Arts & Culture » Theater Critic's Choice

Turnabout: The Story of the Yale Puppeteers

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A fascinating and highly entertaining hour-long video (1992) by Dan Bessie about a trio of puppeteers who toured America for more than seven decades with their satirical musical revues: Bessie's 92-year-old uncle, puppeteer Harry Burnett; Burnett's cousin Forman Brown; and Brown's lover, Roddy Brandon. (Their LA theater--which counted Charlie Chaplin and Albert Einstein among its fans--was called the Turnabout because it had a puppet stage at one end, a cabaret stage at the other, and seats that swiveled.) Burnett and Brown, both still alive, perform entertainingly, and we also get fascinating archival footage of some of their shows. Brown, who wrote songs, also talks about his recently republished 1934 novel Better Angel, originally published under a pseudonym, perhaps the only gay novel of its period with a happy ending. A fascinating piece of show-business history, this also offers many interesting comments about what it meant to be gay in the early part of this century. On the same Gay & Lesbian Film Festival program, four short films by Sandi DuBowski, Ruth Scovill, and Iara Lee; one of Lee's films features Allen Ginsberg narrating, the other features Matt Dillon reading T.S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." Chicago Filmmakers, 1543 W. Division, Sunday, November 14, 3:00.

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