Moving the archive one floorboard at a time!

Our old library at 1345 W. 1st St.

Our old library at 1345 W. 1st St.

A Bob Baker show has just finished and you might have struck up a conversation with a puppeteer. Maybe you have particular interest in vinyl, or National Geographic magazine collections, or the concept art for our marionettes! If you are lucky (really super lucky), a Bob Baker staff member might have taken you upstairs and shown you the most hidden and fantastic world in the entire Theater– the Bob Baker archive and library!

Once used functionally as Bob Baker’s office, the archive is home to thousands of LPs, reel to reel recordings, cassette tapes, concept art, books, magazines, and more– all stacked floor to ceiling! It was the room that most frequently made visitors say to us… “And how are you going to move that?!?!”

Led by an incredible and dedicated team at our Theater, the archive is moving book by book, LP by LP. However, there was one often overlooked feature underneath the stacks of books and music. The floorboards! And little did we know that just outside the archive door we had quite the collection of overflow redwood floorboards… the very same ones that Bob put down in what we now call our archive (his former office). We simply had to take them with us to pay homage to this incredible and singular room.

After making a few phone calls, we approached our pal Frank Fairfield with a seemingly impossible task. Could he take these slightly wonky floorboards and put them on our new Theater’s slightly wonky floor? We had a dream to cover up the floor of our new library space with something that felt like home and he understood perfectly. All this week, with lots of elbow grease and care, Frank finished putting in Bob’s original floorboards in our new library and it looks a little something like this!

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A chunk of the floor in our new library! Looks like home… now we just need to move everything over.

A chunk of the floor in our new library! Looks like home… now we just need to move everything over.

Raising The Curtains: How we worked with Dunn-Edwards Paints to carry over a Bob Baker tradition

The original “red curtain” wall at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater at 1345 W. 1st St.

The original “red curtain” wall at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater at 1345 W. 1st St.

One of the most striking features of the original location of the Bob Baker Marionette Theater were its painted curtains. Though not original to the paint job in the earliest days of the Theater, for at least a few generations of Angelenos and visitors alike, these painted curtains became a calling card for the Bob Baker Marionette Theater and a reminder of puppet shows with family and friends. Stepping into the Theater was like being wrapped in a big red blanket, and when we were presented with white walls full of possibility at our new location at 4949 York Blvd. it was an easy decision to plan to “rehang” these curtains in the new Theater. Our velvety red curtains we could take off the wall, but what about these painted beauties? Our questions were first directed at our incredible sponsor, Dunn-Edwards, who have generously provided all of the paint featured in our new Theater. Though they were familiar with glossy interiors, matte walls, and fine details… we have to believe that painting red and gold curtains inside of a puppet theater wall was an unusual request to begin with!

Our daring Executive Director / Head Puppeteer Alex Evans cutting out curtains in the dead of night.

Our daring Executive Director / Head Puppeteer Alex Evans cutting out curtains in the dead of night.

When the Bob Baker Marionette Theater first announced our move from our old location, we were often faced with a barrage of questions– “What are you bringing? Will the chandeliers come with you?” “Are you throwing things away?” “Are the puppets coming?” To these questions our staff smiled knowing that we have barely thrown out the tiniest puppet part in over 50 years! Of course the chandeliers were coming… and so was the drywall. Some organizations might rely on paint chips to color match… but not us! We had big plans to cut out portions of the historic drywall to take a bit of the “wallpaper” with us, and thought that in order to fully appreciate the color transitions, the mixing, and the vibrance, we would take this portion of drywall with us to our local Dunn-Edwards paint store in Glendale to speak in person with their Professional Color Advisor to ensure that we got as close as possible to the original reds, blues, and yellows of our Theater walls.

Joel and a Dunn-Edwards employee face a daunting color-match task!

Joel and a Dunn-Edwards employee face a daunting color-match task!

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Admittedly, walking into a paint store with a chunk of Theater wall is quite a sight to see! However, we quickly got down to it and tested, compared, and matched the colors from our original Theater wall to shades that were remarkably close (if not a perfect) match! No sooner did we leave the store and begin making phone calls on our way back to alert the crews that paint was coming and we had some work to do.

Bob Baker volunteers are never ones to fear a blank canvas.

Bob Baker volunteers are never ones to fear a blank canvas.

Our puppeteer Audrey working on some of the finer details!

Our puppeteer Audrey working on some of the finer details!

With a dedicated team of puppeteers, volunteers, and Bob Baker staff the curtains went up over the course of only a few days. Seemingly like magic the white hallway walls began to feel more like home, and we could imagine audiences coming through the doors and experiencing a Bob Baker show for the first time or the 50th time. Though the Theater would be full of exciting new puppets, shows, workshops, and more… it was crucial to us to define Bob Baker history not only through the physical building and marionettes in our collection, but through the characteristics that define the experience of coming to see a show. Honoring pieces of our historic original location was a crucial part of our move to 4949 York Blvd., and with the help and support of Dunn-Edwards we have been able to do that confidently and courageously, while also having time to focus on our puppet rehearsals! We have said for quite a while now that the future is sweet….but did you know it also features painted curtains?

