[ATTENDED: February 6, 2016] Cashore Marionettes
We had gotten the promotional material for it (there’s lots of puppets this season) and it seemed like a fun thing to do.
We got there early (it was general admission seating, and got in the second row). And it was wonderful. I was only sad for the puppeteer that it wasn’t more crowded (my constant complaint about RVCC shows–why aren’t more people going to them???).
Joseph Cashore is the creator and operator of all of the marionettes. And while most of us think of marionettes as the puppet on the string and that giant T crossbar, Cashore has taken this art to levels that far exceed anything you can imagine. I mean, check out thephoto on the left from the show we saw. Look at that contraption!
The puppets are puppet-sized and Cashore stands behind them–he doesn’t try to hide himself. And he doesn’t need to. The puppets are so life-like (jointed in countless places) that you are totally sucked into their story. Except for the few times when you have to watch his hands and wonder how that all works. What kinds of things is he doing with those handmade (and decidedly NOT T-shaped crossbar) handles–some of which (like the elephant) have 42 strings on them!
His biography states that at the age of 10 or 11 he saw his first marionette puppet and his imagination just took off from there. In the late 1980s he tried to make a puppet that could convincingly “play” a violin piece. And he made Maestro Janos Zelinka, who was the first performer on stage Saturday night.
The performance was about an hour and 45 minutes with a 15 minute intermission. He did a dozen or so five-8 minute pieces–with his wife setting up and taking down the sets and even acting in one of the pieces.
It started out with the violinist, which was just magical. Some other pieces were uplifting and delightful while others were definitely sad. The emotions that he was able to convey with these stories was really staggering.
But I think the thing that amazed me the most was that these puppets interact with their sets–the horse lifts a blanket to get into the hay. The elephant carries a bundle of logs! The old lady puts down and picks up her cane and then carries a flowerpot. The intricacy and detail was amazing–especially when you are that close. The lady behind me must have said “Oh my god, look at that” two dozen times
There was an amazing story of a woman carrying a baby and then putting it in its bed. The baby’s arms and legs kicked as she tried to sooth it and then when she put it down she was able to let it go and then lean in and give it a kiss.
And the story called “The Job” was great because of the absurdity of the situation. His wife came into the story too. She was dressed like a big boss, (on her knees with shoes at her knees). She instructed the poor man to move a box to another stack. And the puppet looked exhausted at the box but managed to lift it and cross the stage and place it down. And then she proceeded to move the box back when he wasn’t looking. It was funny exasperating.
The sad pieces included a story of a homeless man (the attention to detail was amazing–he had a hole in the bottom of his shoe and his toes wiggled). The story of the woman with a cane is set at a grave and she replaces the flowers at the site (with a magical moment at the end with the flower). And the elephant (look at all the strings on the left), was a wonder to behold. But it also had some sadness when it uncovers a former elephant under a pile of straw.
Tabby was pretty saddened by these stories (and I was moved to gentle tears at a couple). But it wasnt all sad. There were some very funny and joyful pieces as well. The horse story was delightful. It busts out of its pen and runs free. And when Josephs’ wife introduced a pesky dragonfly to harass the horse, we got to see the full extent of the puppet’s movements and the humor that he was able to add to the simple story.
The amateur trapeze artist was amazing–especially watching him “hold on” with his teeth. Perhaps the most amazing to see was the boy with the kite. As the kite went up higher and higher the device holding the strings extended further and further. And when he had to boy trying to hold back the flyaway kite, it really seemed like there was weight behind it.
Some of our favorites were Sarah, the girl studying, or not studying. She does many things to distract herself from studying–all of which were funny to watch. Even the simplest thing like the way her pencil moved very quickly at the end was marvelous. We also really enjoyed the spiritual monk guy who discovered a bag with a surprise in it. This was also fun because the puppet “notices” the puppeteer and asks him for help.
“Johnny Lobotomy” was a punk guitar player with a smoking amp–that was very cool indeed. And the final piece had the puppet climbing the puppetter–which was amazing to watch him keep the strings from getting tangled as he lifted his arms higher and higher.
After the show, he was waiting in the lobby and we talked to him for a few minutes. He was so nice and kind and when his wife brought a puppet out, Tabby was standing right next to him and he had the puppet give Tabby a hug and stroke her face. Tabby left on a huge smile on her face and hasn’t stopped talking about the show.
I can’t recommend this show highly enough. Don’t pass up the chance to watch him.