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“War Horse” gallops onto TPAC stage

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If you are presenting a play centered on the story between a boy and his horse, how do you get a horse to act onstage? Where would you get an acting horse? For TPAC’s “War Horse,” the answer is surprising simple – and theatrically amazing.

“War Horse” is a book by Michael Morpurgo, a movie directed by Stephen Spielberg, and a stage production that has garnered five Tony Awards. “War Horse” tells the story of young Albert and his beloved horse Joey. When Joey is sold to the cavalry and shipped from England to France, he is soon caught up in enemy fire, and fate takes him on an extraordinary journey, serving on both sides. But Albert cannot forget Joey, and he embarks on a treacherous mission to find him. But it is more than a story of love, friendship, loyalty, and the power of how animals can heal and help us.

In one scene, Joey struggles to pull a plow, turning the earth for a garden so Albert and his family may survive. In another, Joey hauls a cannon to the top of the hill in wartime, so that the country may survive. The contrast of loyalty between boy and horse and soldier to soldier is explored and dares to ask the question: What is a “war horse”?

The magic of “War Horse” onstage is, in part, due to astonishing life-sized puppets created by South Africa’s Handspring Puppet Company. The “horses” are breathing, galloping, charging horses strong enough to ride, yet gentle enough to accept a tear, an apple slice, and even greet guests after the play. Joey grows from colt to stallion, nudging his friend gently to rearing on his hind legs kicking and fighting.

War Horse will be at Andrew Jackson Hall in Nashville, Tennessee from June 3 through June 8, 2014. For tickets and more information, click here. The Nashville production is sponsored by Kentucky Downs. You will definitely want to see the official War Horse Onstage site for photos, video, interviews, reviews, and more. The website includes information for teachers, students, and researchers on “War Horse” and World War I.

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