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Final Bow

Final Bow: Hannah Sloat on Horsing Around with Broadway's War Horse

The actress, who has been with the show from the beginning of its Broadway run, shares her memories of playing humans and the titular Joey. logo

Every show ends sometime (unless you're Phantom), so before the cast takes their final bow, there are a few things we want to know.

In 2011, Hannah Sloat made her Broadway debut in the Lincoln Center Theater/National Theatre of London co-production of the Tony and Olivier Award-winning War Horse. Over the course of the twenty-something actress' run in the World War I-era drama, she has played human roles, from villagers to soldiers, as well as served as one of three puppeteers for the main character, Joey, as a foal.

In the newest edition of Final Bow, Sloat gives us the lowdown on autograph signing, making horse noises, visits from Ryan Gosling, and just how much physical therapy one needs to play a horse eight times a week.

Hunter Canning, David Pegram, and Hannah Sloat operate Joey as a foal in War Horse.
(© Paul Kolnik)

Name: Hannah Sloat
Role: Joey as a foal and Annie Gilbert/War Horse

1. What is your favorite line?
[My favorite] is Albert's line, 'I promise I'll see you again, Joey. I'll give you my word.' Without that line, the rest of the play wouldn't happen.

2. Everyone loves inside jokes. So tell us...
a. What's the best one from your show?
b. Since there probably is one, what's the punch line of your cast's most unprintable inside joke?
a) No one knows us at the stage door. Audience members often wait there for cast signatures and there's a sort of stand-off because we don't know if they want us, and they aren't sure if we we're in the show.

b) Something to do with crop dusting, I'm sure.

3. Every show experiences technical difficulties. What was the worst technical difficulty to be experienced during your show and how was it handled?
Once, the lift for Joey wouldn't go down after the scene in "No Man's Land," [the climactic moment] and we had to go into the next scene with Joey up there. They hand-lowered the lift just in time for Joey and Albert [his human owner] to reunite.

4. What was the most "interesting" present someone gave you at the stage door?
I was met once by a woman who also had the last name of Sloat. I took a picture with her.

5. Who is the coolest person that came to see your show? (You can't say your family!)
Ryan Gosling. He knew someone in the cast so he came back stage and took a tour. One of our cast members last year had a total crush on him and had one of those 'I love your work,' kind of moments, and Mr. Gosling was very generous about it.

6. What kind of training and research went into performing as Joey as a foal?
Much the same as the big Joey research: YouTube videos, books about horse behavior. We all did little research projects and presented them.

7. Are the horse sounds coming from the performers as well?
Yes! The three puppeteers work together to make the horse sounds. In several of the horse team combos, there is a woman and two men, or sometimes three men, but there tends to be someone who makes the high sounds and you fill it in from there. A lot of it is about hearing what's being made in the moment and supporting that. That's what the puppetry [in War Horse] is about in general: people making offers and you're supporting them.

8. How many chiropractor/acupuncture/physical therapy appointments does the average War Horse performer take part in monthly?
It depends on need. We have some "emergency" slots for if anything happens during the show, and people will switch or give up a slot to an injured/hurting cast mate. But I'd say people get one slot of physical therapy a week and two massages/acupuncture a month. But if no one else claims it, it's up for grabs!

9. You've played a variety of roles in this production. Which is your favorite and why?
Henry, the bugle boy. He has no lines, but a huge heart.

10. What is the most interesting factoid about the subject matter that you learned during this whole process?
That eight million horses were killed in World War I.