‘War Horse’ is a winner: Telescreened production reveals intimacy of Tony Award-winning play

For the CDTFebruary 28, 2014 

  • if you go

    What: Telescreening of National Theatre Live’s “War Horse”

    When: 7 p.m. Feb. 28 and March 1; 3 p.m. March 2

    Where: State Theatre, 130 W. College Ave., State College

    Info: www.thestatetheatre.org, 272-0606

Since 2009, National Theatre Live has been broadcasting via satellite some of the world’s best known and most beloved theatrical productions to thousands of movie screens around the globe. It continues its fifth season with the stage adaptation of Michael Morpurgo’s 1982 children’s novel chronicling a World War I service horse named Joey.

Having first premiered in London in 2007, “War Horse” has become a Playbill powerhouse. It earned an array of accolades from audiences and critics and a 2011 Tony Award for best play, and inspired a best-picture Oscar nomination for Steven Spielberg’s 2011 film adaptation. “War Horse” is a winner and a spectacle to be seen.

And when “War Horse” gallops into State College it will bring with it the sense of wonderment that has wowed the world over.

“ ‘War Horse’ is an incredible example of the power of the theater,” said David Sabel, the production’s broadcast and digital director and executive producer. “It uses all aspects of production to bring the story powerfully to life — music, drawing, lighting, projection, puppetry. It is a collaboration of many great artists and the puppetry is unlike anything you will have seen before. It’s a moving and important story, brought magically to life out of what begins as an empty stage.”

Like all great art, it’s the themes of “War Horse” that make it so powerful and everlasting.

“ ‘War Horse’ is an important and moving story about the horrors of war and is a kind of anthem for peace,” Sabel said. “I think these themes and questions are timeless and particularly poignant in 2014, 100 years from the start of the first World War, and with places in the world where violence and conflict can still tear countries and people apart. It is also, at its heart, the story of a boy and his horse. I think that powerful connection between humans and animals resonates powerfully with audiences.”

As if “War Horse” weren’t already “the theatrical event of the decade” as The Times (London) claimed in December 2010, it gained even greater stature a year later with the release of Spielberg’s take on the material.

“The film made an even larger audience more aware of this wonderful story,” Sabel said. “(Spielberg) is a huge supporter of the show, (but) the two experiences are so distinct. The play, and particularly the incredible puppetry, brings a theatrical magic to the story. I think what is exciting about seeing the National Theatre Live broadcast of ‘War Horse’ is that the cameras offer an intimacy with the performance and the opportunity to see the detail of the stage craft in a way that is different from seeing it live in the theater.”

Sabel said the performance will include a live interview with Morpurgo and co-director Marianne Elliott as well as a behind-the-scenes short film.

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