A special 2011 Drama Desk Award was presented to the creative team of War Horse for thrilling stagecraft: Paule Constable (lighting), Marianne Elliott, 59 Productions, Adrian Kohler with Basil Jones for Handspring Puppet Company, Tom Morris, Rae Smith (sets), Christopher Shutt (sound), Toby Sedgwick, Adrian Sutton and John Tams.
Rae Smith and Handspring Puppet Company from Cape Town, South Africa also won the 2008 Laurence Olivier Award for Best Set Design for their work on the National Theatre (London) production of War Horse, where it premiered in 2007. The equine puppets have to be seen to be believed, they are so lifelike it's uncanny. As noted in Time magazine when the production opened at Lincoln Center: "The first thing to marvel at in War Horse, the import from London that has just opened at Lincoln Center's Vivian Beaumont Theater, is, of course, the horse. He's a tall, chestnut-colored steed named Joey, embodied onstage by a life-size puppet manipulated by three fully visible puppeteers. A latticework of cane strips creates the effect of an exoskeleton, covering a leathery hide and forming a maze of gears and joints that animate the horse's legs and neck. The result is amazingly lifelike and expressive: Joey rears, snorts, nuzzles, preens; his tail slaps at flies; his chest even heaves after a heavy workout. It's all the product of South Africa's Handspring Puppet Company — whose stage menagerie here also includes birds waved around on rods by actors and a nosy goose rolled across the stage on a wheelie."
Additional designers honored by the Drama Desk this year include:
Outstanding Set Design
*Derek McLane, Anything Goes
Outstanding Costume Design
*Tim Chappel and Lizzy Gardiner, Priscilla Queen of the Desert: The Musical
Outstanding Lighting Design
*David Lander, Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo
Outstanding Sound Design in a Musical
*Brian Ronan, Anything Goes
Outstanding Sound Design in a Play
*Acme Sound Partners and Cricket S. Myers, Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo
Both Ronan and Acme Sound Partners were on the faculty of the 2011 Broadway Sound Master Classes, where they discussed their award-winning projects.