On the Scene

PHOTO EXCLUSIVE: A Two-Show Day With War Horse Actor-Puppeteer Leah Hofmann

Good Morning!! It's a two-show day in the land of <i>War Horse</i>. I wake up in my "upper" upper Eastside apartment and enjoy a little practice at the keyboard. Leaving my apartment, I draw a quick note for my roommates. It's not quite up to the MOMA's standard, but it's perfect for our humble abode. Stopping by my favorite bakery on the way to the subway, it's time to redeem my free iced coffee! And it's only taken me eight iced coffees to get here! I take the 6-train downtown towards Soho… ... to visit my friend Laura Henning, who works at Mercer Kitchen. Laura and I performed together with the Radio City Rockettes for three years. I enjoy the good food and company before heading back uptown to Lincoln Center. Here's our stop on the 1-train… LINCOLN CENTER! Do I actually work here? Someone pinch me... I love this walk along 65th street to the stage door. I often check out what films are playing at the Lincoln Center Film Society, located down on the left (I also highly recommend the black truffle parmesan popcorn they sell inside:) Ahhhh! It's Andrew Durand, our Albert! Well, It's a huge picture of Andrew. We'll see him in person very shortly. Look! It's our team as Topthorn. There are four horse teams in our cast that rotate between the two horse characters, Topthorn and Joey. But more about that later… I meet up with Tessa Klein and Katy Pfaffl as we enter the cool air-conditioning of the Vivian Beaumont Theater. Hello, Dressing Room Number 5! I have the honor of sharing this space with two beautiful fellow <i>War Horse</i> women, Katrina Yaukey and Jeslyn Kelly. And our dear dresser Peggy always makes sure we are well-equipped for World War I. My fellow horse puppeteer, Isaac Woofter, arrives at the call board to sign in and double check the horse team rotation for today's shows. On "Crow" track for the matinee, and then we'll be Joey the Horse tonight!  Each team consists of 3 puppeteers, cleverly named Head, Heart and Hind. It's a complicated rotation between the horses, but stage management has it down to an equestrian science. Speaking of stage management, here's the dream team now! In the office currently are Karen Evanouskas, PSM Rick Steiger, and Chris Munnell. I found him! Mr. Andrew Durand, himself. It's time for fight call, where we run through the show's major fight sequences. It also gives the cast a chance to greet each other, warm up our bodies and see who got a haircut the day before. As Crow track, my team holds the poles for the stables scene. Here, Isaac and I are demonstrating how NOT to hold the poles. Fight Call continues with Joey and Topthorn practicing their horse fight… Don't worry, they really love each other. They're just acting. A rare view of inside the "Joey" puppet with Miss Jeslyn Kelly as the hind of Joey. Jeslyn and I are the only two female horse puppeteers here in New York. Just your modern-day Rosie the Riveters. Introducing Andy Murray and the Rumble Roller! (Apparently Andy didn't read the instructional manual…) Krystal Rowley and Madeleine Rose Yen prepare for their Act I backstage activities… Madeleine already has a wall lined with her one-of-kind designs. Watch out for her on Project Runway in 2020! Rick is simply glowing as he announces the half hour call and the line up for today's show. Dressing Room Number 5 convenes before the show to discuss many topics, including music, men and world peace. This edition of the Green Room Improv Sing Along features the old spiritual "I'll Fly Away," led by our song man on the right, Jack Spann. PLACES!! Alex Hoeffler, as Joey's Heart, waits in the vom with stage managers Chris Munnell and Amy Marsico. Swallows, Jude Sandy and Enrico D. Wey, are ready for take off from the stage left garage. Throughout the show, our dressing room sees many sweet visitors, including Katy Pfaffl, our song woman. She's taking a break before she rocks it out onstage with her solid vocals and trusty violin. This picture features half the female population in <i>War Horse</i>. Seriously. Lute Breuer is pondering another entry of the world's largest crossword puzzle. Only 1,028 more words to go. David Lansbury plays the village priest in the first act. His certificate of ordination is still in question. Tessa visits our dressing room for her daily helping of sprinkles. It's Intermission! David Manis is either holding his wig block, or he has an extremely swollen thumb. Andrew and I pass the intermission away by practicing our yo-yoing skills. He's really good. Me, I'm still trying to untangle the string. Uhhhh…..Alyssa? You should really get that looked at before we start the second act. I don't believe this picture requires a caption. Miss Madeleine is ready and waiting for her entrance. This young lady is a true professional. Elliot Villar gets creative with his scars for his role as Klausen. This portion of Backstage at <i>War Horse</i> is brought to you by… MUD! Inspiration for my mud today comes from my mother's sponge-painting in our St. Louis home. During Act 2 for Crow track, I make a trip downstairs to the "Stables," where I hang out with the boy puppeteers and creatures of the sort. While I'm down here, Adam, my dresser, applies my dirty putties, which are all the rage in World War I. And it's my favorite time of the week… The Crow Craft Corner Show! During every Crow track, myself and my fellow horse team members, Tom Lee and Isaac, unite for some clever crafting. Our first online episode is coming soon to a YouTube channel near you! Today on Crow Craft Corner Show: Shadow Puppets. Gotta put down the crafts and go back to war. On the way, I meet up with Jack, who is proudly displaying Albert's drawing of Joey. This prop can be yours too