“Having feelings for a fake horse is possible”

Cindy Gonzalez is one of the two Eichten Fellows working in the MPR Newsroom this summer. She attended opening night of the touring production of “War Horse” in Minneapolis this week, as well as a press conference to introduce performers to local reporters. We asked her to react to what she saw and experienced. 


Having feelings for a fake horse is possible.  The touring production of “War Horse” which opened this week at the Orpheum Theater in Minneapolis proves it.

 Joey, is the life-sized horse puppet made out of bent cane and cloth at the center of the hit adaptation of Michael Porpurgo’s novel, “War Horse”.  It’s the story about the bond between a young colt and Albert, the young man who raises him in the days before World War I. When  Albert’s father sells Joey to the British Army and the horse goes off to the trenches, Albert enlists so he can follow him.

 “War Horse” is a masterful piece of theatrical illusion, recreating the horrors of war through stagecraft and puppetry.

Watching the play on opening night, Joey made me feel we had formed a long time relationship in the matter of hours. When the odds were against him I shed tears. When he was sold into the army I feared for his life. I shut my eyes when he made sounds of pain and terror as Joey stood side by side with the  soldiers fighting in no man’s land.

The production allowed me to see WWI through the eyes of a horse. It  depicted the gruesome realities of young soldiers living in the trenches. 

There are plenty of human actors in “War Horse,” but it’s Joey as a cavalry horse who steals the spotlight.

As I met three actors who control the huge Joey puppet earlier in the day it was evident their spirit of collaboration was vital to their performance. They finished each other’s sentences, helped each other explain the show’s  themes, and  imitated horse sounds to entertain reporters. I couldn’t understand then why they were so cheery and in sync at 9 in the morning. When asked about the how they felt about the production they answered they were proud to be part of a show that personalized the realities of war.  It was only after I attended the show that I realized how well they succeed.