Category Archives: War Horse

Guest Blog Post: Andrew May (War Horse)

Lavita Shaurice with Joey and Andrew May with Topthorn

Lavita Shaurice with Joey and Andrew May with Topthorn

Nothing thrills me more on this tour of WAR HORSE than to be back in Chicago for the holiday season. I love this town for many reasons and after almost decades of being away, I’m overcome to see its growth and success as a thriving metropolis. I cut my artistic teeth here and many long lasting lessons are ingrained in the very fiber of my being.

In 1983 I arrived in Chicago as a neophyte actor/director from Illinois State University aching to be a part the country’s most burgeoning theatre scene. Chicago made anything seem possible if you were diligent enough to sacrifice exclusively for your art with SACRIFICE being the operative word. Before long I found myself part of the Free Shakespeare Company based in a tiny Piper’s Alley Theatre behind Second City, with the legendary Joyce Sloan as our fairy Godmother landlady. I marveled at the brilliant work going on all over the city and was nurtured by the accessible talents and kindness in the likes of Sheldon Patinkin, Frank Farrell, Stuart Gordon, members of Steppenwolf, Bernie Sahlins and many other notables on a list to long to mention here. Unwittingly, I became the artistic director of my company and went on to work with other wonderful  storefront companies where I went on to win a Jeff Citation for my work in the Absolute Theater’s A Cry of Players. It was there that Stuart Gordon saw me and offered me my Equity card in a three production contract at his Organic Theatre. Soon  after that I auditioned and got the role of Leartes in Robert Falls’ acclaimed Hamlet in its extended version that was to be performed at the Civic Opera House in the brutally cold February of 1986.

All of the above mentioned is a lot for a young actor, but what is missing between the lines is the poverty and the slogging day jobs between these little artistic victories. It is at this juncture of my career that an event took place which has become my Christmas story for my children.

As I noted it was cold that winter and what made it worse for me was I found myself between dwellings during the holiday season. I had to move out of where I was staying and was relying on the kindness of friends couches until I could secure  the funds for a new apartment. Warmth was essential and what better place to thaw out at that time than the Gaslight bar on Halstead? There I confessed my troubles to a guy who was on a renovation crew of an abandoned apartment building nearby and  he gave me the keys to a unit that still had water and electricity but no heat. In short, I was destitute with only the promise of my Hamlet contract in early January. My pride was withering as I strolled the frozen streets. I was literally out of money completely and couldn’t think who else to borrow from and felt an overwhelming despair compounded by the opulence of the Christmas windows. I knew that moment what it was like to have nothing when a twenty dollar bill blowing across the sidewalk caught my downcast eyes. A miracle! A sign from above! I scooped it up and ran to Ann Sathers on Belmont and ordered the “hot roast of the day”! How I got through the remaining weeks has become a mystery to me because all I remember now was that God-sent twenty dollar bill.

I have played Bob Cratchit in too many productions of Christmas Carol but when Mrs. Cratchit is preparing that Christmas goose, you know where I drew my inspiration from.

– Andrew May

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December 27, 2012 · 2:33 pm

War Horse: Simply Tell a Story

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Our team of puppeteers and crew, management and press all converged 4 days ago for a whirlwind tour of the US to promote the West End and Broadway hit War Horse. This is the third leg of a nation wide promotional campaign in which we hit a total of 27 cities to bolster sales for the US tour of the show.

The life of a Broadway performer is a challenging one. The life of touring performer is an extremely challenging one; city to city, planes, buses, hotels, venues, it is easy to get lost and forget where you are and what it is you are doing. But after days like today at the Millennium Park pavilion the answers are all too clear.

After an early morning press event at Windy City Live (the beginning of several 12 hour days of promotion), we made our way over to Millennium park for rehearsals and performance in the Chicago July sun. It is surprisingly rare that performers can take stock of their achievements and appreciate the things they have accomplished; stop and smell the roses as it were. We live in a world where it is easy to get caught up in the grind of the industry and lose touch with why it is we do what we do. Strolling around the 4000-seat amphitheatre admiring its stunning architecture, I couldn’t help but indulge in my sentimental childhood dreams of performing in such a grandiose venue representing a hit Broadway show. A dream of mine was fulfilled today, and in doing so I remembered why it is I do what I do: to connect and share a story. Our story was greeted with open arms not only by the 15.000 audience members of the pavilion, but also by the dozens of performers/directors/crew that shared a piece of their souls on the stage today. The spirit and vitality of the storyteller/audience relationship was palpable in Chicago, and as I sit in my 6-hour bus ride to Columbus to do it all over again (perhaps with a few less than 15.000), I am grateful for the reminder that I had today at the Millennium Park Pavilion: To simply tell a story.

Ariel Heller
Joey Head Puppeteer for WAR HORSE

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Filed under Broadway In Chicago, War Horse

A Broadway State of Mind

Broadway is hot this season with a lot of new shows. I have spent 12 of the past 14 days in New York with a team of people from Broadway In Chicago. Once a year we go to NY and meet with all the producers and presenters of Broadway across the country. We saw some amazing shows, many of which we hope will come to Chicago sooner rather than later, but we will let you know as they make their plans.

We met to discuss the current and upcoming productions of LOVE, LOSS, AND WHAT I WORE, LA CAGE AUX FOLLES, MEMPHIS, THE ADDAMS FAMILY, WEST SIDE STORY, WORKING and PETER PAN. We were also lucky enough to see:

PRISCILLA QUEEN OF THE DESERT

CATCH ME IF YOU CAN

SISTER ACT

WAR HORSE

THE BOOK OF MORMON

WONDERLAND

LOVE, LOSS & WHAT I WORE

HOW TO SUCCEED…

MEMPHIS

What are you hoping will come to Chicago?

Don’t forget to watch the Tony Awards on June 12 on CBS at 7 pm Central where the (record!) fifth Chicago Theatre will pick up a Regional Theatre Tony Award. Do you know which five theaters that have won?

In those two days between trips to NY, we attended the League of Chicago Theatres Gala where THE NEW COLONY received their 2011 Emerging Theatre Award.  Also saw the new Mayor inaugurated in Millennium Park.

There is no better place to be than CHICAGO!

Eileen

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Filed under Broadway In Chicago, Catch Me If You Can, Emerging Theater, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, La Cage Aux Folles, League of Chicago Theaters, Love Loss & What I Wore, Memphis, Peter Pan The Show, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Sister Act, The Addams Family, The Book of Mormon, The New Colony, Tony Awards, War Horse, West Side Story, Wonderland, Working