October 15, 2012

Photo Essay: Halloween at the Marionette Theater

When I told my friend Stephanie that I was going to the Bob Baker Marionette Theater last Friday, she said, "Oh yeah, we've driven by there a bunch of times, and we've always wondered who goes in there?!"

Well, obviously, I do.

That is, me and a bunch of schoolchildren.

I love puppets, and I'm not ashamed.

I'd been meaning to check out the marionette theater, and there was no greater impetus than getting to catch their seasonal Halloween Hoop De Doo...

...which featured ghosts, aliens, skeletons...

...and a discofabulous "Twilight Zone" musical number.

All of the puppets and marionettes - some of which date back to the early 1960s - are made onsite in the landmark building, which was put up for sale four years ago to cover Bob Baker's outstanding tax and loan payments. Baker, still alive and puppeteering at age 88, has managed to keep the business afloat via donations and fundraisers, but the business is constantly under threat. As LA's longest-running children's theater (and puppet theater), it has been designated a historic cultural monument.

[Ed: Video added on 10/31/12]

Spectating a show as an adult - without children in tow - is an odd experience, because some of the puppets are nearly 60 years old, taking me way past my own childhood, back to my father's childhood. In some ways, it's a time capsule, and in other ways, a time lapse of childhood delights throughout the decades, reflecting various cultural influences. It turns out that Halloween used to be more about purple people eaters from outer space than saw-wielding body-hackers and sexy hamburgers.

The talent of the puppeteers is tremendous, delighting even a weird old lady like me, and capturing the imagination and attention of a bunch of 8 and 9 year olds for a good hour or so. As I watched, I couldn't wait to see the other shows - after all, the theater houses thousands of puppets.

So I guess I'll go back for the Nutcracker...

Related Post:
Behind the Mask

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