Annie Zook started the Denver Puppet theater in 1996. After 24 years of entertaining and educating children in North Denver, she’s closing the curtains for good; the venue is another casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I just can’t wait it out,” said Zook, explaining that, like many other small businesses, they had planned on closing temporarily and then reopening, but as time went on they decided it simply wasn’t feasible.
Zook said when she and her husband Dave were looking for locations in the mid-nineties they were fortunate to find a building that had been empty for four years after a local plumbing company moved out. In a real estate miracle not imaginable today, they purchased the spot for half the listed price and remodeled the large empty space into a theater.
In her life as a puppeteer, Zook said she loved her time working with children, not just in the theater on 38th Ave. but also at libraries, schools, malls, and other community locations. Of the countless plays that she’s performed, she said “Baba Yaga” was one of her favorites that still seems relevant for children today. “I love witches,” said Zook. “They’re good for kids — they need to learn how to get through the witches in the neighborhood.”
Zook, who lives onsite, will be converting the theater and the former Zook’s Coffee (which her husband ran but closed in early 2019) into more rental residential space, keeping the courtyard and other outdoor spaces intact.
Looking back at her time as a puppeteer, Zook waxed nostalgic about parts of the job and had a realistic view of some of the less fun parts of being a small business owner.
“It was a fun run,” said Zook. “I’ll miss the kids and the parents. I won’t miss cleaning the bathroom.”
Parents and neighbors interested in taking home memorabilia from the theater are encouraged to come by on Saturday, August 22nd from 8am – 4pm. Zook is selling historical and handmade puppets from shows, a weaving loom, books, posters, photographs from the coffee shop, and some more mundane items like tables and chairs. She is also looking forward to the chance to say goodbye to parents and children. The Denver Puppet Theater is located at 3156 W 38th Ave. in Denver.