A Brief History of Kramer’s Marionnettes
Bob’s partner is Chicagoan Douglas (Dug) Feltch. Dug brings with him over twenty years of experience in theater and international travel with touring puppet troupes. Along with performing, he also handles many of the behind-the-scenes tasks that make a small business run smoothly. Dug is known the world over as the consummate “goodwill ambassador”.
Crafting a single marionnette involves some 1,500 hours of the most exacting work. First the idea, then the sketch. Next, transferring the image to wood by way of long hours of hand carving, sanding and molding. Crafted from hard poplar woods and costumed with thousands of sequins, rhinestones, pearls and yards of fur, brocades and metallics, these are one-of-a-kind, museum-quality pieces that will last sixty years or more. There are no short cuts.
Every character from a wicked old witch to the beautiful sleeping beauty is part of Bob Kramer’s vast repertoire of over 1000 marionnettes and puppets. This is due greatly because of Bobbie Hauptfleisch, head of costuming for the company. She turns a Kramer-designed Las Vegas show girl’s costume, with a three foot tall headdress, into something more exquisite than the real thing. When the lights dim and the music begins to swell, the puppeteers breathe life into the fantasies and the marionnettes spring to life. It is truly magic!
One of the fantasies the Kramer Marionnettes have brought to life is Toyland. This full-length show created such a stir in 1980 that even years later, people still ask for it. With a cast of 145 marionnettes and a cast of twelve puppeteers, it’s of a full-scale magnitude. Aladdin, brought to life so vividly by Kramer’s Marionnettes in 1977, is still loved today. These two shows and a variety of others created by Bob Kramer have been performed in legitimate theatres around the country. These venues include the Hanna Theatre in Cleveland, Ohio; the Royal Alexandria, Toronto, Canada; Madison Square Garden and the Felt Forum in New York; Philadelphia’s New Locust Theatre; the Playhouse in Wilmington; Detroit’s Fischer Theatre; The National Arts Center in Ottawa, Canada; and the American and Fox Theatres in St. Louis.
Peter and the Wolf is one of the most loved Kramer shows. Accompanied by a symphony orchestra, it brings the story and music together in one superb melding of drama and brilliance. Over the last twenty years, Kramer’s Marionnettes has performed Peter and the Wolf, as well as a variety of classical pieces, with the Grammy Award-winning St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. Sold out audiences of 3,000 wildly enthusiastic future symphony patrons have attended six performances annually.
This show has performed with symphonies in Chicago and Detroit, and with the Alton Illinois Symphony.
Five new productions are created and performed each year in the theater that adjoins the Kramer Marionnettes workshop. The regular staff presents up to twenty-five puppets during these shows. Each new show is perfected in the intimate 125-seat Kramer Marionnette Theater before being offered to theaters around the country.
Personal appearance venues include the Missouri Governor’s Mansion, the Veiled Prophet Parade in St. Louis, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. A seven-foot tall baby dinosaur was designed and executed as the living logo for the St. Louis Museum of Science and Natural History and the St. Louis Science Center, just to name a few.
Any size and shape costume character or marionnette can be created in the Kramer workshop. A giant four-foot tall spider was created for Hallmark Cards of Kansas City. This was in connection with their Rose Petal Place promotion for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The seven-foot tall baby dinosaur that was designed for the St. Louis Science Center has made numerous appearances with the late Marlin Perkins of the St. Louis Zoo as well as many other celebrities. Bone A. Part, a nine-foot tall lovable dog, is one of Kramer’s most beloved costume character creations.
Theater and theatrics are as much a part of puppetry as they are of the “legitimate” stage. Bob Kramer and Dug Feltch bring all the drama, excitement, and skill of a full cast of actors to their shows. Each takes on the roles of many characters and many voices to create a separate and distinctive personality for each puppet or marionnette. They dedicate their lives to keeping the art of puppetry, one of man’s oldest art forms, and marionnettes in particular, alive and growing in the United States.