(Photo courtesy of Lilia Evans)
Jane Addams Middle School

Bob Baker Marionette Theater: Puppets, the past and the pandemic

The Bob Baker Marionette Theater, a Los Angeles staple, was recently at risk of shutting down due to COVID-19.

The Bob Baker Marionette theater opened in 1963 as a way for kids and grownups alike to get to experience and learn from the perspective of art. The state and county guidelines limited where the theater was able to receive their consistent revenue considering the primary source of income was in-person shows.

Living with these circumstances The Bob Baker Marionette Theater got creative and started Zoom shows where tickets can be purchased on their website for a fun event right in the comfort of your own home. Despite this new approach, the theater was still at risk of shutting down amidst this difficult time for businesses.

The stay-at-home-order caused closure for their busiest time of year: October through December. The Theater is not foreign to struggles and difficulties within the business.

In 2014 the Bob Baker Marionette Theater lost its lease and had to move from its location. What was previously a church became this historic LA- monument’s new home.

Around the world adults still come to the theater reminiscing when they went as kids. This Puppet Theater is embedded in the community.

Once upon a time, a kid used to bounce her ball on the walls of the theater where everyone inside could hear. One day, Bob came out and gave her ice cream where she then went inside for the first time. She now works there as a puppeteer.

Bob Baker Marionette Theater tries to reciprocate the love to the community too. With the exception of this year, the theater has live music events to raise money for underfunded schools to see a puppet show.

Every puppet is crafted with care and is handmade and antique with some puppets being as old as the theater. It originally started with Bob Baker, who previously worked with Disney.

“Legend has it that overnight he [Bob Baker] transformed this dismal old prop house into a beautiful theater to welcome children and is kind of a child’s first experience with live theater,” Missy Steele, Director of Operations at Bob Baker Marionette Theater, said.

The staff has had to pivot and alter their normal routines because of the pandemic. Less consistent income, no in-person shows and Zooms that cost $10 each ticket.

You can join Patreon similar to a subscription where you would help fund the theater, make tax-deductible donations and adopt-a-puppet with options like Santa, Penguins and Hawaiin Pigs. Follow the theater on all social media to stay updated on all news regarding this LA staple.

Bob Baker Marionette Theater’s hope for the future is to open doors, to grow more across the globe while maintaining the history from the past 57 years. Just as Missy Steele says: “It is only up from here.” 


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