'War Horse' Puppet Masters Bring Their Secrets To The Bushnell

Says Laqui: "In the beginning when you're in the horse you're so concerned about being together with a group but also being technically proficient. But as time goes on and you become more technically able, you start to really find that artistic part and for me that was the most exciting part of doing the show."

"You're finding all these little nuances with your team as time goes on so it's never old. You're constantly learning and you never think, Nailed it. Now I'm Joey.' "

"The real gift of this role as an actor is that it has built into it this demand for extreme awareness as a performer," says Laqui "and that's actually a real gift as a performer. But it's mentally exhausting."

"I do believe the puppets have a life and energy of their own," says Sandy. "We 'meet' the horses. ..that horse has a personality all of its own that has nothing to do with who is puppeteering. They have moods, the puppets respond to different stimulation. The puppets feel differently from one day to the next..so much love and intelligence are put into those things but just in their on ..hanging up, they have personality and we just facilitate it."

Staying In Character

Though Woofter and Sandy have galloped, others have had no encounters with horses.

"I'd pass them on Central Park," says Breuer.

"I rode a carousel," says Laqui.

And the job stays with the actors — in unusual ways.

"Every now and again I find myself sighing like a horse," laughs Woofter.

"I've had a couple horse dreams," says Sandy. "I've actually woken up doing horse sounds."

"On my resume I have 'speaks horse fluently,' " says Laqui.

The job also has resulted in some unexpected surprises, not often encountered by actors.

Laqui tells of one promotional event the performers did for the Florida show where they found themselves sandwiched between two police horses.

"They were sniffing us and one of the horses actually bit and pulled a chunk of our mane," he says. "And then I got a tap on my back from Lute saying how frightened he was because the other horse on the other side was getting really excited and — we'll leave it at that. It really didn't go any further. They didn't exchange numbers or anything."

"WAR HORSE'' plays the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, 166 Capitol Ave., Hartford, Jan. 28 Feb. 2. Tickets are $25.50 to $95.50, not including fees. Performances are Tuesday through Thursday at 7:30 p.m.; Friday at 8 p.m.; Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m. and Sunday, Feb. 2 at 1:30 and 6 p.m. Information: 860-987-5900 and www.bushnell.org.