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Teodor Borisov – Il Grande Lupo Bulgaro of puppets

The puppeteer is leaving for Ecuador to conduct a masterclass in “micro-drama”

Photo: Facebook/Vidin municipality

He breathes life into puppets made of wood, yet, just like in real puppet theatre, they seem to guide his own destiny. And together, they create a magical atmosphere in which out of poetry, philosophy and matter a new and better world emerges.

Il Grande Lupo Bulgari (the Big Bulgarian Wolf) – that is how the master of puppets Teodor Borisov is known in Italy. He mentions the fact he is from Bulgaria, and from Vidin “the most magnificent town in the world” every chance he gets. “I still remember the first time I came in contact with puppet theatre. In the freezing winters that are no more, we would be taken to Kaleto by bus…”

Having started out from Vidin, and after honing his skills in many capitals of culture, in many different countries and even continents, today Teodor Borisov is getting ready to travel to Ecuador, where, at the invitation of the minister of culture, in the capital city Quito he is to conduct a “crash” masterclass as part of an international puppet festival.

“I am going to teach micro-drama, as we called it with a philosopher from Alma Mater Studiorum in Bologna,” Teodor Borisov explains. “That is an abbreviated form of a story presented under the effect of a musical environment that can be told in the space of a 3-hour, or a 3-minute show. And as I have studied and worked in Italy I am going to show the students what a finale grande is – when the audience thinks the show is over, to offer them something “explosive”. I am going to teach them how to control wooden puppets with facial expression and gestures through movement of the hand, the eyes, the mouth, everything you need to recreate a short sketch form.”

But before all that would happen, there once was a child called Teodor who dreamed of making the stage his home and, through the eyes of the puppets, to look for the smiles and the tears on people’s faces.

After graduating from secondary school as a machine fitter in his home town of Vidin, he applied at the National Academy for Theatre and Film Arts three times before actually being admitted. And he was in his first year at the academy when he set out for Venice to be a street artist.

“The first day I was touching the walls and there were tears running down my face because I just couldn’t believe such a thing could exist,” Teo remembers. “I had turned my back and a man walked past behind me, and left a hat on the ground. And when I turned around I saw so many people had gathered and they started clapping. In the space of 15-20 minutes I had collected 80 euro. The next day I went to the library and started reading up on commedia dell'arte and all stories that are connected with street theatre.”

So, overnight, thanks to his puppet Pierrot, Teodor Borisov realized he had become a street artist – so he joined the class of the professor “with the biggest puppet heart” Rumen Rachev, went on to specialize in Austria with the famed puppeteer Wilfried Popek, and now goes back to Venice every year “with one, two or three puppets”.  

One of the big achievements by Il Grande Lupo Bulgaro is that he is the second Bulgarian, after opera prima Raina Kabaivankska, to appear on the stage of Venice’s Teatro La Fenice. There followed numerous other appearances and accolades, among them “Gulliver’s travels”, a show in which he controlled 32 puppets in the course of an hour and 40 minutes, an invitation by a renowned Italian critic to teach at the University of Bologna, an award in the name of Federico Fellini for best artist in Italy, a nomination for best European puppeteer by a Saudi Sheikh.

Teodor Borisov makes his puppets himself and he says, with pride: There are no two alike.” He is a skilled master craftsman – the puppets’ eyelids open, the fingers move, the lips smile, even the nose is part of the facial expression.

Teodor says there will be a lot of challenges during his upcoming tour in Ecuador. “There is a civil war going on with the cartels and there is a lot of shooting, so I signed a contract for the Cuban counterintelligence to provide for my security,” Teodor Borisov says for BNR-Vidin.

“If they like the masterclass then we can do a boomerang effect and they can come to Vidin. I think the city needs to grow culturally, and not on an international but on a continental scale. I see Vidin as a rough diamond – I don’t think we can astound anyone with the economy but culture can take us to a fourth and a fifth continent,” says Teo and goes on to deliver the following message to the people of Vidin:

“I want you to know that puppetry is really important for the development of any city, and that we are the people who teach your children about the beautiful things and the philosophy of life.”

Interview by Sonya Valerieva, BNR-Vidin

Text by Diana Tsankova

Translated and posted by Milena Daynova

Photos: Facebook/Vidin municipality

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