Life on a String: The Yale Puppeteers and the Turnabout Theatre Audio Tour

8. Forman Brown, Better Angel, 1987 ed.

Transcript below

cover of Better Angle by Richard Meeker



Here we have a copy of the novel Better Angel that was written by Foreman Brown in the 1930s. Brown would come to be the songwriter of the Yale puppeteers, but he also was a prose writer, and this was something he pursued throughout his life all the way up until the end.


Better Angel was an autobiographical novel about Forman's awakening as a gay teenager in the 1920s, a time when homosexuality was still considered a crime. In the book, which he published under the pseudonym Richard Meeker, Forman openly discusses his love affairs, including his intimate relationship with the other Yale puppeteers.

Harry's nephew Dan Bessie:


Uncle Harry and his partners, Roddy Brandon and my distant cousin Forman Brown, were special from the day I first clearly remember them, around the age of 5. Their appearances seemed so special, because they were rarely expected, always curiously announced by an unseen hand tumbling coins through a keyhole, because our uncle invariably captivated us with his boundless energy and infectious sense of humor, and because he and Roddy and Forman rarely stayed more than half an hour.

Who exactly Harry, and Roddy and Forman were, what their lives were like didn't seem very important to me then. Somewhere along I guess I was told that they were gay, but at 12 or 13 I had only the foggiest notion of what that meant. I simply knew them as magical entertainers, but as I eventually discovered, Harry, Roddy and Forman were a family, a family which traveled, lived and worked together for most of their 70-year long career.

Life on a String Audio Tour Credits

  • Produced by the Los Angeles Public Library
  • Written by Claudia Bohn-Spector
  • Edited by Acousticguide, Inc.
  • Interviews with James Reynolds, Christina Rice, John F. Szabo, and Charles Taylor recorded at the Central Library Octavia Lab
  • Interview files edited by Sye Gutierrez, Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection
  • Archival audio of Dan Bessie, Forman Brown, Harry Burnett, Odetta, Dorothy Neumann from the documentary Turnabout: The Story of the Yale Puppeteers (1993). Used courtesy of Dan Bessie.
  • Images of puppets and costume taken by Keith Kesler, Los Angeles Public Library Public Relations Department