By Pat McAndrew, Editor-in-Chief, All About Solo
Bill Bowers currently performs and teaches the art of physical storytelling throughout the world. His methods and exploration of universal truths transcend the spoken word to educate and touch audiences in countries as varied as Poland, The Netherlands, Scotland, Japan, Macedonia, Romania, Italy, Norway, Germany and Austria. An award-winning actor, Bowers has also performed in all 50 United States and Puerto Rico appearing on the stages of Broadway, The Kennedy Center, The White House, United Solo Europe, Steppenwolf, LaMaMa, Theatre for a New Audience, St. Anne’s Warehouse, Urban Stages, Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, Ensemble Studio Theater, Radio City Music Hall, HERE, and the New York International Fringe Festival. His Broadway credits include Zazu in “The Lion King” and Leggett in “The Scarlet Pimpernel.” He has also portrayed the great silent clowns: Charlie Chaplin in the world premiere of “Little Tramp,” Pierrot in the world premiere of “Beethoven N Pierrot,” and Petruchka with The Colorado Symphony. A passionate student and educator, Bowers studied with the legendary Marcel Marceau and currently serves on the faculties of New York University, Stella Adler Conservatory, and William Esper Studios. He holds an MFA from Rutgers University’s Mason Gross School of the Arts, and an Honorary PhD from Rocky Mountain College. All About Solo had the chance to chat with Bill Bowers about his incredibly unique career as a world-renowned mime.
Pat McAndrew: How did you find your way into the theatre? What got you involved in this art form?
Bill Bowers: I started in high school theatre when I was 14, even though I was a very shy kid.
How did you become involved in mime and pantomime work? What was it specifically about this form that appealed to you?
I was interested in not talking, at a very young age. I am from a small town in Montana, and the youngest of a large family. When I learned there was an art form about NOT talking, I started reading about it. I never imagined that I would be a performer, but I knew that I understood that world of silence.
What was it like studying with the legendary Marcel Marceau? How did you develop as an artist after this training?
I had seen him perform more than 25 times by the time I actually met him. He was hugely influential to me. Studying with him was hard in that he was not particularly invested in being a teacher. He was also in his 80s. However, as I worked with him in the last years of his life, he was interested in passing on some of his repertoire. To be in the room with one’s hero is intense. One of the most profound things he said to me was that Mime as an art must be passed on, body to body. Otherwise it could simply disappear. It is a temporal art. With that in mind, I began focusing my energy and efforts to create my own work and find opportunities to teach. That led me to writing seven plays (so far), and teaching Mime and Physical Storytelling at New York University, Stella Adler Studio and William Esper Studio. Marceau helped me hone my Mission statement: to spread and expand the art of mime.
Why do you believe solo performance is an important medium?
Solo performance is so accessible, easy to produce and tour. I love the direct address to an audience.
After you perform for audiences, what do you hope the audience walks away feeling or thinking?
I hope that the audience sees themselves in me. I want my work to be truthful and accessible and specific, and hopefully, a mirror.
Any words of advice for aspiring and emerging performing artists?
Pay attention to the world around you. Read the news. Look for good conversation. Develop your own point of view. Invest time in finding out what makes YOU tick. Then you will know what you want to say to an audience.
Author: Pat McAndrew, Editor-in-Chief, All About Solo
Pat McAndrew is a NYC-based actor, writer, and consultant. As an actor, he has performed Off-Broadway, Off-Off Broadway, and in various locations throughout New York City, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. His one-man show, REEL, was performed in the 2017 United Solo Theatre Festival and featured in the new documentary, Electronic Crack. Using his background as an actor as his foundation, Pat consults with individuals and organizations on how to communicate effectively and build deep, meaningful relationships in the digital age. He is the Founder of The Low Tech Trek, an organization devoted to discovering a better balance between human interaction and how we use technology. He is a member of Village Playback Theatre, Endless River Arts, and Svaha Theatre Collective. Pat holds an MA in Theatre from Villanova University. Check out patmcandrew.com for more information.