Tuesday 2nd , 2014
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1976 It was an evening in 1987, and we were watching a television special on the making of Return of the Jedi.  I didn’t want to watch it, but my brother was a huge Star Wars fan and he had won control over the television.  One segment of the special focused Jabba the Hutt.  The lead puppeteer was giving an interview from the INSIDE of the massive puppet.  Up to six puppeteers at a time where crammed together inside a mass of foam and wires, working in unison, to bring Jabba to life.  I was stunned and intrigued!  I suddenly realized: “People actually do this?!  I want to do this!”  Life was never the same. ( Star Wars To Jedi: The Making of A Saga)

In my career as a professional puppeteer, I continue to be amazed by puppetry and its many forms.  In western culture we tend to think of puppets as popular children’s entertainment.  Puppetry has, however, been used to communicate and entertain all ages for centuries by cultures all over the world! Shadow puppets from Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Cambodia are part of an ancient folktale tradition, portraying mythical stories and morality plays.  This art  form is seen in many parts of Asia such as China, India and Nepal, and can be seen in cultures as far West as Turkey, and Greece.  A Javanese shadow puppet show is often performed with a live orchestra and can last all night long!

Deft manipulating of strings brings marionettes to life.  The word “marionette” means “little Mary” in French, and is believed to be in reference to string puppets of the Virgin Mary. Punch and Judy is a traditional, popular puppet show featuring Mr. Punch and his wife, Judy. The performance consists of a sequence of short scenes, each depicting an interaction between two characters, most typically the violent Punch and one other character. It is often associated with traditional British seaside culture.” (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia) Punch and Judy are glove puppets based on satirical characters with origins in Southern Europe.  Mr. Punch is rumored to have first appeared in England in the 1600’s.  Interactive shows featuring Mr. Punch are often violent with highly political themes, and didn’t become family entertainment until the Victorian era.

We have amazing puppetry traditions right here in California!  In 1962 Bob Baker and Alton Wood opened the Bob Baker Marionette Theater and have been entertaining families for over 50 years.  Attending a birthday party and show at Bob’s theater has been an Angeleno rite of passage for generations. 

Puppetry traditions from all over the world have inspired me and have taught me about the cultures from which they come. If you would like to learn more, come join us on December 2nd for Free Family Night to explore puppetry and see a special performance from the Bob Baker Marionette Theater.  As most of you may know Bob Baker passed away last week. The Friends of Baker request that donations be made to help supporters preserve his legacy and purchase the building that houses the theater. More information can be found at this link.

Kidspace is also having a puppet building workshop, on Sunday, January 4, 2015. Build and decorate your own rod puppet and sock puppet, explore the history and cultural importance of puppetry, and practice a few techniques used by professional puppeteers. Workshop fee is in addition to museum general admission. Children must be accompanied by an adult at all times. This workshop is for Children 5 to 8 years old.


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Anne Pierce is a part time Educator at Kidspace and has been with the museum since 2010.  As a professional puppeteer her credits include positions with Sid and Marty Krofft, Universal Studios, and the Walt Disney Company.