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Puppetry Center's coming back to life

September 05, 2007|Lynne Heffley | Times Staff Writer

The Santa Monica Puppetry Center, forced to close its doors in July because of a steep rent increase, has found a new home.

The family-friendly center, a modest fixture on 2nd Street in Santa Monica for nearly 10 years, will reopen Sept. 15 at 1014 Broadway, nine blocks from its former location, with founder Steve Meltzer's signature comic revue, "Puppetolio."

Meltzer, whose center has hosted such performers as master puppeteer Phillip Huber and the late ventriloquist Paul Winchell, said the venue will house his theater, workshop and collection of more than 400 puppets and ventriloquist figures.

"We've added a projector TV too, so we'll be able to screen clips of vintage puppet stuff -- a little 'Howdy Doody,' a little Paul Winchell," Meltzer said.

The puppet museum will now be part of the theater so that, at the end of the show, "the curtains draw back and you'll see the exhibits and my workshop. We're setting up here with everything we've learned over the last nine or so years," Meltzer added.

Other changes will include a guest artist series featuring a regular slate of professional puppeteers, an 8-foot clown marionette from 1960s England and the permanent return of an automated puppet display consisting of 22 generator-animated puppets in scenic vignettes, absent from the center for five years.

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lynne.heffley@latimes.com

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