There are many ways to measure Californiaâ€™s tanking economy: an 8.2 percent unemployment rate; a multibillion-dollar state budget gap; threatened endowments of the cityâ€™s museums, causing some cultural institutions to nearly default on mortgages; and the continued weakening of the Hollywood studio system. But the meltdown of the marionettes may say it all.
The article talks about Bob Baker Marionette Theater, which is one of the institutions of puppetry. It’s been in continuous operation since 1961 and I know so many puppeteers who got their start there. The theater is not just meaningful for puppeteers. John Scalzi says, “I remember going to that theater when I was in 4th and 5th grade.”
The puppet community has been talking about the financial trouble the theater is in for some time now. So I’m going to include some information that’s not in the article. That’s how you can make a donation to help keep this theater open for another five decades.
Tax deductible donations can be made to “The Academy of Puppetry and Allied Arts.” Send your check to 1345 West First Street, Los Angeles, CA 90026 or call 213-250-9995 to make a donation by credit card.
I had a conversation the other night with a man who’d been a puppeteer for years. In the course of the conversation he said that he’d never picked up marionettes because he thought they were too hard to learn. I’ve heard this before. I hear it a lot, in fact, that marionettes are too hard to learn for most people.
I don’t agree.
My feeling is that it’s just as hard and takes just as much time to master a marionette as it does to truly master a rod puppet. BUT in the beginning stages of learning, a marionette looks much worse than a rod puppet. To use a music analogy. Anyone can make sound on a piano the first time the touch it. Not everyone can make sound on, say, an oboe. That doesn’t mean that an oboe is takes longer to learn, it’s just that the piano is more forgiving to beginners.
I think puppets are the same way. Anyone can pick up a rod puppet and wiggle it, but to do it well takes the same time and attention as a marionette. People just give up faster because the beginning stages can be discouraging. And I don’t think that it’s really that they are more inept with marionettes, but that the mistakes are more obvious.
My parents have a recording of me at the age of five playing “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” on the violin. I was not good. A year later, they recorded me again. I was still not good. I wound up playing the violin for seventeen years and got better.
I’m thinking that just because it sounds or looks ugly the first time, doesn’t mean you should stop trying. Once I got past the beginning errors, marionettes became as easy as a rod puppet.
(Tor Books — August 21, 2018) Continuing the grand sweep of alternate history laid out in The Calculating Stars, The Fated Sky looks forward to 1961, when mankind is well-established on the moon and looking forward to its next step: journeying to, and eventually colonizing, Mars. Of course, the noted Lady Astronaut Elma York would like to go, […]