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Mime performance explores controversial subject

Photo courtesy of the Bill Bowers Web site

Bill Bowers, a critically acclaimed mime, will perform "Under the Montana Moon," a one-man play, Friday at 7:30 p.m. in the Directing Studio in the Drama building. Call 621-1162 for more information.

By Anne Owens
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday Feb. 5, 2002

Silence can speak volumes, sometimes with more impact than words. This may well be the case with a one-man mime show coming to UA.

On Friday, the theater arts department presents "Under a Montana Moon," a one-man play by Bill Bowers.

The wordless play, presented within a tapestry of sound, celebrates the spirit and life of a young boy growing up in the West. "Under a Montana Moon" leans sometimes toward funny, sometimes toward heartbreaking. Ultimately, it aims to be profoundly moving.

Tackling controversial subjects, such as homosexuality, is something that artists often struggle with. Bowers has not only taken on this struggle, he has chosen to address it without words - one of the most fundamental and obvious ways people communicate with one another.

Margo Jefferson, a theater critic for the New York Times, said the play's movement is "fuller and more forthright than we are used to."

The autobiographical play is done entirely in mime and follows Bowers through his youth in rural Montana. The storyline features Bowers' coming out as a young gay man and faces other difficult life issues.

According to Jefferson's review, Bowers ends the performance with a piece called "Prayer," which is based on the murder of Matthew Shepard, the gay youth murdered in Laramie, Wyoming in October 1998. Both men grew up under similar circumstances - troubled youth searching for acceptance in a generally conservative part of the country - and Bowers seems to relate deeply to Shepard.

"The musical accompaniment, written and sung by Suzzy Roche, was equally quiet and unrelentingly exact," Jefferson said in the review.

Bowers, who presents his life in silence, is also offering theater arts students' classes. To some, the production is an added bonus.

"The university offers classes in movement - stage combat, for example," said Brad Daughtry, director of marketing and finance for the theater arts department. "But we don't offer anything specifically in the medium of mime. The idea was to bring someone in who was really a master in this field to augment what we do here."

Assistant theater professor Bobbi McKean said she worked with Bowers professionally and has known his work for a long time. She was instrumental in bringing Bowers' performance to Tucson, in cooperation with a Bank One visiting artists' grant.

"He can tell all that he needs to say through silence and movement. You just don't see this kind of theater, especially in a smaller community like Tucson," McKean said. "He is someone our students can really benefit from."

Bowers is an actor and mime who has studied with Marcel Marceau. He recently appeared in Broadway's "The Lion King" and "The Scarlet Pimpernel." He has also performed at Radio City Music Hall, Madison Square Garden and has several television credits.

"I've seen some amazing mime performances before," Daughtry said. "I'm always amazed by what they are able to bring across without words. That's the essence and magic of the medium."

While the play is open to the public, seating is limited. Tickets are being sold through the UA Fine Arts Box Office. The play runs Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the Directing Studio in the Drama building, Room 116. Tickets are $5. Call 621-1162 for more details.


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