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Hold Your Horses

October 12, 2012
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Published in Metro

The horses on stage during “War Horse” are living, breathing, unpredictable animals.

No, they’re not real horses, but they’re still alive, says puppeteer Catherine Gowl.

“We were told during rehearsals to never forget that we are a wild animal on stage,” says Gowl, who helps maneuver title character Joey when he’s a foal. “We respond differently every night, because animals aren’t obedient and don’t know the laws of stage spacing. If an actor gets too close, we respond the way a horse would, and shy away.”

It takes three puppeteers to move baby Joey: one controls his head, neck and lower jaw, another does his forelegs and breathing, and the third his hind legs and tail.

“Both the forelegs and the hind legs of the baby horse are not connected to the body by anything but the puppeteers’ hands,” explains Gowl.

The puppeteers are fully visible while working stage, dressed as villagers. When they’re not moving Joey, they play other characters in the show, like nurses and soldiers.

The story is about a boy whose beloved horse is sold to the cavalry during World War I, and their journey to reunite.

“Joey is a fully feeling, fully present protagonist,” says Gowl. “Because he’s a silent character, the horror of war is written all the more strongly on his innocence. As is the strength of friendship and the love that he encounters.”

So much for epiphanies

Goth is a Harvard alumnus, but she didn’t study theater as an undergraduate student. “I actually went to college hoping that I would have an epiphany that I didn’t want to act,” she says with a laugh.

One Comment leave one →
  1. October 12, 2012 5:24 pm

    So loved this show. And great quote at the end.

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