It takes a lot of work to be one of the war horses in the hit play War Horse, now on at Lincoln Center. The play, about a boy whose beloved horse is sent off to battle in World War I, features large, life-size horse puppets, which require three men each to operate. Each horse was made by Basil Jones and Adrian Kohler, of Handspring Puppet Company in Cape Town, South Africa, and fashioned out of cane, leather, and aluminum. "We don't call them puppets," said Jonathan Christopher MacMillan, who operates the head of one of the horses, Topthorn. "No, we call them horses."
"It could be frustrating," said Tom Lee, who manages the hind legs of one of the animals. "But it's also beautiful. People believe these horses are here. It's kind of humbling."
And the key, explains Joel Rueben Ganz, another puppeteer, is "micro-movements. When we're really still onstage — silent — and then, just an ear moves. That's terrifyingly beautiful."