The Turnabout Theatre existed in Hollywood, CA., from 1941 through 1956. Regularly selling out all seats--attracting both the general public as well as many of Hollywood's top stars--it offered entertainment that combined both puppets (marionettes) for the first half of a show and a stage revue for the second half.
The name of the theater derives in part from the fact that the theater seats were former streetcar seat that could be turned to face a puppet stage at one end or the live revue stage at the other. Adjacent seats were labeled with humorous names (e.g., "Hot 'n Bothered," "Salt 'n Pepper," etc.), and after intermission theater-goers would "turn about" to see the show continued at the opposite end of the house.
The Theater originated with a group known as the Yale Puppeteers composed notably of Forman Brown, Harry Burnett, and Richard (Roddy) Brandon. Many artists, some quite well known or soon to be well known also participated, including Odetta and Elsa Lanchester, whose brother Waldo Lanchester was a famous puppeteer in the UK.
The history of the theater is documented in the film, Turnabout: the Story of the Yale Puppeteers, directed by Dan Bessie (a nephew of Harry Burnett). Brown wrote a book about the puppet troupe, and Bessie discussed the puppeteers in his memoir of his family, Rare Birds.
- Blumentha, Eileen (2005), Puppetry: A World History, Harry N. Abrams, p. 91, ISBN 0-8109-5587-3
- "Elsa's Gazebo", Time, May 24, 1948
- Goslar, Lotte (1998), What's So Funny?: Sketches from My Life, Taylor & Francis, p. 75, ISBN 978-90-5702-177-0
- Bessie, Dan (November 2000), Rare Birds, University Press of Kentucky, ISBN 978-0-8131-2179-6
- "Harry Burnett, Master Of Puppetry, Dies at 92", New York Times, 1993-06-01
- Brown, Forman (1980), Small Wonder : the story of the Yale Puppeteers and the Turnabout Theatre, Scarecrow Press, ISBN 0-8108-1334-3
- Slide, Anthony (2003), Lost Gay Novels: A Reference Guide to Fifty Works from the First Half of the Twentieth Century, Haworth Press, p. 129, ISBN 978-1-56023-414-2
- Turnabout Theater online exhibit at the Los Angeles Public Library