I have been a member of the Bob Baker family for four years. In 2013, I saw a guest Bob Baker performance by Alex Evans and Eric de la Cruz at the Upright Citizens Brigade theater. I walked in expecting improv comedy, and left showered with the light of an art form I had never expected to learn and love. I watched Crow and Dodo do the Charleston, the Opera Chicken lay her egg. The thought of the Chicken and her egg, and these two stoic people seemingly standing by while the puppets took stage—the thought incubated. Then I was given tickets to see “Something to Crow About” on my birthday. I cried during the performance, and cried all the way home, because I had been made aware of a world so rich with intense flavor and love, and it felt like I had finally made it home. The theater did become my home.
I asked to be the theater’s intern, and arrived for my first day in all black (I was coming from work as a gallery attendant at an art museum), and I felt like a puppeteer. John Leland sat in the office when I first walked in, and he told me that he liked my shoes, which happened to be orthopedic, rounded and spongy. He told jokes that functioned like riddles, he fired off genius wordplays at all angles. I was offered coffee and ice cream (and consequently combined the two), and was allowed to watch a rehearsal. A puppeteer at the time, Jeptha Storm (a playwright and now producer of some special events) took me into storage to search through stacks of backdrops for the upcoming show’s needs (Sketchbook Revue or Nutcracker—I can’t recall!). It made me nervous to be included in such a special happening, but soon I realized that I was becoming a part of it. The more I learned and the more I understood about the theater, I fell deeper in love.
Dante Ruiz taught me the lightboard, took a chance on me and put me on stage to try puppeteering the Fairy Godmother’s monologue in the Nutcracker. He took a chance on me, and my soul rocketed into space. I needed to know more, and I continued to come in to volunteer, bag puppets and look into each other their beautiful faces to see who they are. But I didn’t fully understand any of them until I learned to puppeteer.
Eric de la Cruz was crucial to my progress. He taught me his simple tricks for good practice, and I wracked my brain to understand until one day, it clicked. Ginger Duncan taught me about history—about Bob and Alton, and how everything is connected. Victor Garcia taught me how to pour life into a puppet. Alex Evans taught me the magic in a lighting cue, and how the lightboard—and the theater--is a puppet in its own glorious right. Cain Carias taught me the importance of paying attention to your puppet, listening to its needs and capabilities, and puppeteering with your eyes closed.
Humpty Dumpty taught me diligence, and Orange Cat taught me how to feel fascinating. The theater has since transformed and blossomed in so many ways. Jared and Molly have taught me how puppets can be an extension of you, projecting small feelings in big ways, or big feelings in small ways. They taught me how people can fall in love with a puppet’s character, right there on the spot. Ana showed me how pure love can fuel you forever—she loved Bob, completely. Karina and Daisy taught me love. Most of all, Bob has given me a world to explore, to learn and share and celebrate. I am forever grateful to be able to live his world, and to try to get to know a man who I never got to meet. His puppets are living proof of his love, genius, and desire to make people happy. Thank you, Bob. Thank you to everyone at the theater. I am excited for the future with you all: puppets and people.