A Guide to LA Puppet Fest

It’s puppet season here in Los Angeles, with the inaugural LA Puppet Fest in full swing. This colorful month-long celebration is not just about hand puppets, though there are plenty of those, too. But there’s also a shadow-puppet performance, a puppetry workshop, experimental puppet theater, puppet-populated films, and the Million Puppet March, as well as a free slideshow at the Central Library’s Mark Taper Auditorium with selections from the library’s own collection of puppet-themed images. In fact, there’s so much going on puppet-wise, we’ve decided to break it down for you right here, just to better keep track of things.

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Something to Crow About
In the early ’60s, Bob Baker and partner Alton Wood founded a marionette theater, establishing what has become the longest-running children’s company in Los Angeles. Baker still operates the nostalgia-steeped playhouse, mentoring young puppeteers and performing regularly. If you still haven’t had the chance to see one of the beloved venue’s amazing shows, now is a good a time as any to catch Bob Baker’s latest production, Something to Crow About. Besides doing something nice for your inner child, you’ll be supporting one of LA’s most endearing and endangered cultural institutions — long after puppet month is through. — Tanja M. Laden

Through June 16, 2013 at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater

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LA in Focus: Turnabout Puppet Theatre
Travel back in time to 1930s-era Hollywood, when the Yale Puppeteers and Turnabout Theatre on La Cienega entertained Hollywood royalty with their charming cabaret-style revue. Not only did theatre founders Harry Burnett, Richard Brandon, and Forman Brown elevate the art of puppetry, but they also paved the way for future gay performers with their marionette mastery. Historian J. Eric Lynxwiler discusses the Turnabout Theatre, with a slideshow of images from the Los Angeles Public Library’s fantastic photo collection. — Tanja M. Laden

Saturday, April 20, 2pm at the Los Angeles Central Library

Change the World: A Shadow Puppet Performance
Leslie K. Gray is Artistic Director and founding partner of the Triumvirate Pi Theatre Community Partners project, a nonprofit institution dedicated to bringing live theater to the community. A perfect example of this endeavor is this family-friendly event, part of the special Night of Community Expressions and Conversations at the Mercado La Paloma. Change the World: A Shadow Puppet Performance calls attention to the sobering issue of fracking in the LA-area. — Tanja M. Laden

Saturday, April 20, 7pm at Mercado La Paloma

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LA Puppet Festival Centerpiece Showcase: Awesome Puppet Films & Filmmakers
The Muppets steal the limelight when it comes to puppets in film, but thanks to Jim Henson’s daughter Heather and her Handmade Puppet Dreams, the LA Puppet Fest 2013 is giving a few other puppets the chance to become film stars, too. The Los Angeles Guild of Puppetry (LAGOP) screens the film shorts “Graveyard Jamboree,” “Yamasong,” “Sammy and Sofa,” and “The Narrative of Victor Karloch,” with the latter two intended for mature audiences. Stick around for a Q&A with filmmakers Sam K. Hale, Tim Lagasse, Screen Novelties, Kevin McTurk, as well as a display of the puppets in the films. — Brendan A. Murray

Tuesday, April 23, 7:30pm at Barnsdall Art Park

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International Puppetry Museum Sneak Peek
Dedicated to the promotion, preservation, and advancement of puppetry, the International Puppetry Museum is a local treasure that promises to bring more visibility to the art of puppetry through restoration and exhibits, as well as a series of educational and outreach programs. As part of the LA Puppet Fest, the International Puppetry Museum invites the community for two-day sneak peek into its new Pasadena-based digs, where the public has the rare chance to tour the museum’s space and check out its current exhibit. The event is free, but donations are always welcome. — Tanja M. Laden

April 23–24, 10:15am – 5pm at the International Puppetry Museum

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Puppetry Potpourri
If you’ve always wanted to try your hand at puppetry, check out Puppet School’s Puppetry Potpourri. This two-hour event introduces would-be puppeteers to the craft’s different styles. A talented group of experts cover a wide range of subjects, including Muppet-style puppetry, theater puppetry, writing for puppets, puppet-making, and a demonstration of TV and film puppetry. As an added bonus, the first people to enroll are entered into a raffle with free classes as one of the prizes. — Brendan A. Murray

Wednesday, April 24 7:30pm at the Skirball Cultural Center

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Exhibit A
LA’s own beloved experimental puppeteers, Automata, time-travel to a fictional version of mid-century modernist Silver Lake. With a green-screen video backdrop and model replicas, this avant-garde production examines the lives of local icons such as SoCal architect John Lautner and Radical Faeries co-founder Harry Hay, using private letters and diaries as a springboard. Exhibit A is a progressive piece of puppet theater that gives audiences a mercurial, woozy perspective of the past, one that breathes life into California’s shapeshifting zeitgeist over the past 60 years. — Tanja M. Laden

April 25 – 28 at Automata

Protestors with puppets walk in Million Muppet March in support of federal funding for public television, in Washington

LA Puppet Festival Closing Ceremony
Finally, if you’ve always wanted to be a part of something bigger, but haven’t quite found out how, now is your chance to take part in the Million Puppet March. With any luck, the record for the largest puppet march will be broken during the LA Puppet Fest closing ceremony. If you’re finding yourself without a puppet, have no fear, as puppet-making tables are provided before the march, courtesy of Rogue Artists. — Brendan A. Murray

Sunday, April 28 on Third Street Promenade