Liviu Ciulei (born July 7, 1923) is a Romanian theater and film director, as well as actor, architect, educator, costume and set designer. During a career spanning over 50 years, he has had a seminal influence on Romanian cinema and theater. Known for his daring theatrical interpretations, he has distinctively marked the area of performing arts inside his country and abroad. He has been described by Newsweek as "one of the boldest and most challenging figures on the international scene".
Born in Bucharest (his father's name was written Liviu Ciulley), Ciulei studied architecture and theater at the Royal Conservatory of Music and Theatre. He made his theater debut in 1946, as Puck in an Odeon Theatre production of William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Soon afterwards, he joined the theater company of Teatrul Municipal din Bucureşti, later renamed Teatrul Bulandra, where he directed his first stage production in 1957 — Rainmaker by Richard Nash.
In 1961, Ciulei gained an overall recognition for his version of Shakespeare's As You Like It. He was the recipient of the Directors' Award at the 1965 Cannes Film Festival for The Forest of the Hanged, the film version of the Liviu Rebreanu's eponymous novel (where he also starred in the role of Klapka).
Ciulei was the artistic director of Teatrul Bulandra for more than 10 years. After that, he has worked in several European countries, as well as in the United States — notably at The Arena Stage in Washington D.C. where he directed "Leonce and Lena" —, Canada and Australia. Between 1980 and 1985, Ciulei was the artistic director of Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Afterwards, from 1986, he taught at Columbia University and at New York University.
After the Romanian Revolution of 1989, back in his native Romania, Ciulei has directed a series of stage productions that have been both publicly and critically acclaimed. He was named Honorary Director of the theater he has always loved the most, Bulandra, as a token of appreciation and respect for his entire career. Besides being the costume and set designer of the majority of his own productions, Ciulei, as an architect, contributed decisively to the rebuilding of the auditorium of Bulandra Theatre, as well as to important architectural work of other theater buildings. In 1996, UNITER (Uniunea Teatrală din România) awarded its annual prize to Ciulei, in recognition of his overall work.
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