Cashore Marionettes to portray life and art in new ways in HBPA season-opening performance

Cashore Marionettes by Carl Deutsch

A celebration of life – with all of its intricacies and emotions – will be the focus of the opening performance of the 2018-19 Hesston-Bethel Performing Arts Series as it kicks off with Cashore Marionettes: “Life in Motion” at 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 23, at Hesston Mennonite Church on the Hesston College campus.

In “Life in Motion,” puppeteer Joseph Cashore presents his collection of marionette masterworks as they depict life’s moments set to music by composers such as Beethoven, Vivaldi, Strauss and Copland. Unique and unmatched in the typical medium of theater productions of today, Cashore Marionettes presents characters of depth, integrity and humanity in a celebration of the complexities and richness of life.

Cashore first became acquainted with marionettes as a young boy of 10 or 11 when he saw a pirate marionette in a gift shop on the New Jersey shore. A short time later, he created his first marionette from clothespins, wood, string and a tin can. As he played with this puppet and observed the quality of its movement, he was startled by the sudden but momentary sensation that the puppet was alive.

After earning a bachelor of fine arts from the University of Notre Dame (South Bend, Ind.) and studying portrait and figure painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (Philadelphia), Cashore made his second marionette. He soon discovered that in order to have the fluid motion he sought, he would have to create his own control designs. For the next nineteen years, Cashore experimented with the construction of the marionettes and devised totally new control mechanisms.

In the late 1980’s, Cashore was inspired to create a puppet that would convincingly “play” the violin solo from Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “The Lark Ascending.” In working through the technical elements of creating a marionette of which he could gain subtle control of the body, he discovered the possibility for “greater depth of expression with the marionettes.” That puppet, Maestro Janos Zelinka, became the impetus for his present productions.

Cashore has been performing full-time across North America, Europe and Asia since 1990. He has received several awards for his artistic accomplishments, and has also received a Henson Foundation Grant, which helps promote puppetry to adult audiences. Cashore also has received a UNIMA Citation of Excellence, the highest honor an American puppeteer can receive, which is “awarded to shows that touch their audiences deeply; that totally engage, enchant and enthrall.”

Reserved seating and general admission tickets for Cashore Marionettes, as well as season tickets for the full five-concert series, are available online or by calling 620-327-8105. Single tickets are for sale at the Hesston College Bookstore in Erb Hall or Bethel College’s Thresher Shop in Schultz Student Center during regular business hours. Reserved seating is $27 for adults and senior citizens, and general admission seating ranges from $18 to $23. Discounts are available for students and senior citizens.

Area elementary students will be treated to a Cashore Marionettes show earlier in the day on Oct. 23 at Hesston Mennonite Church.

Started in 1982 as Hesston Performing Arts, the series expanded in 1998 when Hesston College joined forces with Bethel College for The Hesston-Bethel Performing Arts series. The series presents five performances by world-renowned or regionally acclaimed artists each year. HBPA is funded in part by the city of North Newton, Excel Industries and Hustler Turf Equipment (Hesston), the North Newton Community Foundation and the Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission, which receives support from the National Endowment for the Arts. Area businesses and patrons provide additional funding for the HBPA series.