War Horse: This ain’t your grandma’s puppet show!

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When I was a little girl I was probably similar to most little girls (except taller) in that I went through a Horse Phase. If you were a little girl once, you probably know what I’m talking about. My mom had sketches of horses in her keepsake box, I have a copper rubbing of a horse in mine. I read Misty of Chincoteague over and over again. One of my daughters read every book about horses she could find. It’s just a girl thing. Like boys who go through a dinosaur phase. 🙂

Years later, I became a lover of all things having to do with the stage. I acted, I sang, I danced, I worked on sets and costumes… I fell in love with the magic and the escapism and the alternate reality that was possible when the design and dialogue combined successfully. When done right, a stage production can suspend disbelief of its audience like no blockbuster movie ever can.

Last year, I learned that this season’s Broadway Series at Walton Arts Center would include the highly acclaimed show, War Horse. It swept the 2011 Tony Awards, it had been made into a major motion picture, and now it was coming to Northwest Arkansas. This show combined some of my favorite things about theater, AND it was about horses! It was a no-brainer that I wanted to see it. When I spotted The Making of War Horse on Netflix, I watched in fascination as they described the process of finding a story that would be able to be told with puppets, convincing the author it would work, and training the cast and puppeteers to make it happen. If I wanted to see it before, that documentary reinforced my fascination.

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I can’t really put into words how much I loved this show. I was enthralled. I was blown away. I was even verklempt at some of the emotional parts of the story. I found myself believing that the movements of the puppeteer who controlled the horse’s head were actually caused by the horse itself. As if the puppeteer was being pulled and moved by the puppet, not the other way around. The ear twitches and head flicks, the snorts and the tail swishes, they all combine to bring the horse to life like you wouldn’t think possible. It was simply riveting theater. I smiled through the entire production for the sheer joy of it. Well, except during the emotionally difficult scenes – of where there are a few. The story does depict a war, after all.

My 8 year old son was my date for the show, and he was also riveted by the production. (His favorite part was the goose. :)) He was able to follow the story and only occasionally had to ask who the characters were when there were several people on stage in uniform. He understood some of the nuances of the story, and I attribute his comprehension to the outstanding story-telling that was done by the puppeteers, the design of the show, and the cast. I think I could see this show over and over again, like some people used to go see the musical Cats back in the day. It’s just that good.

If you have seen the movie version of War Horse, you’ll be familiar with the story, but I still encourage you to see the stage production. The things that the cast and designers do with minimal sets and outstanding lighting and sound design will amaze you. It’s worth the ticket price, I guarantee. Given the scale of the show, you may even be better off in the back of the theater where the available tickets are, because you’ll want to take in the entire view of the stage. Tickets are on sale through the box office at 443-5600 or online here. It’s only in town for a couple more days – so don’t miss out!

In addition to the fascinating production, Walton Arts Center is featuring some fantastic public art during the annual Artosphere FestivalThe Herd is making it’s way through the lobby… Sun Boxes are singing on the plaza (here’s a video!) and I always love to see the Stickworks figures that I helped create for last year’s Artosphere. So much awesome in one place!

The Herd at Walton Arts Center

Stickworks at Walton Arts Center

Have you seen War Horse? Share your impressions of the show!

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One response »

  1. Pingback: Memorial Day Musings | Everything and a Racehorse

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