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Vote Head-to-Head: Puppeteer Bob Baker vs. An Origami Moment

Bob Baker: The Man Behind the Puppets

An L.A. historic cultural monument, The Bob Baker Marionette Theater is considered hallowed grounds by many, consecrated as a place to honor and celebrate the art of puppetry by its namesake Bob Baker.

An Origami Moment: Mathematics Meets Paper Folding in Los Angeles

Los Angeles is currently home to a rare constellation of origami projects; one could say that we are experiencing an "origami moment."

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I was first introduced to Bob Baker and his Troupe of marionettes, at the Coachella Date Festival, when I was about 4 years old. I distinctly remember, as if it was yesterday, the moment one of the performers (a 2 foot tall white rabbit who was dressed as an artist, wearing a beret and holding his palette and brush) danced over to me and delicately “painted” my nose with his artists brush. I can still feel the delicate touch, like the kiss of a butterfly, right now, right here. I now know that my little friend’s every movement was actually controlled by a puppeteer who manipulated his strings mere inches away, but at the time I neither saw the strings, nor the puppeteer, though no effort was made to hide either one.

Upon our return to Los Angeles, my mother located the Bob Baker Marionette Theatre, in downtown L.A., and we visited a number of times over the years. Many of my young friends had their birthday parties hosted there. The staging was simple. Just some folding chairs, arranged in a circle, with an opening to allow the performers their entrances and exits. The parents and older children used the chairs, while the younger ones sat on the floor in front of them. The show would begin with the puppeteers, and their diminutive counterparts, gliding into the center of the “stage” and whisking us all away to that magical place that only a live performance can take you. Within minutes the strings, as if by magic, began to fade away as did the hands that controlled them, until all any of us saw were the little ones that we had really come to see.

When my son, Dennis, was little, about the same age that I was when I first was them, we took him to see one of the performances there. Tucked beneath a freeway overpass in the heart of Downtown L.A., the area looked a little sketchy and quite a bit more run down than what I remembered. The Theatre looked quite plain from the outside, with nothing much to distinguish it from the other commercial buildings in the area. Once inside, however, things looked a little more familiar and old memories began to stir. The show began and the puppeteers with their merry marionettes flowed onto the stage with strings dancing and bobbing rhythmically. Minutes later, the strings and their brobdingangian manipulators began to disappear, just as they had done when I was a child, and I was 4 years old once again. I spotted my furry little rabbit friend amongst the troupe, still faithfully executing his solemn duty to adorn the noses of the littlest guests with a rainbow of imaginary colors.

In these modern days of YouTube, I Phones, and instant digital online mass media mega multimedia, The Bob Baker Marionette Theatre has become almost an anachronism. It stands on the precipice of extinction, teetering back and forth between the world of imagination and the stark reality of our times. Without significant and immediate financial aid, this little known, yet extremely precious slice of Los Angeles’ entertainment pie will follow the dinosaurs and the dodo bird and disappear into extinction.

Before that happens, do yourselves and your little ones a favor and go. Go now, don’t wait. Tell your friends to go and to take their kids. Tell them to tell their friends to take their kids. If you liked what you saw, send them a small donation. Post a link on Facebook. Whatever you decide to do, do it quickly, because I don’t think you have much time left.

Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever . . . Except, perhaps, in a little corner of my heart and the other hearts it has touched over the years,

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