"Ivan Vazov" National Theatre is the earliest and the most authoritative of Bulgarian stages, having a rich history, firmly anchored in its traditions, with a commanding and protean presence in the modernity of the present. The theatre offers a broad repertoire of both contemporary and classical plays appealing to the widest possible range of audiences.
Special attention is devoted to the development of national playwriting and at the same time the three stages of the National Theatre are open to all innovative and noteworthy creative endeavours.
In 1904, Minister of Education Prof. Ivan Shishmanov, a prominent figure, who studied in Austria, Germany and Switzerland, transformed at the request of and urged by the most influential representatives of Bulgarian culture the privately owned A Tear and Laughter theatre company into a state-run institution named National Theatre. The construction of the new national theatre began right in the heart of Sofia, on the site of the obsolete Osnova (Foundation) wooden playhouse.
The National Theatre has an impressive more than a century-long history. Becoming the centre of Bulgaria’s cultural life, the place keeps in its memory the triumphs of the greatest Bulgarian directors and actors on its stage; the work of the national poets and writes who have contributed to the theatre over the years.
Such remarkable actors and actresses as Vasil Kirkov, Adriana Budevska, Krustio Sarafov, Atanas Kirchev, Vera Ignatieva, Zlatina Nedeva, Ivan Popov, Geno Kirov, Elena Snezhina, Theodorina Stoicheva were among the founders of the creative company of the National Theatre. They formed the so-called First Generation of stars of Bulgaria’s leading company showcasing a variety of brilliant talent both in the classical repertoire and in the productions of Bulgarian plays, establishing a school that started the best Bulgarian acting traditions. Poet Pencho Slaveikov in his capacity of the theatre’s director and later, such renowned figures as poets Peyo Yavorov, Nikolay Liliev, Geo Milev and director Nikolay Massalitinov have made an outstanding contribution to the shaping of the creative nature of the theatre. It was these intellectuals of considerable accomplishments who moulded the National Theatre from a magnificent and remarkable building in the heart of Sofia into ‘a big school for all, accessible to all strata of society, ages and minds’ as Ivan Vazov put it.
It is no wonder that the National Theatre bears the name of Bulgaria’s great national writer and poet Ivan Vazov (1850–1921), whose historical dramas and tragedies and brilliant comedies contributed to build and develop a broad and inclusive repertoire of Bulgaria’s leading company. Apart from devotedly contributing as a playwright, Ivan Vazov was also one of the keenest theatregoers. Until the very end of his life he had a permanently reserved seat in the second row of the front stalls, preserved until this day and marked with a commemorative tablet ‘Ivan Vazov’s seat’.