I drive past The Bob Baker Marionette Theater at least once a week. Whether I am heading East or West on Glendale, I always crane my head out of the window at the building, attempting to get a good view of it as I drive under the Beverly bridge into Downtown or into Echo Park. I don’t know what goes on within that cartoonish looking building but I can feel–we all can feel–the history of the space resonating from it. What goes on inside of there? Filmaker J. Emilio Flores must have had the same question because he stepped inside and made a fantastic little documentary on the place, giving a peek behind the Bob Baker’s red velvet curtain.
Bob Baker’s Marionette Theater is one of the oldest operating puppet theaters in the US. It is ran by Bob Baker (not Bob Barker), a puppeteer who has been running his theatre for 54 years of good times and recent bad economic times. His space is a place of Los Angeles folklore, a theater space dedicated to a craft that dwells in between performance, visual art, and imagination. It seems impossible that a place like this exists which is exactly why everyone is infatuated with it (but few have actually gone in there). The space as recently been talked about because there is a giant for sale sign on it. What does that mean for this institution? Time will tell.
Flores very simply shows Bob explaining how difficult it is to run a puppet theater in 2013 (well, late 2012, when this was undoubtedly produced). You get to see some performances, hear that there are around three thousand marionettes held in house, and learn that this theater is a Los Angeles craft center dedicated to such a unique and almost obscure art form. What would Los Angeles be without a Bob Baker Marionette Theater?
“If the theater closes and somebody else moves in, maybe they could wait six months for us to get out,” Bob says in the film. “In the meantime, we’ll find another building and setup doing puppet films. I won’t be able to do as much–but I do have a staff that is very interested in carrying on and doing things with it. They’re all learning. We have some other people that even want to build puppets! But that’s the fun of it: not really knowing what’s going to happen tomorrow.” It could not have been explained any better, Bob. Catch the video below.