The master of marionettes

Joseph Cashore brings his puppetry to campus

You might feel like you have the world on a string this Saturday at the college. If so, you’re not the only one.

Joseph Cashore, the man behind the Cashore Marionettes, has been performing as a puppeteer for over 30 years. Saturday’s matinee performance is entitled “Simple Gifts,” and is appropriate for school-aged children. The night performance,Life in Motion,” is for older audiences.

“Both those shows are a collection of marionette pieces, that is I present a series of short pieces,” Cashore said. “Each one has a beginning, middle, and end so that each one is complete in itself.”

Cashore tries to vary the content of these pieces in order to keep the audience engaged and interested. Each one has a new theme that evokes a different emotion.

“I think of it as a rollercoaster ride. I try to arrange the evening so that you’re up one minute and then you’re down and then you’re back up,” Cashore said. “I like to keep it so something unexpected happens and it just makes it more interesting for the audience that way.”

While Cashore has always been interested in marionettes, he did not always plan to turn it into a career.

At the age of 10 or 11, Cashore saw a marionette hanging in a store, and it immediately sparked his interest. He went home and attempted to make his own marionette, and while it wasn’t too impressive, there was something about the puppet that stuck out to him.

“Every once in a while just by accident it would move in a natural looking way, and in that instant it would look like it was alive to me,” Cashore said.

Cashore went on to receive a degree in Fine Arts, and was trying to make a living as a painter. When he was 20 years old, he decided to revisit the marionette, and made a new one. He began experimenting with the control mechanisms, improving the puppet as he went.

“I didn’t start out thinking I was going to have a career as a puppeteer,” Cashore said. “I had some friends who were teachers and they asked me to come into their class and show the students some of the marionettes because they found them interesting, so I starting picking up little bits.”

This soon developed into a full career, as Cashore created the Cashore Marionettes. Cashore builds all the puppets, along with the props and costumes. His wife assists with movement and technical elements during the performances.

Cashore travels and performs from September to June, usually at colleges and sometimes at small performing arts centers. Because the puppets are so small, just an average of 27 inches, Cashore prefers small spaces. The closer the audience is to the stage, the better they can see the intricacies of the puppets. It’s an intimate experience, according to Cashore.

“All the themes are universal and there’s a sense of communication, of sharing, during the performance where everybody in the audience is feeling the same thing when the same intensity at the same time,” Cashore said. “That is a powerful experience and I hope people will appreciate that—and they do.”

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