The International Puppetry Museum (IPM) at 1062 North Fair Oaks Avenue, Pasadena, with its magnificent collection of puppets and puppet memorabilia, is a must-see for children and adults.
Southern California is one of the five major puppet locales in the country, and IPM strives to be a center dedicated to “honor and celebrate this magical art form.”
Steve Golden, the Collection Coordinator, gave a tour of the museum and a flow of facts about the history of puppets in the U.S. and abroad, types of puppets, productions and important people in the world of puppetry.
You don’t know “puppets” until you’ve talked to Steve.
Hand puppets, finger puppets, marionettes, and hand-and-rod puppets are familiar types. But have you seen a production of “War Horse” with a life-sized horse puppet? Did you know that Yoda of “Star Wars” is a puppet? Puppets are used in animatronics and stop-action animation.
A large room in the museum and the loft above are filled with familiar characters like Punch and Judy and those not so familiar such as the full 18-member cast of the Chinese play “Pi-Pa-Ki” which inspired the 1951 Broadway musical “Lute Song” starring Yule Brenner. Due to the small size of the museum, many of the puppets are stored. Take a virtual tour of the puppets on display.
Most of the puppets are from the collection of Alan Cook, a puppeteer, teacher and collector of 70 years. Because of the massive number of puppets he owns — by some estimates, possibly 5,000 — and because of his knowledge of their origins and history, he is recognized as an irreplaceable figure in the mission to preserve the history of puppets and advance the art of puppetry for future generations.
To visit the museum, don’t attempt to enter at the street address, which is St. Barnabas Episcopal church. Instead, going north on Fair Oaks, turn right onto Mountain, left into the first street which is an alley, and continue halfway up the block. The building and parking lot is on the left behind a concrete enclosure with the IPM sign on the building. The museum is open only on Wednesdays. Call (626) 296-1536 to arrange a group tour, or a workshop for a donation.
Donations to further the progress of a puppet center on the West Coast can be made to “International Puppetry Museum” and sent to IPM, c/o Jacqueline Marks, 702 The Strand, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254-4457.