Photos: Cats, Clowns, And Dancing Cacti At The Bob Baker Marionette Theatre
The Bob Baker Marionette Theater, which has been around since 1961, stands as a kind of aberration in our age of digital hijinks. There's no VR. No "like" button. No filters that turn your face into a doe-eyed caricature.
In preparation for the upcoming "Bob Baker Days" festival that is being held this weekend, we dropped in on the theater last Saturday to capture some images. As evidenced by the pictures, the ethos here may be analog, but there's nothing plain about it. The colors abound. The facial expressions on the puppets, as well as their movements (as directed by puppeteers), are strangely eloquent and life-like. There's also something to be said about the studios where the puppets are made, restored, and housed. The space is infused with a kind of controlled chaos; what with all the clutter and boxes, there's a prevailing sense of artistry and craftsmanship taking place. The space is lived-in, has character.
"Bob Baker Days," which takes place on Saturday and Sunday, will reveal the full splendor of the theater. The annual event, now in its third year, is held to celebrate the legacy of its founder (Baker passed away in 2014 at the age of 90). On Saturday, there'll be a carnival that spills onto First Street. A 20-minute parade procession of humans and puppets will start at 10 a.m., and Tom Kenney (best known as the voice of Spongebob Squarepants) will be playing with his band at 3 p.m. Event planners also promise midway games, fortune telling, booths from the local art community, and puppet making workshops (here's your chance to make your very own Chucky). There'll also puppet shows going on inside the theater (because of course) as well as food trucks outside (ditto).
On Sunday, the festivities will head back into the theater for a more laid-back affair. Cinefamily will present a survey of Baker's work in film and television in the morning, and Atlas Obscura will host a discussion on the theater's history during the afternoon. It's all capped off with an "honorary birthday party" for the late Baker (puppeteers will basically put on a big show with their favorite puppets).
If you're not familiar with the theater's history (it was declared an historic cultural monument by the city of Los Angeles in 2009), check out this video of Baker talking about his work:
The Bob Baker Marionette Theater is at 1345 W 1st St, Los Angeles, (213) 250-9995. For a schedule of events for "Bob Baker Days," as well as tickets, you can visit the festival's website.