Back a few weeks ago I went to Tennessee Performing Arts Center to see their 2013-2014 Broadway tour season announced. While I was there, I got the chance to set up an interview with the three gentlemen who puppeteered Joey during the amazing presentation.
They were gracious enough to take time out of their busy schedules to answer a few questions for me via email.
Thanks to Curtis Jordan (Head puppeteer), Isaac Woofter (Horse puppeteer) and Lute Breuer (Hind puppeteer).
1.) When people think of puppets, they typically thing of Sesame Street, the Muppets, or Avenue Q. What is the reaction of people when you tell them what kind of creature that you puppeteer?
Is it like Lion King? Is it heavy? Is it hot? How do you make the sounds? People are often surprised to hear we are visible and not wearing black.
2.) Have you ever been a puppeteer before coming to War Horse? What kind of experience was that compared to War Horse?Lute and Curtis both have experience in the Japanese puppetry style called Bunraku. One similarity of both Buraku and War Horse is the use of 3 puppeteers. One major difference is the head puppeteer in Bunraku leads everything while in War Horse all the positions share the responsibility.
3.) How did you come to be a part of War Horse?All three of us auditioned in a Workshop style audition that included actors, puppeteers, dancers and movement specialists.
4.) As someone who has been around horses many times in my life, I must say that Joey is amazingly life like. Do you have experience with horses that helped when learning how to puppeteer Joey?None of us had experience with horses before the show. During our rehearsal process we watched videos, visited stables and listened to CD’s of horse sounds.
5.) How did you learn to make sounds and expressions that make Joey seem so real?There is no expert horse sound teacher, so we learned by a sometimes-embarrassing trial and error process. In terms of expression, we just try to tell the story thinking about what Joey is feeling and how he needs to react at any given moment.
6.) During the presentation at Tennessee Performing Arts Center, protecting your voices was something mentioned. Are you a singer? What types of things do you do to protect your voice both for your role puppeteering Joey, and in general?None of us are trained singers but we all have actors voice training which helps us learn how to protect our vocal chords. Everyone finds their own way of warming up and seeing where is the best place to resonate the sounds.
7.) How would you describe War Horse to someone who has never heard of the show?It’s unlike any other Broadway show in that the main character is an animal that isn’t anthropomorphized, which means he doesn’t speak. But the imaginative engagement is often greater from our audiences as they are required to suspend their disbelief and go on the journey with us. The main story takes places in Devon, England at the turn of the last century and follows the love story between a boy, Albert and his horse Joey who is sequestered into the First World War. We use the simplest of methods to tell the story, including some hopefully very realistic horse puppets.
8.) What is your favorite part of being involved with War Horse?Being part of a show like this and working with two other people to create one character makes each night different and engaging, not only for us but also for our audiences who we hope may come more than once.