Thursday night I attended a most amazing performance, "The Cashore Marionettes" at the Taos Community Auditorium, a part of the park complex.
A marionette is a puppet controlled from above by strings. The word "marionette is derived from "Mary" and originated in Europe in the Middle Ages when nativity plays were performed using the stringed puppets. However, marionettes themselves are much older and no specific date can be given. In the U.S. puppet shows are often considered to be exclusively for children but throughout the rest of the world, puppet and marionette plays are classicly adult entertainment.
Joseph Cashore created his first marionette from clothespins, wood string and a tin can. His goal, after making that first puppet, was to create the illusion and sensation that the puppet was alive. He soon realized that in order to have the fluid motion he sought in his puppets, he would have to create his own control designs. He spent the next nineteen years, while pursuing a career in oil painting, experimenting with the construction of the marionettes and divising totally new control mechanisms.
Cashore resides in Colmar, PA, graduated from the Uni.of Notre Dame with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and has been making marionettes for more than 30 years. He is an accomplished artist as well as puppeteer, and his talent in sculpture and portraiture is evident in his marionettes. The marionettes, their clothing, all the props, the vingettes, the selection of the classical pieces he uses as background, all create a magic controlled by the subtle movements of Cashore's hands. A bucking horse, wrinkly elephant, young rock star, and old woman are some of the few characters Cashore has brought to life. In spite of his own shyness, Cashore has finally become comfortable with the attention he receives. But he says the audience isn't looking at him, but at the creations that come to life under his hands, to play a guitar, place flowers on a grave, rock a child to sleep, pick up certain objects and place them.
I wish I could have counted the number of strings on some of the characters, there must have been at least fifteen or twenty on some that did very intricate things.
Cashore hgas been awarded the highest honor a North American puppeteer can receive, the Citation of Excellence from the United States branch of Union Internationale de la Marionnette. Its citations are "awarded to shows that touch their audiences deeply; that totally engage, enchant, and enthrall. I was totally engaged, enchanted and enthralled.