“You still reach them with imagination; you still reach them with love,” Baker said. “It was through imagination with many a young person that we got airplanes, telephones, motion pictures, you name it — it came through imagination first.” – Bob Baker
A vibrant imagination needs a good work out too, and soon there might be one less place in Los Angeles to exercise it.
The bad economy and new technologies have endangered a special nook in Downtown Los Angeles. Hidden away near an overpass sits a white block building, Bob Baker’s Marionette Theater, with a 50 year history of producing magic out of wood and strings.
Bob Baker started his marionette theater in 1953. Now registered as a historical landmark by the city of Los Angeles, it’s the longest running puppet theater in the US. Over the past decade, with the passing of business partner, Alton Wood, the digital advancements in movie effects, and the lack of public school funds for group field trips, the puppets are in serious trouble of abandonment.
Bob Baker, now close to 90 years old, is selling the theater, but not without putting up a fight to save both his theater and puppetry school.
According to the LA Times:
The total listing price for the five lots located on the corner of Glendale and First streets is listed at $2.05 million on Loopnet. This includes two vacant lots, the theater, storage and the corner parking lot.
Baker said he hopes that someone purchases the land with a lease-back option. Since the listing has been posted, Baker said they’ve already received calls from a few interested buyers. Baker’s also open to taking on an associate partner, or any other arrangements that could keep the theater in business, he said.
While you might not be able to afford purchasing a 2 million dollar theater, you can still make a charitable donation to keep Bob Baker’s Marionettes alive, at “Network for Good”.
Marionettes are completely fascinating – inanimate cartoons brought to life by faceless puppeteers, perhaps this is also the reason puppets can be irksome and down-right creepy, but in a fantastic, Roald Dahl kind of way. From a 300 year old Punch and Judy show, to Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal, or a more recent portrayal in Being John Malkovitch, Marionettes give us a mythic and rich perspective on the world we’ve crafted and been crafted by, both the good and the bad. It’s a microcosm for all the world is and can be.
And it all happens to be housed in a time-capsule theater, hidden near an overpass, in Downtown Los Angeles, made with wood, and moved by strings. And while adults can appreciate Bob Baker’s Marionettes, only children can unlock its secrets through their own budding imagination.