with a cute donation to Broadway Cares Equity Fights Aids! Someone just handed me this gun, and I'm not sure what to do with it. Oh well. Tony Cochrane thoughtfully prepares for his role as Manfred. Looking good, my man…fred. Someone told Jonathan Christopher MacMillan he was playing the role of James Dean. He's actually a background soldier. He'll figure it out eventually. Tom and I comfort a fellow soldier prior to the final scene. Everything is going to be alright, mate. War is almost over and then we can relax between shows. Matinee is complete! First, I visit the physical therapy room with Michael from PhysioArts. The band of massage therapists and Physical therapists are definitely included in the <i>War Horse</i> family. Isaac and I decide to take a break from the indoors and venture out to the pier and basketball courts at Riverside Park South. Nothing like shooting a few hoops before a horse show. Enjoying food at Pier i Cafe. I highly recommend the blueberry lemonade. And the parrot highly recommends the french fries.  It's New Jersey! I love that our theater is so close to wonderful NYC outdoor landmarks, such as the Hudson River. On our way back to the theater, we run into Ben Graney in the lobby. Like a good understudy, he's reviewing his lines for the role of Captain Nicholls, which he will perform tomorrow. Joel Ganz wants me to make sure you all know that he didn't actually go to the Juilliard School. He just happens to be sitting pretty on the Lincoln Center lawn in front of their sign. Hello from LCT's new Claire Tow Theater! And this is the view from the brand new LTC observation deck. Too bad I don't have a quarter right now. And here is the man keeping us all safe at night: Sir Officer Charles. In fact, I think he lives in Joey's Stables, located in the lobby of the theater. No, this isn't the line for <i>Book of Mormon</i> standing-room-only tickets, it's to sign up for next week's coveted massage and acupuncture slots. My momma always taught me, never wake a sleeping horse hind. (I think that's how the saying goes…) Downstairs in the rehearsal rooms, Madeleine, her family and Brian Huynh show their competitive spirits as they play Ballee, our official cast game. Before I have to be upstairs at fight call, I receive my brief piano lesson from Mr. Spann. I admit sometimes I just come down here to hear him play. Surprise! Tessa and Kat-- you gals will be going on for your understudy roles in the tonight's show! Just another spontaneous day here at <i>War Horse.</i> It's fight call again for this evening's show, and my team's family of rollers keeps growing. The team that horses together, rolls together. "And that makes THREE pushups, Richard! A new personal best," encourages Nat McIntyre. (I do have to make note of Richard's impeccable form). Ben Klein, our resident director, gives notes to the company, including Bruce the puppet. Ben, I'm pretty sure Bruce isn't even in the show. It's now Enrico and Alex's turn to hold the poles. They're also practicing to be Abercrombie models. Jude will play the infamous goose tonight. Goose should really be arrested for stealing so many scenes. Stage manager Brian Bogin has a plow, and he isn't afraid to use it. Joey once again prepares to take on Topthorn in a horse duel. (But they still love each other.) Baby Joey and his puppeteers Hunter Canning, David Pegram and Hannah Sloat, get reacquainted prior to this evening's performance. Unique for Baby Joey, these talented puppeteers actually switch positions every show. Jack and Joey. This could be a pilot for NBC next season. Do I really get paid to play with these cool guys and this magnificent horse? Geoff Murphy, our talented swing, discusses his track for tonight's show with stage manager Chris. Whoa!! It's our creative team: Ben and our resident puppetry director Matt Acheson. Their advice for tonight, "May the Horse Be with You." This may look like a scene from Fuerza Bruta, but it's in fact my favorite pre-show ritual. At five minutes before places, my team congregates on stage right to spend a couple minutes finding our connection through breath and horse vocalizations. The second show is underway, and it's time to turn into One Third of a Horse! And I'm ready for the Transformation into Big Joey (aka my absolute favorite part of the show). It's a water break in the lobby's smoke ring. We just conquered the show's first long sequence in the horse. One down, 48 more to go (not really…. but kinda:) Its intermission, and I take another trip down to the Stables. Isaac, Tom and I concoct protein smoothies using whatever fruits we have at the theater that day. Now, I'm officially replenished for Act 2. Harlan, our handy horse swing, keeps everyone informed of the current baseball stats. That is officially included in his duties as a swing. With only a few more scenes to go, Richard Crawford and I share jokes while resting in the stairwell. His jokes are usually better than mine. If you have any good ones, please send them my way. We may be sweaty, tired, and hungry, but I'm thankful to have shared another successful show with my team. It's honor and thrill to be included with such an inspiring production. While cooling down, Andrew visits my dressing room, bringing his post-show meal of chicken cacciatore. I think he's shocked I'm still taking pictures. Before heading home, company members often make a pitstop next-door at Indie Cafe. Dresser Rosie Wells and I giggle over a glass of wine. We'll probably here tomorrow night too. Well, this is my bus stop to head home. The M66 Crosstown Bus to the East side. I look back down 65th street, once again thankful for the wonderful opportunity to share this beautiful story called <i>War Horse.</i>
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