Bill Bowers

What Are Words For?

Loop review: Mime Bill Bowers uses some, but doesn't need them, in Beyond Words at WaterTower Theatre's Out of the Loop Fringe Festival

published Saturday, March 10, 2012

Actions speak louder than words. A clichéd phrase, maybe. But, also one that holds great truth. 

It's estimated that 84-92 percent of our communication is non-verbal. Meaning, gestures, facial expressions, props, costume, actions, etc. All those things inform the words, and interpretations derived from those words, we speak. 

And so it stands to reason that a majority of performance takes place visually as opposed to verbally. Enter renowned mime Bill Bowers and his one man show, Beyond Words

Mention the word mime and a singular image likely comes to mind. The striped shirt, beret, painted face. The classic French mime. Marcel Marceau. That ain't Bill Bowers. 

Not to be too mistaken. He is a former student of Marceau. But forget what you think you know about pantomime in regards to Bowers. For him, the invisible and silent art is still about storytelling. 

And in Beyond Words, it's not all silence. In fact, very little of it is. This show is an autobiography of sorts centering on the question, "What is a boy", which later asks the same question of a man and what exactly the transition between the two is. 

In a series of scenes, some mimed and others spoken, Bowers tells a combination of stories from his life and stories from other men's lives with the central theme being, it takes all types. 

From his own life, Bowers tells of his mean uncle and a week as a visiting artist in Choteau, Montana, among other tales. Of others, he performs a stirring mime piece about the murder of Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyoming in 1998. A spoken story about a man named Wing Bidlebaum, formerly Adolph Myers, is heartbreaking and features the marriage between the purely visual of a man whose hands he feels have betrayed him and a true gift for verbal storytelling. 

This is where a strong point is made. The care and attention clearly paid by Bowers to a life of visual storytelling has led to an intense understanding of story, thereby, making his verbal stories just as engaging and entertaining as his mime pieces. And when he combines the two, the audience is completely drawn in. 

Beyond Words is a personal piece for Bowers, but it's also universal. It's worth seeing simply for the fact that seeing is exactly what most of the evening is. This kind of performance, timely considering that a silent film won the Oscar for Best Picture this year, is a reminder that, as someone in Choteau, Montana, put it to Bowers once, "There's more to performance than hitting and screaming!"

◊ To see a complete schedule of shows and venues, go here.

◊ WaterTower is streaming several shows and events at Out of the Loop. To watch them on our site, click the US Stream icon at the top of this page. It will open a separate tab. The streaming schedule is also included there. Thanks For Reading

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What Are Words For?
Loop review: Mime Bill Bowers uses some, but doesn't need them, in Beyond Words at WaterTower Theatre's Out of the Loop Fringe Festival
by Kris Noteboom

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