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John Minka
Master puppeteer Joseph Cashore with one of his creations.

PROVO — An elephant picks a piece of fluff off the stage floor with its trunk, and then blows it into the air — once, twice, three times — until it is caught by the breeze and blown away. Not such an unusual scene unless you consider the elephant is a marionette.

One of the creations of master puppeteer Joseph Cashore, the elephant is one part of a theatrical experience using single marionettes to tell short stories.

"Simple Gifts" is a series of touching portrayals and poignant scenes from everyday life, set to music by such composers as Vivaldi, Strauss, Beethoven and Copland. The show ranges from thoughtful pieces, such as the plight of a homeless man, to more whimsical scenes, like the simple story of a dragonfly pestering a horse.

"I cover a broad range of emotions, and I try not to keep the feeling in the same state for too long. You will laugh at some parts and be genuinely moved by others," Cashore says. "Each of the vignettes can be seen as short, dramatic performances with a beginning, middle and end."

In addition to the exploration of the themes and sentiments of life, the show emphasizes the marionettes' complex and realistic movements.

Cashore has been working with puppets for 30 years. He became interested in marionettes at age 11 when a store owner would not let him play with a puppet in the window. He went home and built his own.

More than just twine and sticks, Cashore's self-designed puppets each have their own complex system of strings, pulleys, springs and levers; he engineers each puppet to perform unique actions and hold specific objects.

"The quality of manipulation is very high in my puppets," he said. "Each control mechanism is a new invention to get what I want out of each individual puppet."

Cashore holds the highest honor an American puppeteer can receive, a Citation of Excellence from the Union Internationale de la Marionnette.

"This is a one-of-a-kind event," says Covey Center marketing coordinator Danae Friel. "The Cashore Marionettes take puppetry to a level that is unparalleled. You forget that these are marionettes. Instead, you are caught up in the story and the sheer emotion of each vignette. It is amazing."

The show is recommended for adults and children aged 8 and older.

If you go . . .

What: Simple Gifts, Cashore Marionettes

Where: Covey Center for the Arts, 425 W. Center, Provo

When: 7:30 p.m., March 3

Cost: $5

Phone: 852-7007

Web: www.coveycenter.org