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BEST DOWNTOWN BUILDING TO POKE YOUR HEAD INTO Phoenix 2007 - Great Arizona Puppet Theater

Great Arizona Puppet Theater

Great Arizona Puppet Theater

302 W. Latham St.

Phoenix, AZ 85003

602-262-2050

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In recent months, we've heard about at least two local historic Mormon churches abandoned to the bulldozers. That makes us more grateful than ever to the Great Arizona Puppet Theater, and the folks who restored it. If you watch HBO's Big Love, you might think some sort of divine intervention (or at least comic relief) led to a group of people who pull a lot of strings coming to own the former Second Ward Chapel of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but really, all it took was good taste and patience. The puppeteers waited for years for the state (which bought the building in 1972, intending to raze it for the I-10; luckily, historic preservation laws prevented that) to finally fork over the 1932 relic, then spent more time on the renovation.

We recommend you take in a puppet show — all the details of the current season are posted on the theater's Web site — but if you don't have time for that, you should really pop your head in sometime. The decorative ceiling panels in the Spanish colonial revival style, almost completely ruined by leaks and lack of maintenance, were restored by a muralist/scene painter (those puppeteers have good connections), and the entire complex has the kind of 1930s throwback vibe you feel all the time in southern California — and so rarely here in Phoenix.

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