In TNN’S August 2010 issue we featured Gary Jones and his amazing Blackstreet USA Puppet Theatre. His theatre was a mainstay on Washington Boulevard until one day the name “Yuppets” disappeared off the green awning. Puppeteer founder Gary Jones had worked and lived in the Washington corridor for 27 years, until the building sold and he was forced to move his theatre, workshop and studio apartment out of the area. Now, three years later, The Yuppets (Jones’ name for his puppet troupe) have returned to the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center and the glorious marionette puppets can be seen hanging out in the front window of the theatre, their little shoes dangling in a row under dust covers.
Jones began his career as a scenic designer of the world famous Kungshold Miniature Grand Opera in Chicago in 1967, then decided to move to L.A .and found his own puppet company in 1975. Since then Jones has presented literally thousands of performances locally and internationally. His many awards include the Crystal Castle Award from the Disney Corp. for his outstanding work with children, as well as fellowships, grants and residencies from the Smithsonian Institution, L.A. Department of Cultural Affairs and California Arts Council to cite a few. In 1998 People magazine reported on Jones’ integration of social issues within puppetry, such as drugs, AIDS, self-esteem and conflict resolution.
As TNN reported in 2010, like a modern-day Geppetto, Jones has handcrafted hundreds of puppets, lovingly molding the head, carving limbs, painting features and sewing in hair. He also designs each puppet’s costume and accessories, and even “auditions” his puppets, putting each through a routine to determine if it has the desired movement for the new production -- some puppets being more fluid to handle than others.
L.A. is home to two old-school puppet theaters, but unlike the Bob Baker Marionettes on third street near downtown where professional puppeteers work the puppet in the background, Jones’ dances with his puppets. The graceful movement is mesmerizing, appealing to our youthful spirit for play and expressive movement.
The Nate Holden Performing Arts Center is located at 4718 W. Washington Blvd., Los Angeles, phone (323) 964-9768.
Call the theater or visit the website for schedule information
Established in August of 2008 by writer, artist Dianne V. Lawrence, The Neighborhood News covers the events, people, history, politics and historic architecture of communities throughout the Mid-City and West Adams area in Los Angeles Council District 10.