For the last decade, the Bulgarian art project FIRETER has participated in the most prestigious European events: Plovdiv – European capital of culture 2019 (Bulgaria), Glastonbury Festival (England), Rudolstadt-Festival (Germany), STF Athens (Greece), International Fair Izmir (Turkey), Sochi Amusement Park (Russia), Magic Festival Sibiu (Romania). Plamen Ivanov, Creative Producer & Founder of Shade and Fire Theatre FIRETER, shares curious details that shape the project.
1 Bulgarian traditions
Several years ago, we explored the hottest part of Bulgarian culture nestinarstvo by learning its mystical roots that date back to the Thracian past. One renowned Bulgarian nestinar family invited us to create a modern version of the iconic Bulgarian tradition. Our discoveries inspired the fire show Ognia where we used a somewhat crazy idea that always fascinates the public and, at the same time, links creativity with tradition. A compere with a music stove, a machine that dances, invites the audience to the stage, but in the end, he falls asleep tired and has a mystical dream about creatures and fiery giants that dance on embers.
2 New technology
We always keep an eye on technological innovation. For futuristic outfits and constructions for our shows, we use LED technology and fabric printing with UV colours. But the biggest challenge is to combine costume design, music and choreography. The key professionals who’ve been helping us to put these pieces together for many years are the costume designer Boyan Hristov, the composer Klimen Dicev and Arabesque ballet.
I grasp every opportunity to try something new. In the recent partnership with the British art company Walk the Plank, I tried lecturing at the School of Spectacle (2017) and School of Participation (2019) in the framework of Plovdiv 2019, the European Capital of Culture. I gave presentations to creative practitioners from 7 countries sharing my experience in the organization of outdoor events. More details are here. That experience has inspired me to explore new ways of interaction with our fans and create a video workshop on how to create a paper hat using paper, wooden chips and paint.
4 More collaboration
Another unusual experience within the multifaceted collaboration with Walk the Plank was the participation in International Volunteer Day in Plovdiv (December 2019). Together with volunteers and teams of other cultural capitals, we cheered the city with a fantastic procession. We led the parade with my colleague, a talented Plovdiv actress on stilts Diana Tankova and the Plovdivian schoolboy Akis Pandis who excitedly carried a huge bird, the symbol of Plovdiv 2019 volunteers. It was amazing to lead a huge multinational crowd with lanterns that came to Plovdiv just to create that event.
When somebody asks me which of our costumes is my favourite, I always have difficulty choosing. It’s like to ask a parent which of the children he likes more. Shortly, we’ll offer our audience to experience what it’s like to be in “our skin” by trying on our costumes and wearing makeup. We have already rented an area in Culture Lab in Sofia which we’ll also use for performances, meetings, and workouts. By the way, we have already placed there our legendary Snailmobile.
The most ‘dangerous’ costume we have is a giant mantis. It’s a puppet on 4 stilts 6-metre high which is coordinated from inside just by one person. The mantis has very small fans for air, so there’s some water inside for an actor to avoid dehydration. The giant mantis is incredible to watch but difficult to run, very few performers of our team are dare to run the monster.
7 Special permission
When it comes to uniqueness, sometimes we need to challenge stereotypes. For one of our shows, we needed to bring a ton of embers into hall two of the National Palace of Culture (Sofia). When we applied to the Bulgarian Fire Service to get their permission, they asked us: “Do you realize that no one has ever received such consent?”. And we answered: “This is how history is written with the first steps”.
The selfie has become the most emotional form of interaction with our spectators. Everyone wants to capture himself with a 3-metre giant actor on stilts. We are always ready to have foto sessions with our audience in any environment, on Bulgarian sandy beaches, curvilinear German squares, British grassy lawns and muddy swamps, and even in Russian ice palaces at minus 45… Well, to make the process of taking pictures with actors on stilts safer one should avoid swift movements since our reaction is delayed because of the additional 5 kilograms on each leg.
9 Being a spectator
I like the theatre in all its forms. I find comedy a particularly difficult genre, and I have always admired it. The most recent performance I attended was a comedy at the Sofia theatre Tear and Laughter. I have to admit that as a person who usually on the other side of the stage, performing, it’s difficult to be a 100 per cent spectator. I always find myself wondering how they technically applied decorations, worked out the lighting or created costumes…
At the beginning of September, we’re going to present a new magical fairytale at the Plovdiv Roman Stadium. The plot links ancient times, brave heroes and fire. One of our friends has written the story for us and another one in the role of a storyteller recorded it. It’s going to be in our traditional fairy-like style. Hope, COVID 19 won’t make us change the plans. One of our strongest points is an individual approach to place and audience. We are always in search for new expressions and interpretations of street performance and show. The results of our experiments you can see on our YouTube channel.