A grassroots campaign is underway to save the Santa Monica Puppetry Center, which is on the verge of closing this month, another victim of the slumping economy.
Kayla Darcy Goldrick and her family have created a Web site (www.puppetmagic.com) where fans of puppeteer Steve Meltzer and his center can donate funds to help pay the roughly $14,000 in rent that Meltzer owes his landlord. Goldrick also plans to have a booth at tonight’s Twilight Dance Series concert on the Santa Monica Pier in hopes of raising funds and awareness about the center.
“Children today are being bombarded with TV, Internet, iPods and other technology,” Goldrick, whose 9-year-old son takes puppetry lessons at the center, said. “We need to keep puppetry alive for future generations, after all, it is the basis for so many types of entertainment today.”
The center, located on Broadway, was founded in Santa Monica more than a dozen years ago. It features some 500 puppets — marionettes, ventriloquist dummies, soft puppets, hand puppets, as well as an 8-foot puppet. Meltzer, a skilled puppeteer who worked on the cult classic “Team America: World Police,” also performs with his dummy Fred Mingo a musical review called “Puppetolio!”
Schools provided a significant portion of his income. As funds for field trips dried up, Meltzer found it difficult to pay the bills. Meltzer told the Daily Press last week that he lost a considerable amount of money when he was forced to move from a location on Second Street in 2007 and make significant renovations to his new space. Meltzer said he had no choice but to move because the landlord wanted to raise his rent by 60 percent.
“Steve Meltzer’s love for the art of puppetry, its history and teaching the art of puppetry shines through everything he does,” Goldrick said. “There is simply no place like it in Los Angeles.”
Meltzer’s last performance is scheduled for Aug. 16. He will be adding extra shows until then with hopes that he can pay down his debt and say goodbye to old friends, and make new ones.