PITTSFIELD, Mass. - Dion Robbins-Zust is getting ready to perform a free marionette show on Saturday outside Dottie's Coffee Lounge in Pittsifield.

Known locally as “The Berkshire’s Puppet Laureate”, Robbins-Zust has been fine tuning his craft for more than 50 years. He also said he’s fully aware marionettes may be considered a dying art form.

What You Need To Know

  • Dion Robbins-Zust is the creative director of the Robbins-Zust Family Marionette Company

  • The marionette company was started by Richard Robbins and Genie Zust in 1971

  • The Robbins-Zust Family Marionette Company performs about 50 shows a year for families across Berkshire County and beyond

  • The performance at Dottie's Coffee Lounge on Saturday, Sept. 23, The FireBird Finale 2023, will mark the end of the 2023 season

“My mom always said the only kinds of people that understand the reason we should have fables and stories being told live, the only people that go out of the way to understand that," Robbins-Zust said, "are grandparents or librarians. And I’m neither.”

Robbins-Zust’s parents started the Robbins-Zust Family Marionette Company in the early 70s and many of his nearly 100 puppets date back to those early days.

From classics like "Sleeping Beauty" and "The Three Little Pigs" to some lesser-known tales, the Robbins-Zust Family Marionette Company performs about 50 shows a year for multiple generations of families. Robbins-Zust said it was about 20 years ago when the impact of the art form really sank in for him.

“A grandfather who said thank you to me three times in a row," Robbins-Zust said. "And because, of course, I was embarrassed, 'Oh, well, you're welcome. No problem. You know, there's the tip jar.' And then he says, 'Thank you.' 'Oh, no problem. You know, that was nothing. I thought it was a train wreck, you know.' And then he said, 'Thank you.' And then I looked and there's his three granddaughters glued to the stage.”

No matter how old the story or the art form is, he said there’s always a lesson to be learned and passed on through performing a piece of theater.

“When you read the drama from 100 years ago or something that gained a lot of popularity a thousand years ago," Robbins-Zust said, "what you're actually reading is of the minds of many years of grandparents and librarians making sure that you, the audience - or the children, the learning, the students - can better absorb the information about [yourself].”