Attending a live theater show can be a delightful experience. But even the most attentive kids start squirming in their seats after the first act. The Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater is the perfect experience for first-time theater goers. Short shows, colorful characters and plenty of audience interaction will have your little one completely captivated. Read on to learn about San Diego’s very own puppet theater.

Puppet TheaterPhoto Credit: Creative Commons

The Theater’s Story
The Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater is a Balboa Park staple. Its rich history dates back to 1947 when the theater held its first public performance, with Marie Hitchcock and her sister as the puppeteers. Marie delighted so many kids for decades with her puppet shows that the theater was eventually named after her.

The theater itself has a classic, endearing elegance. It’s also air conditioned, which is a huge bonus – especially in the summer months! It offers cozy seating for more than 200 people. Parking is a breeze so take your time and enjoy the beautiful surroundings of the park before you go in. No food is allowed inside the theater; so if you know your kiddos get hungry, pack a lunch or a snack and enjoy it on the grassy area out front prior to the show. Tickets are available for purchase at the box office, at the front of the theater.

Puppet Theater seatsPhoto Credit: Creative Commons

Show Time
Expect to see familiar fairy tales such as Rumpelstiltskin, Rapunzel and The Little Mermaid. Original short story productions are also performed for variety. Depending on what show you decide to see, it may be a good idea to familiarize your kids with the story beforehand. Check the performance schedule to see which shows are geared towards preschool-aged theater-goers. You can also find out what kinds of puppets are featured in the show. For example, younger kids may be better off seeing a smaller show with hand puppets versus a large scale production show with life-sized puppets.

The puppet theater puts on a new show practically every week, so kids always have something new to see. The shows are performed by their own in-house puppeteers, both professional and amateur. Many of the stories are interactive and encourage audience participation. It’s not unusual in these shows to hear kids making animal noises or stomping their feet! These puppeteers possess incredible skill through voicing the puppets, coordinating them and entertaining the audience. Much of the background scenery is created by the puppeteers themselves; even some of the puppets are handmade.

Puppet theater showsPhoto Credit: Creative Commons

Puppet Show Perks
After the puppet show, many of the puppeteers will do a meet-and-greet with the kiddos. This is the perfect opportunity for little ones to see not only the puppet stars, but also the faces behind the “magic” and to learn more about what it takes to be a puppeteer. The theater also houses a small gift shop, filled with puppet treasures and everything kids need to create their own shows.

Make sure to sign up for Tico’s Puppet Club. For a small fee, members receive two free visits and other perks, such as a finger puppet, birthday card, backstage tour, and more.  Kids can also have their birthday party at the theater. Theater staff will provide a super fun puppet making workshop, and food can be delivered to the party area. The birthday guest of honor receives a crown and will be called up to the front of the theater for a special prize.

Puppet theater gift shopPhoto Credit: Creative Commons

Puppet shows are 30 – 45 minutes long, and are performed Wednesday through Sunday for the cool price of $5. Kids age two and under are free. Try to sit in the first two rows for the best view! Booster seats can be found at the back of the theater for the little ones. Shows range from full stage marionette productions complete with music, lighting and scenery, to simple one man puppeteer shows.

Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater
2130 Pan American Rd. (Balboa Park)
San Diego, Ca
(619) 544-9203

Have you been to a show at the Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater? Tell us about it in the comments! 

– Marissa Mullen