Information on:

Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater In Balboa Park

2130 Pan American Road
619-544-9203

History:
 
The Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater, long a mecca for children, is located in the Palisades area on the south side of Balboa Park, San Diego. The Puppet Theater was originally part of a single, large unit erected for the California Pacific International Exposition in 1935-36 and called the Palisades Building. The Exposition was organized to celebrate the completion of the Panama Canal.
 
The Palisades building became the Hollywood Motion Picture Hall of Fame when the motion picture industry made it their exposition headquarters. It was one of the most popular attractions at the exposition. Later, during the exposition, groups such as the Pacific Arts Association exhibited there. After the exposition closed in 1936, the buildings did not stand empty for long. The W.P.A opened offices for music projects there, where they remained until the United States entered World War II. At that time, the Palisades Building, along with other park facilities, was converted into Navy barracks.
 
The war ended in 1945, but it was several years before the park buildings were returned to the city, and funds were provided by the Navy to restore them. Acting on the recommendation of Leo B. Calland, the first Parks and Recreation Director, the Palisades Building was divided into three sections: a little theater on the north end, an arts and crafts center on the south end, and a recital hall in the center. The 234 seat theater, planned for family type entertainment, became The Puppet Theater.
 
In 1947, the first public performance at the Puppet Theater was a marionette show given by Marie Hitchcock and her sister, Genevieve Engman. Under sponsorship of the Park and Recreation Department, the sisters gave shows at the theater every June, July, and August, some in October and always in December. After Genevieve was injured in 1963, Marie continued performing in the Puppet Theater until she died in 1994. The theater was named in Marie's honor in 1988.
 
The San Diego Junior Theater shared the theater building with puppeteers for twenty years from 1951 through 1971 when the Junior Theater moved to its present quarters at the Casa del Prado.
 
Puppet performances were provided through the San Diego Guild of Puppetry which organized a summer performing series beginning in 1964 and in 1983 expanded to a year round schedule.
 
San Diego's Balboa Park Puppet Guild was formed in 2001 with the mission of operating the Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater. The Balboa Park Puppet Guild offers workshops, apprentice opportunities, children's programs and a year round performance schedule offering shows Wednesdays through Sundays.


Reviews

Paul C

Rating:
Saturday, May 5, 2018
It was a nice show a friend of mine invited me to go obviously the show is geared towards young kids but I thought they did a nice job and I could see the kids really enjoyed it.

Zed star

Rating:
Friday, Feb. 16, 2018
We had a great time here watching the puppet show yesterday.Our 3 year old grand daughter enjoyed it immensely.Millie the wonderful puppeteer did a terrific job getting all the little children involved in the performance as well as us adults. For only 5 bucks a head for seniors and $5 if your little one is over 3 it's very good value.

Sean McGrogan

Rating:
Friday, April 6, 2018
I've been there twice, we (and most importantly the kids,

Julie Smith

Rating:
Friday, Jan. 19, 2018
We were there in November 2017. Super excited to see a sweet puppet show with our kids. Truly the worst thing I’ve ever seen. Great potential with the theatre but the props and storyline were AWFUL. Didn’t think of asking for my money back like the other reviewer - dang !

Jill Greene

Rating:
Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017
I don't know how this place has 4 stars! I went to the puppet show 11/29/17 with a school group of 20 kids age 4-5 and 20 adults. It was We walked out after about 30 minutes. I have never paid for a show that was so bad. Thankfully the theater gave us our money back. Here are some of the major issues I had: - The puppets were all falling apart, literally right on stage pieces were coming off and the puppeteers had to improvise. This happened with almost every puppet. - The older puppeteer had no idea of the story and was moving her puppet in manner that didn't correspond with the narration. The younger woman was repeatedly having to subtly direct her to do things differently. - The puppet faces were scary and they didn't correspond to the story. They looked like they were about 20 years old and made for some other story. Their costumes didn't correspond to the story either. - The narration was long winded and wordy. It also had themes inappropriate for children (old man trying to eat an elf, stealing children's candy) - There were barely any props. The story mentioned stockings, candy and gifts but there was just a regular Christmas tree to the side of the stage that seemed to be set up for the season, not the show. The set consisted of just some cardboard, and fabric set over a wooden mantle with a light to simulate a fire. -The puppets barely did anything but sort of float around the stage and occasionally move an arm or leg. Nothing about them was interesting or impressive. -The story-line was poorly written. It wasn't something anyone could follow and could have been written by a 5th grader. Its cool that there is a puppet theater at Balboa park. The outside has beautiful dragon trees and the interior is older but has a lot of character. The actual show needs a lot of work. I read many of the other reviews and it seems that these puppeteers aren't new or volunteers. Its appalling that this poor of a show has been going on for so long. Its time to get new puppeteers Balboa Park!

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