Mar-El Marionette

Ellis Evans, Patricia Partridge, Edwin Leyson, Nina Baxter, 1963.

Marcia and her husband Ellis Evans were adept at “pulling strings” – the nylon strings that held their dangling and vivacious marionettes. They performed their Mar-El Marionette shows for 20 years, beginning in the early 1960s, in public schools, at local functions, and on WSYR-TV’s Salty Sam Show.

Marcia Evans channeled her art background and her interest in music, drama, and costuming into creating lifelike marionette personalities. Marcia earned her Masters degree at the School of Art at Syracuse University and worked as an art teacher at Henninger High School for 43 years.

Mar-El Marionette with Puppeteer Handle.

While pursuing her Masters degree, Marcia also brought to life her first puppet, Rowena, from the historical novel, Ivanhoe, crafted with a head of papier mache, a silk stocking for her face, and a cloth body with taped wire hands. Rowena – like all of the Evans’ marionettes – is one-third life size.

Since there were few scripts available for marionette shows, Ellis Evans decided to write his own scripts. One of his original scripts featured his first marionette, Happy, a sassy and brash clown, in a Christmas play named “Happy Saves Christmas.”

Happy the Clown Marionette.

The Evanses also promoted Niagara Mohawk Power Corp. via skits featuring the Kilowatt family. For the NIMO promotions, the Evanses took Reddy Kilowatt, a marionette with an electric nose, on tour.  One of the show’s songs chimed, “Reddy will be telling / ‘Bout the things you’re selling, / To help you in /64!”.

Mar-El was always was a side business for the Evanses while Marcia taught art and Ellis worked on the New York Central Railroad.  Kent and Patricia Partridge came from Bridgeport, NY to work in the marionette “factory.”  Soon, they also became captivated by the figures and participated as puppeteers. 

Nina Bowers Baxter, c. 1965.

Nina Bowers Baxter also helped Ellis and Marcia Evans as a puppeteer in the 1960s. Nina met the Evanses through her husband, Albert, who worked with Ellis Evans on the New York Central Railroad.  Nina’s daughter, Betty Baxter Isgar, donated to OHA one of the Mar-El marionettes in May 2019.  It is the first Mar-El marionette that OHA has acquired for the collection and we appreciate Betty’s generous donation.