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

11. Harry Burnett, Haydn Trio Violinist, Ca. 1933

Transcript below

color photo of puppets of two musicians in red robes with white wigs on a piano



Here we have what I consider to be the two most special pieces in the entire collection.


The two musicians, in their red velvet jackets, white wigs and satiny breeches, were part of an entire puppet orchestra which Harry had made in the late 1920 for a production of Bluebird, a collaboration with the noted theatrical designer Norman Bel Geddes. After the play closed, he retired the 100-member orchestra, except for the cellist, violinist, and pianist. Named the 'Haydn Trio' in honor of the 18th century Austrian composer Franz Joseph Haydn, whose late piano trios Harry admired, they went on to open nearly every performance of the Yale Puppeteers.

Unfortunately, at some point, the cellist was stolen while the group was on tour, and the Haydn Trio has been this delightful duo ever since.


In addition to the puppets, Harry would also construct many of the props that were used. In this case, our pianist couldn't be so without a piano, and so Harry also constructed the piano I think it's extraordinary that these puppets still remain in our collection.


The two musicians – and the 'Opera Singer' and 'Pianist' which you'll see in the next gallery – are among the oldest Harry Burnett puppets in the Library's collection. Specialists have painstakingly cleaned and conserved them for this exhibition.

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