Yale Puppeteers Outside the Tally-Ho Theater, 1932
Yale Puppeteers Outside the Tally-Ho Theater, 1932
PART 3

BACK TO THE EAST

As much as Burnett, Brown, and Brandon enjoyed their success on Olvera Street, they missed the greenery and seasons of the northeast and moved back, converting a New Hampshire barn into the “Tally Ho Theater.” They soon realized they’d been spoiled in Los Angeles, as audiences now proved to be practically non-existent on the Maplewood farm.

Necessity brought the Yale Puppeteers to New York City, where they established a theater on 46th Street. Thanks to actress Marie Dressler, a friend and advocate, the opening was a smashing success. However, subsequent attendance lagged, and during the hot summer months, the Manhattan theater was boarded up as the troupe hit the road.

After a roadshow, they returned to New York and found a more favorable space in a former church on 40th Street. For the remainder of the decade, the Yale Puppeteers would alternate between shows in New York and coast to coast tours. Performances were also staged on Broadway, including stints at the Maxine Elliot, Nora Bayes, and Lyceum theatres.

Roadshow Vehicles in the snow, 1939
Roadshow Vehicles, 1939

During this period, Forman Brown aggressively pursued his love of writing, a passion he had been introduced to in college during Robert Frost’s tenure as the University of Michigan’s Poet-in-Residence. He penned “Punch’s Progress,” a memoir of his time as a Yale Puppeteer up to that point, and “The Pie-eyed Piper and Other Impertinent Plays for Puppets.” Brown also wrote an autobiographical novel titled “Better Angel” about his sexual awakening as a gay man, and his early relationship and career with Harry and Roddy. Unbearably hostile attitudes toward gays, including anti-gay laws in many states, along with a fear of upsetting his mother, forced Brown to publish the “Better Angel” under the pseudonym Richard Meeker.

Book Cover of
Forman Brown (Alyson Publications) “Better Angel”, 1987 ed.
Harry Burnett Simon Legree Marionette from
Harry Burnett Simon Legree Marionette from
"Uncle Tom's Hebb’n," ca. 1930s
Mixed Media

Uncle Tom’s Hebb’n

Uncle Tom’s Hebb’n was as Forman Brown later described, “a burlesque in the vein of ‘My Man Friday’ of that redoubtable American classic, ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin,’” by Harriet Beecher Stowe. With a cast of 40 puppets, it was one of the Yale Puppeteers more ambitious productions. The ruthless Simon Legree from the original novel was created in puppet form, and came to be Harry’s personal favorite which he also regarded as his alter ego. In later years this was one puppet he refused to sell.

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