The Yale Puppeteers: Harry Burnett, Forman Brown, and Richard "Roddy" Brandon, ca. 1940s.

the Internationally
Famous Yale Puppeteers

The story of the Yale Puppeteers actually begins on a different campus in another state. Forman Brown and Harry Burnett were distant cousins who reconnected while attending the University of Michigan in the early 1920s. 

After a touring marionette company blew through Ann Arbor, Burnett became singularly focused on puppetry and convinced Brown to join him in staging their own marionette shows.

Yale Puppeteers on the Road in New Hampshire, 1928

They toured around Michigan during their school breaks,  performing at barns, schoolhouses, churches and social clubs. After graduating in 1922, Burnett began touring with other puppet companies before enrolling in the Yale School of Drama. Brown put puppetry aside and began a career as a teacher including two years at a Southern all girls school.

While attending Yale, Burnett encountered Richard “Roddy” Brandon who immediately bought into Harry’s vision and obsession with marionettes. Brandon proved to be as talented at booking gigs as Harry was at puppet making. The pair began touring their marionette show around New Haven in their spare time. Originally billed as “The Puppeteers, Students of Yale University,” the duo soon opted for the shortened “Yale Puppeteers,” and the name stuck. During his summers off from teaching, Brown would join the other two traveling along the East Coast performing at various schools, churches, resorts, and any place else that would hire them.

Eventually, Forman quit teaching in order to become a full-time member as both a marionette operator and the troupe’s primary songwriter. The Yale Puppeteers officially became the trio who would persevere for decades.

a_yale_class_reunion copy
Yale Class Reunion, ca. 1931
From left: Robert Bromley, Burnett (seated), Brandon, and Brown.
Puppet of Mr. Weather wearing a hat, coat and slacks
Harry Burnett Reproduction of Mr. Weather, ca. 1970s

Meet MR. Weather

“Mr. Weather” was created for an early show written in the 1920s. This puppet is a remake from the 1970s. The head was cast from a 1959 mold, and the hands are made of a wire frame then wrapped with torn linen and a coat of plastic wood that was sanded when dried and painted. The costume was made by Harry Burnett’s sister, Mary.

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