Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Bill Bowers

Bill Bowers [Credit: Maureen Roy]
The confessional/autobiographical solo show is something, it seems, that everyone who's ever had a childhood takes a stab at. At any given fringe festival there will be a number of shows where the performer tells a very personal story of growing up anorexic/ agoraphobic/ foreign/ gay/etc. In fact, a fun game can be made of observing how these shows distinguish themselves from one another, usually with some novelty. My favorite is when the performer ties in the coming of age story to something like a sport or occupation (hair dressing or something) or even some sort of talisman (like a suitcase of old items).

Bill Bowers, who many consider to be the most talented American mime of his generation, has been touring an autobiographical solo show. This past summer he was at the Edinburgh Fringe.

The fresh approach for his performance is twofold. First, it is a spoken play in place of his usual wordless mime pieces. And, the piece includes his life as a solo performer.

The show is called It Goes Without Saying. And from the descriptions of the show, it begins as just the sort of solo show many rightly dread: a series of autobiographical "true stories" that, as an audience member, one hopes will be amusing. More often than not, one fears the show will actually turn into just "some things that happened to somebody I don't actually give a crap about." 
Bowers has an easel on stage, with the words "True Stories" on it, an easel that will then be flipped, page by page, by the performer. And for the first fifteen minutes of the show the audience is treated to this performance hook. It appears to be nothing new.
But this is Bill Bowers and things, inevitably, start to pick up. The play follows his journey of growing up a young gay boy from the Big Sky country of  Montana, one of the most under populated western states. He goes on to recount his outrageous jobs as a performer, his torment from losing a lover to AIDS, studying with Marcel Marceau, and the whirlwind of working on Broadway.
It is a full show about a full life. It has that artful meta-theatre vibe. It becomes something much, much more than just a series of "some things that happened." 

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