As we begin the centennial anniversary year of the start of WWI, the war's horrors and impact - from trench warfare to gas weapons - are being resurrected onstage in Milwaukee.
The sweeping drama Warhorse is being performed at the Marcus Center through Sunday, and features two Wisconsinites in its cast.
The play follows the fate of a horse, Joey, and the boy who raised and loved him, as the Great War takes hold of Europe. The war heralded the era of modern warfare with light caliber machine guns and modern tanks and signaled the beginning of the end of the use of horses in war, as they proved no match to their mechanized foes. Hundreds of thousands of horses died on the World War I battlefields between 1914 and 1918. In the show, Joey is pressed into war service.
Created by the National Theatre of Britain, Warhorse opened in London to great acclaim in 2009 and has been playing ever since. Joey and other horses are brought to life by three puppeteers in a handmade articulated horse body made by Hand Spring Puppets from South Africa. (See video below.) It weighs 120lbs and can be ridden. The effect is startlingly life-like.
"Being able to see what they do, as actors, as puppeteers, is nothing short of a miracle," says actor Andy Truschinski. "They are creating life on stage. And there’s not very many opportunities, maybe even zero, for a lot of people to see such a thing like that."
Truschinski plays Private Taylor, the battlefield confidant of the lead human character. He's one of two tour members from Wisconsin; he grew up in Marshall, near Madison, and is a graduate of UW-Whitewater. The other Wisconsinite is Kristi Ross-Clausen from Appleton is an electrician and follow spot operator working above the scenes in the production.