATRE’s FIRE DRAMAs can be attributed to the so-called Sacred Theatre. The spectacles carry symbolism and generalization, which is directly related to the "spiritual path" and the search of the Individual and of the Society. They are related to the current spiritual issues, their manifestation and realization in cultural, psychological and spiritual aspects.
* The information for each of the performances describes all the participants in them.
Special thanks also to our current companion – the volunteer from EX Aurélie Dupire from France, without whom this web page would have been much more difficult. 🙂
On 21.05.2024 the 30th holiday of FIRE THEATRE.
We hope for him to bring together a large part of the “Fire People” with whom we have worked and / or are working.
… and because: “THE BEST IS YET TO COME“…let’s experience the best moments together!!