The Lincoln Center production of War Horse, directed by Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris, has won the Tony Award for best play and a special Tony for “Outstanding Artistry” to the Handspring Puppet Company which designed the life-size horses.
But “puppets” is hardly the word for them, according to Peter Hermann, who portrays Hauptmann Friedrich Muller, a captain in the German cavalry during the World War. In the Broadway version of “War Horse,” Peter says:
If you look closely you can see the workmanship and the care and the love that went into making them. And I think it’s impossible to look into the puppets’ eyes and not see life in there.
Originally produced at the National Theatre, the play’s team of imaginative and sensitive puppeteers bring Joey (a half-thoroughbred who is sold into a World War I cavalry regiment) to life-size existence. And it is in movement and how Joey is summoned into being, along with an assortment of other animals, that gives this production its ineffably theatrical magic. Steven Spielberg has directed a film version of “War Horse,” a 1982 novel for children by Michael Morpurgo. But nothing on screen could replicate the specific thrill of watching Joey take on substance and soul, out of disparate artificial parts, before our eyes.
Peter is a long-time student of the Alexander Technique, having first studied in Los Angeles with Jean-Louis and Kristof, and then later in New York with Jessica Wolf. Peter says about the technique
The absolute best Alexander classes are given daily by my four-month old son. Jean-Louis and Kristof are a close second. They are not only expert in the theory and application of this incredible technique but pursue their work with a vibrant, contagious love. Their endeavor to help performers choose a new physical life that allows them to be more fully present — in essence, to use themselves differently — is profound, and has implications not only for life on the stage, but for life in general. Jean-Louis and Kristof create a beautiful work environment: safe, rigorous, personal–and sprinkled with a healthy dose of humor. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to work with them. And they don’t spit up nearly as much as my son!