The National Academy for Theater and Film Arts (NATFA) “Krastyo Sarafov” celebrated its 70th anniversary in 2018. The Academy was established in 1948 as a two-year school of theatre at the National Theater “Ivan Vazov” and in 1948 was renamed into the first Bulgarian State Higher School of Theater.In 1954, the State Higher School of Theater was transformed into a Higher Institute for Theater Art “Krastryo Sarafov” (HITA). By a decision of the National Assembly of 21.07.1995, HITA was transformed into an academy under the name of National Academy for Theater and Film Arts “Krastyo Sarafov”.
The Academy is continuously expanding, updating and enriching its activities. Today it offers a wide range of subjects and programmes to its students. Some of them are unique for Bulgaria and can be studied only at NATFA. The academic staff of NATFA includes highly qualified professionals with strong creative and pedagogical competences and experience. The process of applying the theory into the professional practice is essential to our educational philosophy. NATFA graduates acquire a wide range of creative, critical, performing and productive skills and competences. Many of them establish rewarding professional careers in Bulgaria and abroad.
Documents for acquired professional qualification, issued by NATFA, are recognized both in Bulgaria and abroad, in accordance with all conventions and regulations of the State.
NATFA has a reputation as a unique educational, creative and scientific center, nationally and internationally recognized. The evidence for that is the ongoing interest to the subjects taught at NATFA in a highly competitive market of educational services. Among the top priorities of NATFA has always been the international co-operation at all levels of academic and artistic exchange. The outstanding achievements of academy’s graduates are recognized through yearly participation in many national and international students’ and professional festivals, workshops, seminars, congresses, conferences and symposia.
NAFTA is actively involved in key international projects in the field of theatre and film arts. The academy is a full member of CILECT (Centre International de Liason des Ecoles de Cinema et de Television) and a full member of ELIA (The European League of Institutes of the Arts) since 1990. NATFA is also a founding member of ITI (The UNSECO International Theatre Institute) since 2008. The Academy has established long-term contacts with universities and art academies internationally and is also an active partner in projects developed through ERASMUS, TEMPUS, SOCRATES and other educational programmes.
NATFA has substantial and well-equipped academic facilities: Drama Training Theater, three small stages, Puppet Training Theater, Training Audio-visual Complex with Cinema and Video halls (a big one with 80 seats and a small one with 12 seats), Training Cinema Studio, Training TC Center, Digital Multimedia Center, Academic Library and Archive, dance halls, modern lecture halls, studios and laboratories, as well as a variety of highly professional workshop facilities that add to academy’s image of a place for mastering professional skills. As for the social amenities, there is a hostel and a canteen, available to the students.
The educational philosophy of the National Academy for Theater and Film Arts is based on cultural pluralism and the democratic values of the civil society. The Academy follows a policy of non-discrimination on the basis of race, religion, ethnic and other diversities, as well as on the basis of disability and diseases, as long as the latter are not contraindicative for the study of a subject.
The National Academy for Theater and Film Arts is a factor in Bulgaria’s cultural life that has influenced many people and partners. It was created and developed on the basis of the understanding that the arts are important for our national identity. Today, the Academy is a modern educational institution, an integral part of the Bulgarian educational system, a symbol of the Bulgarian common 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 practice theater. The number of theaters in the country also increased and needed more actors and directors. On the other hand, as theater developed, the audiences became more demanding. There was a higher desire and strive for excellence. The complex creative elements of the stage work were more in focus. Articles started to appear in the media, advocating for the creation of a higher school of theater in the country. This process lead to the adoption of a Decree by the Council of Ministers of 28 January 1948, whereby the State School of Theater at the National Theater was transformed into State Higher School of Theater for training of 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 implementation of the long-lived dream for an educational institution offering theater education on an academic level.
The first class included 22 students in acting and 9 students in theatre directing programmess. Two years later 16 students were enrolled in Drama Study. The duration of study initially was four years for all programmes, and later was extended to five years for the theatre directors and specialists in drama study.
The first seventeen professors appointed at the school were outstanding masters of the Bulgarian theater art and theater criticism, some of them having already a proven reputation in the pedagogical field. 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 professors joined the academic team – Nikolay O. Masalitinov and Georgi Kostov. The number of professors increased over the tears and the curriculum of the programmes 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 for Bulgarian and foreign writers, and publisher of a literary newspaper. Following closely the development of the Bulgarian theatre and lead by his great love to theatre art, he invested a lot of efforts and energy in positioning the theater education as a scientific area and raising the prestige of the School.
The School began its life in the building at the address: 43, Tolbuhin Blvd. (now Vassil Levski Blvd.). It hosted just a couple of lecture halls and two training stages. Because of the high demand, the building soon became too small to accommodate the number of students and to provide favourable conditions of work. On the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the great Bulgarian actor Krastyo Sarafov in 1951, the School was named after him. It was renamed to Higher Institute of Theater Art “Krastyo Sarafov” in 1951.
In 1955, the Institute had a new home – the building at 108A, Rakovski St., constructed especially for its needs. Having three stages and many more halls for lecturing and classes, this building offers better educational environment. The Training Theater – the 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, directed by Anastas Mihaylov. The architecture of the hall and the building offers opportunities for putting on stage of complex and diverse staging solutions. The hall features 430 seats arranged as amphitheater.
The programme Puppet Theater Acting was introduced in 1962 and the programme Puppet Theater Directing was offered ten years later. The first professors who established the foundations of the academic programmes in these fields were the directors Atanas Ilkov and Nikolina Georgieva who were already highly recognized. Architect Ivan Tsonev was also invited and worked as a professor. The number of professors in the academy gradually increased with the time.