A final portion of our new painted Theater wall with the original drywall chunk we cut out. Come visit at 4949 York Blvd. this summer!

A final portion of our new painted Theater wall with the original drywall chunk we cut out. Come visit at 4949 York Blvd. this summer!

A Bob Baker Bride

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The first Bob Baker show I saw with Vincent Zalkind was the Hallowe'en Spooktacular and I'm so delighted that this year he and I were blessed to be married on its very set.

It's not surprising that Vince and I fell in love with each other and with the Theater. He's a library worker who is known to adopt the well-worn childrens' books that are retired from rotation. I moved to Los Angeles to work in television, fueled by a love that started with Fraggle Rock, Free to Be... You and Me, and Shelley Duvall's Fairy Tale Theatre. From the very first number of the very first show, we knew that Bob Baker Marionette Theater was for us. I believe it was after that show that we said (maybe for the first time in our relationship) "We should get married... here!" 

We couldn't stop coming back and bringing friends. Seeing first timers experience the magic and craftsmanship on display at the theater is so satisfying. It reminds you that there's still a part in all of us that's uncynical, sincere, and joyful. We became adoptive parents to Handstand Poodle (who you may know from The Circus). We began to attend Member's Night events and talk more to the people behind the scenes of the theater. We celebrated my birthday with a dozen of our best friends during Enchanted Toyshop. The Bob Baker Marionette Theater was our very favorite place to be.

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The day after Bob Baker Day, we ran into puppeteer Molly Fite at brunch (I believe I was wearing my Hallowe'en Spooktacular shirt and trying not to be a little bashful about it). "Hey listen... do people ever get married at the theater?" She lit up, and Vince and I started to talk more and more about our dream as a reality.

In early September, we were in a devastating car accident that we were lucky to walk away from. Our dream of a cotton candy, carousel, and calliope wedding was quickly replaced with a vision of a practical elopement. Life is short and we wanted to spend ours together. It just wasn't in the cards. 

Shortly after the accident I was looking up my dream wedding gown (thinking "is it too much for the courthouse?"), when I received a message from Molly. Alex had given her permission to tell us that the theater would be moving in the next few months. Maybe we could do this after all?! Vince and I looked at each other, sent an email, and by the end of the week we had the date set and invites sent. We had three weeks to plan a semi-lopement, as my mother-in-law likes to call it.

Alex, Molly, Missy, Jared and the rest of the folks at the theater were so supportive and excited about our nuptials. They were more than happy to let Dracula walk me down the aisle, for Handstand Poodle to perform for our family, and to release the ribbons as we kissed. We toasted with pink lemonade in the party room and took pictures with the beloved courtyard clown. It might have only been an hour, but it was the most special hour of our lives. We promised to love each other with the kind of love that is let loose when watching Bob Baker's puppets perform.

We also made a commitment to the theater, and that commitment doesn't end with the current location. As we cut the cake, Vince and I talked about having our one-year anniversary party at the new space. In the time since our wedding, I've already brought another crowd of first-timers to the Spooktacular and just this past weekend brought my dad to see two shows.

In other words: Wherever Handstand Poodle goes, we will follow (he really is the cutest).

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Meet Audrey Densmore: Puppeteer and Light Operator

Audrey Densmore puppeteering for the show “Something to Crow About!”

Audrey Densmore puppeteering for the show “Something to Crow About!”

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. 

Meet Daisy Hernandez: A 3rd Generation Bob Baker Spotlight Operator!

Daisy Hernandez looking down from the spotlight booth.

Daisy Hernandez looking down from the spotlight booth.

I remember my cousins and I playing handball on this giant white building at the end of the parking lot not knowing what was behind those walls. I always remembered this man (Bob Baker) giving us ice cream from the side door of the building when he saw us playing there. I was around the age of 10 when I saw my first show there and I was fascinated by the lights, the music, the puppets, and of course the ice cream.

Circa 1992. Puppeteer Cesar and Daisy’s Aunt.

Circa 1992. Puppeteer Cesar and Daisy’s Aunt.

Circa 1992. Puppeteer Cesar and “Cook” marionette.

Circa 1992. Puppeteer Cesar and “Cook” marionette.

My name is Daisy Hernandez, I've lived across the street from the Bob Baker Marionette Theater my whole life and I am a third generation spotlight operator. My aunt used to do spot back in 1992, but she never really talked about her time at the Theater so I guess she kind of just forget it was there until my cousins and I started asking about what we thought was inside that building so she took us to see a show and the rest was history.

