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Keeping it quiet 

Bill Bowers' solo play explores a culture of silence

click to enlarge Bill Bowers debunks an age-old myth: Mimes can indeed - fly.
  • Bill Bowers debunks an age-old myth: Mimes can indeed fly.

While most of us were busy in high school looking for prom dates and slicking our hair into bouffants, Bill Bowers was in his room practicing mime.

"I was a really shy and quiet kid," he explains, "so I found this thing that made sense to me, and I invested a huge amount of energy in mime."

Observing her son's interest, Bowers' mother purchased him tickets to see Marcel Marceau, renowned as the world's greatest mime.

"That's what cemented it for me," he says. "When I saw him, it was huge."

Bowers later went on to study with Marceau, solidifying his style. But Bowers' one-man play, It Goes Without Saying, isn't as much about mime as it is about why Bowers became a mime. In the play, Bowers chronicles his climb up the miming ladder. "The play got written," explains Bowers, "because people always ask me, "Why are you a mime?' So I started to look at that question. The shortest answer is, "I'm from Montana.'"

I ask Bowers to elaborate, figuring that the picture in my mind of a local city council meeting full of men in black tights and white striped shirts silently erupting in wild gesticulations is probably not accurate.

"The thing about the West is that people tend to be kind of stoic and private. My family in particular didn't talk about a lot of things.

"Growing up gay in Montana," he adds, "in the '60s before "Will and Grace' [also] really fed the idea of having to be silent."

Bowers mimed his heart out, becoming one of a few New York actors able to make a living with his art. (Which makes me wonder about all the time I wasted with the hair wax and the blow dryer.) As early as college, Bowers had earned money miming at a work-study job. Every week, he wrote a story based on a given religious lesson and mimed the piece at the University Chapel.

Bowers' acting, workshop teaching and playwriting take him all over the world. This summer, he'll teach miming in Italy. He's also held residencies at New York University, Harvard and UCLA, among other institutions.

Apparently, it wasn't always this easy, being a shy, strange child, miming alone. That's where the play begins; eventually we end up in the present. Bowers also includes an entire section of the performance to the bizarre jobs he's had to do to survive. Some critics have compared It Goes Without Saying to the comedic writings of David Sedaris and Augusten Burroughs.

Frances Gomeztagle

It Goes Without Saying

Theater at Venue 515, Business of Art Center, 515 Manitou Ave.

Thursday, Jan. 18, through Saturday, Jan. 20, 8 p.m.

Tickets: $15; call 685-4729 or visit themat.org andbill-bowers.com for more.

  • Bill Bowers' solo play explores a culture of silence

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