“Puppetry is anything… you’re never going to stop somebody from just being creative,” Alex Evans, executive director and head puppeteer of the Bob Baker Marionette Theater, explains. “On a fundamental layer, for children, they’re just sitting down and being entertained.”
Marionette puppetry is an ancient form of performance dating back to Egyptians as early as 2000 BC, when wooden figures were manipulated with a series of strings connected to key joints on a model to replicate movement, such as normal daily chores and activities. Throughout the centuries, the art evolved to incorporate materials such as clay or porcelain, as marionette puppetry has been widely used in elegant rituals and ceremonies as well as for entertainment.
While marionette puppetry has been practiced all over the world, California plays home to the oldest and most renowned theater within the United States. The Bob Baker Marionette Theater opened its doors in Los Angeles in 1963, founded by the masterful puppetry partnership of Alton Wood and Bob Baker. The traveling troupe had been operating globally for several decades before renovating the rundown theater space in downtown LA, which has become a local cultural institution ever since.
“I used to pass by the theater everyday,” Adri Garcia reminisces. The puppeteer-in-training and LA native goes on to explain how The Bob Baker Marionette Theater had always been a landmark, but she had not fully appreciated it until she began working as the office manager there. “We wouldn’t be able to make it work if we weren’t passionate about what we do.”
While Wood passed away in 2001, and Baker in 2014, their legacy has carried on well past their 70 years of service to the art form thanks to dedicated individuals like Evans and Garcia.
“It’s Bob’s vision times 10… everyone here has just been affected by him, whether it be directly… or just by what he’s created. The people now are just inspired by him and have taken it to such new heights,” Evans emphasizes.
The Bob Baker Marionette Theater is located in Downtown Los Angeles. For more information, please go to www.bobbakermarionettetheater.com.