Joseph Cashore made his first marionette more than 50 years ago. What began as a hobby and an interest in illusion has transformed into a career that has taken him across the world.
The next destination for the longtime puppeteer is Pullman’s Jones Theater at Daggy Hall on the Washington State University campus, where he will present his art form with a series of 5- to 10-minute, theme-driven puppet shorts Sunday.
Cashore still has that interest in illusion. In fact, it’s one of the aspects of his show he highlights as the difference between his performance and other marionette shows.
“This is of a quality that they haven’t seen, it’s just different,” Cashore said. “Maybe a little more natural, there’s more illusion with the marionette – it looks like it’s carrying its own weight. I spend an awful long time working on this, so the way they move seems quite natural. I’m sure (the audience is) not used to seeing that in a marionette. They think of something like the marionettes in ‘The Sound of Music,’ something a little more cartoonish. That’s not what we’re doing. This is a different kind of marionette.”
The concept of creating lifelike movement is one Cashore has been working on since he made his first marionette. He said much of it has to do with the construction of the joints and the distribution of weight. He builds the marionettes as lightweight as possible and then goes through them with pieces of lead and attaches those to the parts of the body to ultimately achieve that natural motion.
The mechanisms he constructs to control the puppets are also important in establishing the independent motions. Each one is like a new invention and is designed to allow that specific puppet to perform a specific series of movements.
“It’s interesting for the audience to see that because I’m not invisible during the performance,” Cashore said. “I wear black and work against a black backdrop and we create a pool of light with spotlights in which I work the marionettes. So I’m not invisible, if they want to see how this is happening, it’s possible to see that and that’s some of what makes it interesting for the audience.”
Cashore says he takes notes and collects observations for potential marionette themes every day. Some are funny, like the one he has about his daughter procrastinating when it comes to her homework. Others are more serious, like his piece about the trials of a homeless man. And yet others are softer, like his skit with a mother and her baby.
All have different messages, but with one thing in common: They are relatable to almost everyone.
“The themes of the pieces are all universal – everybody will be able to identify with what the character is going through,” Cashore said. “Everybody has felt these things.”
Cashore says he feels fortunate to have built a career where he can connect with his audience.
“I hope they get a deeper understanding of life and themselves in this show,” he said. “I hope they get high, I hope they get a good feeling out of it. That’s been our experience – it’s a good time.”
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Joseph Cashore presents: The Cashore Marionettes
WHERE: Jones Theater at Daggy Hall, WSU, Pullman
WHEN: 2 p.m. Sunday
COST: $10 adults, $8 WSUAA members and seniors, $5 all students and youth. Tickets can purchased online at TicketWest.com, by phone at (800) 325-7328, the Beasley Coliseum ticket office or Lewiston Rosauers