Friday, January 15, 2010

Maira Kalman: By George

from the final installment of Maira Kalman's PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS... sad to see it go... but the good news is it's reappearing as a book in October 2010...

More here.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Monday, January 11, 2010

War Horse

This Christmas I was lucky enough to see the award-winning smash hit War Horse at the New London Theater. Based on the children's novel by Michael Morpurgo, it's a play about a plough horse commandeered by the cavalry and sent to the front in the First World War. It's a story of loyalty, bravery, and the extraordinary bond between a young recruit and his horse.

What is most incredible about this production though is the astonishing way they conjure a horse on stage: so life-like, so convincing, so minutely observed, that you totally forget it's a puppet and believe instead that what you're seeing on stage in front of you is an actual living breathing horse.

And it's not because you can't see the puppeteers. That's the odd thing. You can see them clearly at all times. And there is no effort to hide them. Each seven foot tall horse puppet is manipulated by a team of three actors: one for the back legs and tail; another for the front and neck; and another to guide the model. (In the photo above, for instance, the three on the left are the puppeteers for the young foal Joey.) But because of the realism of the movements (even down to the movement of the horses' ears) and the mastery of the puppeteers your brain simply blanks them out leaving only the horse.

It's astonishing. And magical. And powerfully moving. And of course impossible to describe--you need to see it for yourself. So take a look at this to get an idea and go if you possibly can. (If you can't make it to London, the production apparently will be in NYC sometime in 2011.)

Britain lost close to a million horses in the First World War. This play is a tribute to them. And through that lens, it also gets you to see the tragic human loss of the Great War. And feel it afresh.

(Adapted by Nick Stafford from a novel by Michael Morpurgo. The puppets were designed by the Handspring Puppet Company of South Africa. Directed by Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris, War Horse opened at the National Theater in 2007 and transferred to the West End’s New London Theatre in the spring.)

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