Daisy puppeteering Percy, one of the Birthday Dogs.

Daisy puppeteering Percy, one of the Birthday Dogs.

In 2013 my sister started working at the theater as the secretary, answering phone calls or booking roadshows but later worked her way up to spotlight. After some time she wasn't able to do weekend shows because of her conflicting hours with her other job so she trained me to cover for her and i've been doing spot ever since but little by little I've worked my way backstage helping out with lights or drops or handouts and on occasion a puppet or two. Getting to be a part of the Bob Baker family means so much to me, because not only is it a part of my childhood but getting to see the joyful smiles on the children's faces when a puppet sits on their lap or getting excited when the emcee announces they’re getting ice cream after the show is over is just priceless and something you'll only get to experience at a Bob Baker Marionette show. After five years of being in that crows nest or behind that big red curtain I know one thing is for sure, where ever the puppets go I’m sure to follow.

Daisy operating the spotlight!

Daisy operating the spotlight!

Behind the Keys: An Interview with our organist Mr. Fred!

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The Bob Baker Marionette Theater’s Director of Development Winona Bechtle interviews our Organist Mr. Fred!

afternoon! Tell us a little bit about yourself, Mr. Fred!

I am Fred Kolouch, and I play the organ at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater. I moved here about 3 years ago and I was just driving around town one day getting on the highway and I saw the Bob Baker Marionette Theater at a time when I was trying to find some cool places to check out. I was curious and looked it up later and ended up going for my birthday and was totally wowed by the show– I saw “Something to Crow About.” It felt like it was out of a dream, the fact that something like this would exist was mind-blowing. It’s so decorative and there’s something so cinematic about the lighting– everything about it is magical.

So I saw the show and was blown away, and another year went by and I signed up to volunteer. I poked my head in one day on a Wednesday evening to see what was going on and mentioned I was interested in doing some lighting… and I noticed the organ. It was kind of out of use and there were a couple of funky rattling sounds it made so I wanted to fix it. I spent one of my days opening up the organ and checking it out and taking out each later of circuitry, and I figured out that it was a broken speaker so I got it replaced and it started sounding great, so now I play it whenever I get the opportunity.

My first experience playing the organ was in middle school when my grandmother gave me a Wurlitzer.

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Did you take formal lessons or are you self taught?

I’m self taught on the organ, but I started learning piano on this old Apple software called Miracle– it comes with a mini keyboard and you learn to play songs like “Tea for Two” and things like that, and it’s like Mario Teaches Typing but you learn how to play the piano. So you shoot ducks and stuff… it has really funny graphics, and from there I started writing my own compositions and then my parents signed me up for lessons. My first lessons were blues and jazz right from the beginning because that type of music encourages people to write their own music more freely as opposed to learning classical sheet music, so it complemented my ability to improvise and strengthened my ability to play on the keyboard.

Tell us about the selections you play at the Theater.

I currently play lots of the songs I learned back from taking piano lessons, like “St James Infirmary” and a lot of classic Fats Domino songs and old blues, rock ‘n roll type of songs… so there’s that, and my Dad would always recommend ideas for songs that might sound great for the organ. So when I was growing up and in high school and college he would introduce me to a lot of music that was from the 60s or 70s, lots of surf rock and things that he listened to as a kid. And I loved the tunes so on my own I learned the songs by just listening to them. And so with that I had the knowledge of improvisation from my lessons so I could figure out the basic structure of the songs which is how I pick up a lot of songs at the Theater.

Lately at the Theater I’ve been playing “Danse Macabre,” a classic Halloween song, I’m also playing “The Gonk” which is the song at the end of Dawn of the Dead. I also have been playing Telstar in Minor! It’s fun watching the Bob Baker shows after performing because I start hearing the songs and recognizing where Bob pulled them from, all of the music that is already played in the shows are songs that I’m familiar with and things I’ve listened to, so it’s exciting to learn the songs that I already gravitate toward.

What does the future look like for Mr. Fred?

Well I’m really thrilled and excited to continue playing organ music wherever the Theater goes! I went to the Old Town Music Hall and I loved the fact that the organ was kind of embedded into the Theater and there’s something almost “puppeteer-ish” about the glockenspiel and the things that go off with the black lights… there’s a weird synergy happening with that place and what you see at the Bob Baker. So I’m interested in how something like that might manifest in the new space.

And when you’re not at the Theater, where can we find you?

I have a background in a film, and I have a job working at the Planetarium at the Griffith Observatory. I run the shows there and we work with a live presenter, kind of like a lecturer. I project the stars and all that– I am also editing the new Planetarium show which will come out in 2020. So I’ve been behind the scenes with the animation crew and I’ve been cutting together this show called “Signs of Life” which is their next big show. It’s editing a lot of animation so it’s a really interesting new type of project for me.

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