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The Puppet Masters: A Look at The Bob Baker Marionette Theater

bb1Spanning over 50 years, Bob Baker’s Marionette Theater was an oasis in Echo Park, a dreamland for little kids with promises of playful puppet drama followed by little cups of ice cream. For years, parents took their spawn for birthday parties and events and watched bemused while kids sat on colored patches of carpet, wide-eyed as the stringed joy in front of them.

But that was many years ago. Then came go-karts and mini golf and laser tag and gaming trucks you can rent to sit in front of your house while kids play Minecraft. In the meantime, Bob Baker’s marionettes went forgotten.

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Since 2014,  there were whispers of the demise of the small theater. Over the years, attendance dwindled as the theater became a forgotten relic to everyone outside of the Echo Park neighborhood. While the building itself was place on the city’s historic landmark list back in 2009 (with the puppets themselves making a plea), the shrinking audiences made it harder to keep the doors open.

There was talk of making the building a museum for the work of the great Bob Baker and his 3,000+ children, many argued that the building is nothing without the puppets and the skillful and devoted puppeteers who kept the craft alive.

Built in 1961, Bob Baker Marionette Theater seemed to be on its last legs. With Bob dying in 2014 and not many folks knowing about the theater and it’s daily shows for the kids, it seemed the theater was destined to become a distant memory.

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But luckily, a renewed interest  in the little theater has helped attract attention.

The good folks at Cinefamily has taken an active interest in the Little Theater That Could and began to offer night time screenings for big kids. The org has utilized the theater’s best asset, mainly the slightly-creepy charm of a children’s paradise that time forgot. Seemingly frozen in a bygone era, the theater pairs perfectly with surreal and creepy pics.

Features such as Something Wicked This Way Comes or Santa Sangre are accompanied by a small puppet show. Adult have their choice of a chair or the floor as they gather around a makeshift screen surrounded by harlequin dolls and cherubs. And of course, all shows are followed by ice cream.

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The formula is simple: One fog machine + outdoor bar + 3,000 puppet + horror movie = perfect place to get creeped out.

Recently, Patton Oswalt, Dana Gould, Fred Willard were enlisted by the theater for a live read of Plan 9 from Outer Space as a fundraising effort. As mixture of comedy with puppetry and a small dash of madness, the effort opened the doors to high-end exclusive activities that people would pay top dollar to see.

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As more and more efforts are underway, Bob Baker Marionette Theater continues to strive. A rediscovered treasure in Los Angeles, a city that turns history into Starbucks, here’s to hoping for another 50 years.

For more details visit BobBakerMarionetteTheater.com

 

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