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Puppeteers Bring "Joey" To Life

August 15, 2012

Tony® Award-Winning Play War Horse Gallops Into Atlanta Sept. 25-30

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"Joey" from WAR HORSE at The Center For Puppetry Arts (Media Preview)
I absolutely loved WAR HORSE, the movie. I'd debated if Drew (7) should see it, but ultimately I decided it was okay, and it was one of his favorite movies of the year.  So when we were invited to a behind-the-scenes look at the award-winning Broadway show, I figured I just had to take the boys to see Joey up close. Joey isn't a real horse in this play - the show is performed with life-sized puppets created by South Africa’s Handspring Puppet Company, that bring to life breathing, galloping, charging horses strong enough for men to ride (you have to feel for the puppeteers below!). Not only do the three men who perform as Joey recreate all the movements of the horse, they've also been completely able to create his voice! We had fun listening - and watching - the actors out of their "costume" showing us how they mimicked the sounds of a horse. Amazing stuff! Expect the stage at The Fox Theatre this September to have a slightly different look/ set up for this enormous show. And even though the horses (and other animals) are indeed puppets, you'll surely be mesmerized and easily able to suspend your disbelief....if you choose to do so!

WAR HORSE is the powerful story of young Albert’s beloved horse, Joey, who has been enlisted to fight for the English in World War I. In a tale Time magazine calls “a landmark theatre event,” Joey is caught in enemy crossfire and ends up serving both sides of the war before landing in no man’s land. Albert, not old enough to enlist, embarks on a treacherous mission to find his horse and bring him home. What follows is a remarkable tale of courage, loyalty and friendship, filled with stirring music and songs and told with some of the most innovative stagecraft of our time.  The National Theatre of Great Britain’s production of WAR HORSE is the winner of five 2011 Tony® Awards including Best Play, and will be performed in Atlanta Sept. 25-30, 2012 at The Fox Theatre.

Since my photo doesn't really do Joey justice, visit the Broadway Across America website for more information and for a video sneak peek of the show. The website recommends it for ages 12+. Honestly, I don't think I will take Drew - with intermission it will be about three hours long and certainly violent - but watch the movie and decide for yourself. I think 9-10 is completely reasonable for this show. I just know I can't wait to see it myself! Scroll down below to read some fun facts about Joey, the puppet!

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His eyes look so real!

Joey Facts & Figures

1. The puppet (Joey), which weighs 120lbs, is handmade by 14 people. Its frame is mostly cane, soaked, bent and stained.
2. An aluminum frame along the spine, lined partly with leather for comfort, allows the horse to be ridden.
3. Stretched, hosiery-like Georgette fabric makes up the “skin” beneath the frame.
4. A puppeteer at the head controls the ears and head; one in the heart controls breathing and front legs; a third in the hind controls the tail and back legs.
5. A harness connects the puppet’s and puppeteer’s spines so his or her movements become the breathing of the horse.
6. The tail and ears are moveable instead of the lips or eyelids, because that’s how horses usually express themselves.
7. Two levers connected with bicycle brake cables control the leather ears.
8. The puppet, just under 10ft long and about 8ft tall, has about 20 major joints. Vertical levers curl the knees and lift the hooves.
9. The neck is made of carbon fiber glass for flexibility.
10. The eyes are black color behind clear resin so light refracts through them.
11. The right hind lever moves the tail up and down; the left hind lever, left to right; moved together, it spirals.
12. The hair in the mane and tail is made of Tyvek, a plastic-like paper

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