For over fifty years, puppeteers have been bringing to life magical tales of princesses, paupers, genies, and giants to hundreds of youngsters and their parents at Central Park’s Swedish Cottage Marionette Theater.
The Marionette Theater originated as a 19th century schoolhouse designed for the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia as an example of Swedish building design. At the end of the exposition, the NYC Parks Department purchased the schoolhouse for $1,500 and moved it to its present site.
For many years the cottage was used as a tool shed. It was then converted into a comfort station, much to the chagrin of Swedish-Americans everywhere. After numerous complaints were lodged over this use the building was remodeled as the Park’s entomological laboratory. Finally, in 1947, the building was redesigned as a small children’s theater and design workshop. The company formed in 1939 is one of the few public marionette companies left in America. The production is created completely at the theater. The puppeteers write their own scripts, design and construct their own puppets and produce every show themselves.
In the fall of 1997 a complete restoration of the building – interior and exterior – was undertaken; it was rededicated in May 1998. Today visitors can enjoy the whimsical Scandinavian details inside the theater, along with seating for 100 children, central air conditioning, and a larger, state-of-the-art stage for more sophisticated productions. The original Baltic fir exterior was completely refurbished and details such as the second floor balcony were reconstructed.
The building is easily identifiable by the American and Swedish flags flying from its roof. It is presently the headquarters for the Citywide Puppets in the Parks program, which is supported by the not-for-profit City Parks Foundation.
Location: West Side at 79th Street
Video: NBC News video about the Marionette Theater
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RESERVATIONS Reservations are required. Tickets are $8/adults, $5/children. Group rates are available for schools and other large groups. For reservations, group rates, and information on private birthday parties, please call 212-988-9093.
BIRTHDAY PARTIES The Cottage features a unique party room adjacent to the theater that comes equipped with child-size furniture, making it an ideal spot to host your child’s next birthday party. The Theatre holds up to 100 people and the party room provides seating for up to 30 children.
* Tickets: Children $5; Adults $8
* Group discounts for schools, camps, and non-profit organizations
* Reservations required
* Further information: 212-988-9093
* Birthday parties, available afternoons: call well in advance of the date you have in mind.