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Mimes get a bad rap. But unlike many of his referee-looking, street-performing brethren, Montana native Bill Bowers is OK with looking at his life's work lightheartedly.

"Talking about mime is very weird, I have to say," he says, laughing.

Trained by legendary mime Marcel Marceau, the New York-based Bowers showcases his ability in a poignant and funny series of nine vignettes in Under a Montana Moon. The show addresses an array of seemingly unconnected topics, from Jackson Pollock to cowboys to Native American stories of peace. But they do, in fact, have commonalities.

"They all deal with the aspect of silence or being silenced, and they all take place under a Western sky," Bowers explains. "Some are very pantomimic in the classic comic style, and others are based more on interpretative movement."

One affecting and moving piece deals with the tragic, hate-motivated murder of Matthew Shepard. Because the seventh anniversary of his death just passed, Bowers feels the piece is timely.

"I am a gay man, and I grew up in a place very much like Laramie [Wyoming], so I wanted to address the question of what happens when you silence somebody, and it happened to come out in a very personal way.

"The show originated when I was working at Harvard as a guest artist. Anna Deavere Smith [educator and actress] invited me, as a mime, to be a part of a dialogue about how the arts affect civic politics. She asked me if I'd ever looked at silence as a subject, and not just an art form."

If complete quiet makes you uncomfortable, don't panic. While Bowers is silent throughout, the show itself is not.

"I never speak a word, but there's a lot of music, voiceovers and prairie sounds. I worked with a sound designer to come up with sounds that would highlight and embody the movement."

-- Bettina Swigger

capsule

Under a Montana Moon

Manitou Art Theater, 515 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs

Thursday-Saturday, Oct. 20-22, 8 p.m.

Tickets: $14; call 685-4729 or see themat.org for more.

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