These programmes were attractive for the students from the very beginning. Almost all actors that are part of the modern Bulgarian puppet theater have graduated from the Academy. Graduates of the Academy are also professionals working in many other countries and the Bulgarian school was well known abroad and enjoys a high recognition until today.
The Training Puppet Theater opened in 1966 with the performances “The Carnival of the Animals”, based on music by Saint-Saens, script and directed by Nikolina Georgieva, and “The Light Blue Peter” by Urban Gula, directed by Atanas Ilkov. The theater is situated at the address: 20, Stefan Karadzha St. where the building has a modern stage and equipment, and a hall with one hundred seats.
Many performances of the Training Puppet Theater have won recognition in Bulgaria, as well as abroad, and has won a lot of international awards and prizes.
The academic programmes Cinema and TV Directing, Cinema and TV Cinematography and Film Critical Studies were introduced in 1973. Hristo Hristov, Borislav Punchev, Atanas Tasev, Nedelcho Milev, Geori Karayordanov, Rumen Georgive were appointed as professors. They managed in the first years to overcome convincingly the absence of a well-developed educational methodology and the difficulties with using a donated outdated equipment. These professors established the foundation of the higher education in the field of film and TV in the country, in cooperation with other professors who also joined the academy. The Institute was given two more buildings at the address: 20, Stefan Karadzha St., to complement the normal operation of the complex process of education in the film department.
The Academy’s structure is based on departments as the main organisational units. Different programmes are structured into departments. In addition, there are auxiliary structures, ensuring normal operations in the educational process.
The Academic Library is one of the top service units. It actively supports the teaching and learning process and the research work of students and professors. The State High School of Theater started to develop its own library since the early years of its establishment. There were initially only 1000 books in the library fund. Some of them came from the modest collection of the State School of Theater, others were donated by the National Theater and also – by individuals. The library occupied only one room which was simultaneously a book depository, a lending service and a reading room. This was a burden forthe normal use of the library resources. 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 so far.
The academic library today is part of the overall library system as the only library, specialized in the field of theater, cinema and other arts fields that are studied at the Academy. It has a rich collection ranging from the Bulgarian plays from the time of the National Revival period to the most recent publications, as well as many foreign editions in original language, or in translation. It is worth mentioning that the library collection contains also Bulgarian and foreign books on history and theory of theater and film art, as well as biographies of renowned professionals in the field of art and culture. Fiction has a large share in the library fund and there are also many old and valuable editions. The books and magazines in the library resources boast a language variety that corresponds to the enhanced language capabilities and demands of the contemporary readers.
In parallel with developing and offering of the film programmes, the Audiovisual Training Сenter was set up, with its own material and technical resources. The Center is a service unit in the overall technological and production process, as well as in the artistic and creative process in the film specialities. This is also a space where all practical educational assignments and diploma works of students are produced. The Center supports the educational process by showing films and videos, practical training classes, as well as organization of student film reviews and festivals. The Center also organizes participation of student films at international forums. Over the years, the center has enriched its film database and resources, currently featuring 350 copies of professional films, 110 video cassettes with records of audiovisual works, plus diploma works of graduating students.
The Training Video and Computer Center at the Academy was established with funding from the TEMPUS programme of European Union.
An Academic Information Center (AIC) was established in the Academy in late 1990s. It offers to professors and students updated information on the theory and practice of modern theater and film art internationally. On one hand, AIC is closely connected to the overall vision of the Academy for international cooperation, while on the other hand it organizes its own independent initiatives and projects at national and international level – seminars, visits of foreign professors, festivals. AIC also plays an intermediary role for establishing contacts with foreign academic institutes. It offers information to students about further educational opportunities abroad in relevant educational arts institutions. AIC has established contacts with the national focal points of the EU programmes in the field of education. The Center initiated and coordinated a TEMPUS project for designing the websites of the three arts academies in Bulgaria and embedding them into the international informational online system.
The Academy’s professors are authors of textbooks, books, research work and studies in the field of social science and culture. They participate in symposiums and international events in Bulgaria and abroad. They also put on stage performances and direct films as additional practical work. Many of their studies are focused on the issues, related to the Bulgarian theater and theater education. The need for a special academic publication appeared as a result. A Yearbook of the Higher Institute of Theater Art was first published in 1956, based on the idea of Prof. Pencho Penev. He was the editor of the Yearbook for many years and had an important role for its establishment and regular publications.
On 1 August 1995, the educational institution was given its current name – National Academy for Theater and Film Arts “Krastyo Sarafov”, which best characterizes its mandate and essence.
The Academy is the oldest higher school of theater and film arts in the country, and the only one that is state funded so far. The importance of the Academy is proven in many aspects, especially the fact that it provides the continuation of the Bulgarian theatre and film arts by educating generations of professionals and creatives in these fields. This is certainly an important factor for the normal functioning and developing of these forms of arts in the country.
The Academy’s success at national and international level is a proof for its prestige. Many professors and students win awards at highly recognized international forums. Former students in the Academy, who become later on well-known professionals in the theatre and film arts, has also won many prestigious awards nationally and internationally.
In the last few years Bulgaria passes through diverse political, economic and social changes. The Academy was given an autonomy and thus the State is no longer responsible for offering vacancies or finding jobs for the graduated students. Therefore, we all have an important responsibility – to prepare the young generation to the ongoing competitive environment of the contemporary word.
Nowadays there are also other classes and schools besides the Academy, who also offer training of actors and directors in the field of theatre and film. Despite its high prestige and recognition, the Academy is part of a competitive rival where it has to still continue defending its leading position.