Generous gifts saved Marionettes

| December 31, 2020 | 0 Comments

PUPPETEERS and clown puppets entertain family audiences as they have for 58 years in Los Angeles.

Bob Baker Marionette Theater (BBMT) is celebrating because its fundraising campaign “Keep Imagination Alive” has already met — and even exceeded — its $365,000 goal.

BBMT began the campaign in November in a desperate move to pay rent and keep the lights on, said Winona Bechtle, director of development. She added that the board and staff had fully expected the campaign to last far into this year, and only hoped to raise a third of the goal by the end of 2020.

Thanks to the community of fans who supported the puppet theater with contributions ranging from $5 up to some really, really generous gifts, said board treasurer and Brookside resident Vivian Gueler, BBMT can now, with the goal met, return from pure survival mode to concentrate on grant writing to help fulfill its programming and educational goals for 2021, said Bechtle.

Over the past year, BBMT has lost approximately $500,000 in revenues due to the COVID-19 closures, and the theater company continues to miss $30,000 in revenue per month. But for now, at least, the basic needs of the theater have been met. The doors (or curtains) remain open, and now the focus can turn to the mission of the puppet theater, which is to educate, celebrate and rejuvenate puppetry and the allied arts.

Programming changes

MARIONETTE MOBILE takes puppets on the road — outdoors and socially distanced (when allowed).

In addition to online programming instituted at the beginning of the pandemic lockdowns, such as pre-recorded performances, music, arts and crafts and other programs for kids, the puppet theater has introduced the Marionette Mobile.

The mobile is a custom, retrofitted box truck that folds out into a stage area. It is designed to bring socially distanced performances and ice cream delivery to outdoor spaces throughout Los Angeles, when public health guidelines allow.

WAITING IN THE WINGS are some of the Bob Baker Marionette Theater’s 2,000 hand-crafted puppet-actors.

For now, through Thurs., Jan. 7, you can view some of the marionette magic at the Santa Monica Pier. Visitors can take a free, outdoor stroll and peek through the windows of the merry-go-round to see a retrospective of BBMT’s history.

The Bob Baker Marionette Theater was founded in 1963 by Bob Baker and Alton Wood when they transformed a rundown scenic shop at 1345 W. 1st St. into a puppet theater. In 2009, the building was named a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument. Recently, the theater has moved to Highland Park. Bob Baker passed away in 2014 at the age of 90.

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