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Tony-Winning Play ‘War Horse’ Begins Its Philadelphia Run

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(Puppeteer Danny Yoerges demonstrates his operation of the head of Joey the War Horse in the lobby of the Academy of Music while two other members of the team operate the "heart" and "hind."  Credit: Pat Loeb)

(Puppeteer Danny Yoerges demonstrates his operation of the head of Joey the War Horse in the lobby of the Academy of Music while two other members of the team operate the “heart” and “hind.” Credit: Pat Loeb)

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By Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The World War I epic “Warhorse” takes the stage at the Academy of Music this week, with an unconventional star.

The title character is played by a puppet.

Today, the actors who operate the puppet demonstrated their skill, even as they strive to become invisible on stage.

Amazingly horse-like sounds are provided by the vocal talents of the three actors who bring Joey, the war horse, to life.  They trot and rear, and shake their withers so convincingly that the cane-and-nylon-mesh puppet begins to seem real.

That is precisely the trick, says puppeteer Nick LaMedica, who operates Joey as a foal.

“After a couple of minutes, the puppeteers disappear,” he tells KYW Newsradio.  “And you consistently hear that from audience members:  ‘I saw them, but then I forgot that they were there.’ “

LaMedica says it takes intense focus, tremendous teamwork, and thinking like a horse.

“The biggest challenge of being a horse is to learn how not to think like a human being, because they think very differently than we do,” he says.

Performances of “War Horse” are November 20th through December 2nd, at the Academy of Music.  For more information, go to www.kimmelcenter.org.

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