Discover LA by Metro:
LA Theater Has Been Enchanting Audiences for 52 Years
Combine colored lights, glittering swags and bows, fancifully costumed performers, imaginative staging, and nostalgic music with generous doses of fantasy and you have the legendary Bob Baker Marionette Theater in Downtown Los Angeles.
Stepping into the Bob Baker Marionette Theater is a journey into childhood of another era – one which is simpler, gentler, and magical.
That this historic treasure, and its 82-year-old founder, are still bringing joy and wonderment to yet another generation confirms that imagination and quality theater never go out of style. “We’re about showing love, gentleness, not violence,” explained Bob Baker about how his approach to entertainment differs from that of contemporary media.
This Metro Gal went to the Bob Baker Marionette Theater as a child. So when we learned that the theater is having financial problems, we had to attend a performance. A special fundraiser is slated for July 29.
If there is a silver lining to the theater’s financial dilemma, it is the increased awareness of the group. Founder Bob Baker noted that recent publicity has brought a return of audiences who, sometimes decades after their childhood visits, didn’t know the theater was still in existence.
The show is absolutely delightful and enchanting for children of all ages. In the audience, we were pleased to see many multi-generational families, and even singles and couples without children, as well as a birthday party group for a 12-year-old. One couple, having come from MOCA, explained that this was one of their Downtown culture dates. A grandma was bringing her daughter and grandson for the 4-year-old’s first visit — the daughter, now a mom, had visited many times as a child.
The Bob Baker Marionette Theater works with schools across Southern California. For schools that can’t afford full-price tickets, the Theater subsidizes tickets with the help of fundraising by its partner non-profit, the Academy of Puppetry and Allied Arts, and generous community grant makers. Last year alone, the Theater served nearly 12,000 children and families.
The current show, Fiesta, is a south-of-the-border marionette extravaganza featuring everything from skating sombreros to dancing cacti. It was first presented at the theater in 1964 but has not lost its appeal. Although billed as a children’s show, adults are captivated by the intricacy of the marionettes. There’s great attention to detail in the costumes, and the range of movements really brings these stringed actors to life. The puppeteers, dressed classically in black to be “invisible,” skillfully enable their charges to shimmy, bat their eyelashes, and even juggle while dancing across the floor. One of our faves are the dancing cacti that wink fetchingly while sprouting flowers from their arms and heads. Cuter than cute are the pair of ostriches that literally lay an egg (a little theater humor) and hatch it.
Fiesta is a nostalgic, classic musical review complete with flirty show girls, tangoing couples, juggling clowns, Mexican hat dancers, and day-glo skeletons dancing to the classic Hernando’s Hideaway. In our age of i-everything technology, this 50-minute show moves fast enough to hold the attention of even the squirmiest 2-year-old or the most skeptical 25-year-old. The squeals of delight from kids seeing live entertainment added to our enjoyment.
The only thing missing from this stage show is the stage itself. Although there are curtains and sets at the front of the theater, there is no raised stage. The audience is seated on folding chairs and the floor in a horseshoe around the action. This theater-in-the-round is presented amid the audience – and interacting with the audience. In the hands of the skilled string-pullers, the marionettes, many of which are as large as a 2-year-old child, really seem alive as they interact with small show-goers. The puppeteers love to have their charges flirt with audience members of all ages. When you least expect it, you’ll find an ostrich on your lap or a kitten show girl stroking your hair!
The Bob Baker Marionette Theater wraps up the show with ice cream and cookies in their adjacent party room, reminiscent of an old fashioned ice cream parlor. Birthday party groups meet here pre-show for a special presentation by the puppeteers.
The Bob Baker Marionette Theater, an historic landmark and one of the city’s great cultural resources, is a great living treasure – an only-in-LA experience. Grab your kids, nieces and nephews, or just round up a friend or two for an unforgettable experience.
Getting to the Bob Baker Marionette Theater is a straight walk west on 1st Street from the Metro Red Line Civic Center station. However, if you are bringing small children, we suggest you bring a stroller; this Metro Adventure is a bit of a challenge because the walk to the theater is uphill 3/4 mile from the Civic Center station. There is a bus (Metro Local14), but it’s also a steep uphill walk to the bus stop. We had no trouble with the walk to the bus, even on a hot July day, but 1st Street is a thigh-building incline heading west. The maps below show the routes.
Bob Baker Marionette Theater
1345 W. 1st Street
Los Angeles, California 90026
Downtown Los Angeles at the corner where 1st and 2nd Street and Glendale Blvd. merge. The theater is under the Beverly Street Bridge, near Belmont High School.
Performances are Saturday and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
Weekday 10:30 a.m. shows are available.
General admission is $15 for adults and children.
Children under 2 are free.
Directions for Walking from Metro:
Exit the Metro Red Line Civic Center station on 1st Street and cross the street to the courthouse. Walk west on 1st Street (uphill, away from Downtown). Walk 0.8 mile (approximately 11 blocks); the Bob Baker Marionette Theater will be on your right.
Directions for Taking Bus from Metro:
To catch the bus (Metro Local Line 14) to the Bob Baker Marionette Theater, exit the Metro Red Line Civic Center station on 1st Street, cross the street to the Courthouse, and walk west on 1st Street (uphill, away from Downtown) 3 1/2 blocks. The bus stop for Metro Local Line 14 is in front of the Department of Water & Power parking lot.
Exit the Metro Local Line 14 bus at Beverly Blvd. and Belmont Avenue (enjoy the mural as you pass Belmont High School). Walk east 0.3 miles downhill (be sure to walk under the bridge, not on it). The Bob Baker Marionette Theater will be on your left. The sidewalk is uneven in some places on the north side of the street — the sidewalk on the Belmont High side is better, but the intersection crossing when you get to the theater is tricky.
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