Historic puppet theater in Highland Park gets creative as pandemic pulls strings

HIGHLAND PARK, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The coronavirus pandemic is threatening to pull the strings on the future of a Southern California puppet theater that's been around for nearly six decades.

The puppets are still playing at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater in Highland Park, but too often to empty seats. So the theater is experimenting with new ways to bring in an audience in a safe fashion.

"We spent the last eight months more or less just trying to figure out how to adapt, how to start doing Zoom puppet shows.. Safe road shows outside, which we've been doing for a while now but we just had to kind of ramp that up," said the theater's Winona Bechtle.

That ramp-up includes something new: a walk-thru show that allows for physical distancing.

"All the puppets are put up on display, there's lights and music that kind of cue and motors that make them spin. It was a delight putting it together," said head puppeteer Alex Evans.

Think of it like an old school Disney ride.

"It's like you're going to the Haunted Mansion, but instead it's all of our thousands of puppets that you get to see performing these wonderful scenes," said Bechtle.

As the pandemic stretches into the new year, it's clear more public support will be needed to keep these puppets playing and the historic theater's doors open.
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