Puppettier to entertain at arts center.

February 17, 2015

CM-RockerVICTORY TWP. – He’s only a man, with just two arms and two hands, but audiences and critics alike say that Joseph Cashore works miracles with only the slightest pluck and pull on strings that bind him to more than a dozen of his Cashore Marionettes.

            That “miracle” will be on display when Cashore brings to life an array of marionettes in a mesmerizing show for adults and children on Fri., Feb. 27, at the Ludington Area Center for the Arts, 107 South Harrison in Ludington.   The acclaimed puppet show entitled “Simple Gifts” begins at 7:30 p.m. 

            Dr. Rick Plummer, director of the West Shore Community College Performing Arts Series says, “With unmatched artistry, grace and refinement of movement, the Cashore Marionettes redefine the art of puppetry.” 

            In “Simple Gifts,” Cashore presents his collection of marionette masterworks. Characters of depth, integrity, and humanity are portrayed in a full evening unlike anything else in theater today. The performance is a series of scenes taken from everyday life and set to beautiful music by composers such as Beethoven, Vivaldi, Strauss, and Copland.

            Through a combination of virtuoso manipulation, humor, pathos, classical music, and poetic insight, The Cashore Marionettes take the audience on a journey that celebrates the richness of life. “Simple Gifts” is a powerful, entertaining, surprising, theatrically satisfying, one-of-a-kind evening for adults and young adults.

            “It is a measure of Cashore’s engrossing artistry that even as we see him pitch and yaw the elaborate apparatus that controls each character, we soon forget about the man and fix our attention instead on the hypnotic, languorous movements of the marionettes,” Plummer adds.

            Cashore, who has traveled the world for more than 20 years performing with his handcrafted string puppets, reintroduces audiences to an art form that goes back to ancient times. In Cashore’s talented hands, the marionettes perform feats far beyond the wooden, jerky mimicry we might expect from mere toys.

            In sync with the music, each character acts out a narrative with smooth and subtle grace — an acrobat on a swing, a caveman making a fire, an elephant in the wild.  Cashore paces his 90-minute show slowly and deliberately. Still, the brief story arcs animated by each marionette capture a range of human emotions and keep the audience transfixed.   The skill he demonstrates as he moves a hobo’s toe, a horse’s ear and “Johnny Lobotomy’s” fingers on a guitar casts a spell that’s impossible to shake.

            At the age of 11, Cashore created his first marionette from clothespins, wood, string and a tin can. It was while playing with this puppet that he was startled by the sudden but momentary sensation that the puppet was alive. This illusion had nothing to do with the appearance of the marionette and everything to do with the quality of the movement.

            After graduation from college, Cashore made his second marionette. He quickly discovered that in order to have the fluid motion he sought, he would have to create his own control designs. For the next 19 years, Mr. Cashore experimented with the construction of the marionettes and devised totally new control mechanisms.

            During the late 1980s, Cashore had a breakthrough. He had always admired Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “The Lark Ascending” and decided to make a puppet which would convincingly “play” the violin solo note for note. “It seemed almost impossible to get the quality of movement that I wanted,” Cashore explains. “But once I began to solve the technical problems and gain subtle control of the marionette body, I saw that there was the possibility for greater depth of expression with the marionettes.” That puppet, Maestro Janos Zelinka, was the turning point in Cashore’s career and became the impetus for his present productions.

            Cashore has been performing full-time since 1990 across North America, Europe and Asia. He has received numerous awards including a Pew Charitable Trusts’ Fellowship for Performance Art, based upon his artistic accomplishment. He has also received a Henson Foundation Grant, an award intended to help promote puppetry to adult audiences.

            Cashore has also been awarded the highest honor an American puppeteer can receive, a UNIMA Citation of Excellence. UNIMA states that citations are “awarded to shows that touch their audiences deeply; that totally engage, enchant and enthrall.”

            Tickets for the performance are available online by accessing the college website: www.westshore.edu or by calling the box office at 843-5507.

            For additional information about the Cashore Marionettes’ “Simple Gifts” performance, or about the series in general, call Plummer at 843-5929.

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