Bob Baker Marionette Theater plays free Thursday shows at Santa Monica Pier

Aloysius Crow and Miss Dodo Bird out on the town
Photo by Lisa Whiteman

The Bob Baker Marionette Theater — the oldest puppet theater not only in Los Angeles but the entire United States — is being forced to leave its iconic theater in Downtown L.A. The troupe had struggled financially and the building had been sold out from under it five years earlier, but the end had been stalled — until now.

Baker, who died in 2014, originally opened his marionette theater in 1963.To mark the end of their brick-and-mortar run, the company is performing its final shows in the venue on the day after Thanksgiving — 55 years to the day since the theater opened.

But the show must go on for the dancing marionettes and their puppeteers, who will soon begin a series of touring performances with a Thursday evening residency at the Santa Monica Pier merry-go-round. Free shows for both kids and adults happen at 6 and 7 p.m. on Nov. 29 and Dec. 6, 12 and 20. The troupe may not be able to replace the old theater’s floor-to-ceiling red velvet, but the pier’s merry-go-round has plenty of whimsy to do these shows justice.

— Brian Marks

The Bob Baker Marionette Theater gives free performances at 6 and 7 p.m. Thursdays from Nov. 29 to Dec. 20 at Santa Monica Pier. Visit for more details.