Bob Baker Marionette Theater Is Already Hosting Shows in Its New Highland Park Digs

Take a look inside before the inaugural performance on Saturday
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This November, exactly one year after the closing of its historic original location (and 56 years after it took up residence there), the Bob Baker Marionette Theater plans to cut the ribbon on its fully tricked-out new home at the former York Theater in Highland Park.

Preview performance for invited guests

Photo by Peter Sattler

In the meantime, we can look forward to a whole summer of preview performances in the new space as tons of glitter and sparkle descend on the nearly century-old neighborhood movie house transforming it in to the puppet theater’s new home.

Ceylon Baginski (L) and Natalie Hadland match the curtain Trompe-l’œil from the original theater

Photo by Winona Bechtle

The inaugural public performance, Sketchbook Revue, will take place on Saturday, June 8. The first visitors to the theater will see the iconic marionettes in a new, but familiar, environment. The dancing drums, the birthday dogs, and Cleopatra by way of Carol Channing will sing and dance amidst the deep reds and sparkly digs you remember.

Artists Marlo Meekins and Ceylon paint the lobby doors

Photo by Winona Bechtle

The whole project has come together quicker than anticipated thanks to some 400 volunteers, including neighbors, friends, and some former Disney Imagineers, who have helped the four full-time staffers bring some of Bob’s forgotten visions to life.

“It’s everything that everyone remembers,” says the theater’s director of development, Winona Bechtle. “And there’s some new stuff which is actually very old. The pink stripes, blue diamonds, and lattice work is based on old designs we found in his library and archive. We would open boxes and find full renderings with vendors’ business cards. We could see exactly what he was thinking.”

Patterns and designs from Bob’s archive were interpreted for the new space by designer Braden Graber.

Photo by Winona Bechtle

The summer performances will be staged between construction efforts as the new digs are transformed. “Every time you come back something will be different,” says Bechtle. “If you come this weekend you’ll see two chandeliers. Next weekend you’ll see three. We think it’s such a unique and cool thing to realize these 70-year-old plans.”

Preview performance for invited guests

Photo by Peter Sattler

This 8′ Statue of Liberty was discovered deep in storage. She makes a brief appearance in an Independence Day number

Photo by Winona Bechtle

The theater has 4 paid staff members and 400 volunteers.

Photo by Winona Bechtle

A handful of first-graders and invited guests have already been treated to a visit, but the doors will officially open tomorrow night, so get ready to be charmed back to your happy place. Plus, there’s ice cream!


RELATED: Bob Baker Marionette Theater Is Moving Into an Old Movie House in Highland Park


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