Fifty states and 25 countries.
While traveling his one-man shows around the world for three decades, performer Bill Bowers was bound to stockpile some juicy stories.
He did, and fortunately he was also wise enough to capture the details of many of them in his journals. Being the natural storyteller he is, after regularly relaying his absurd tales to family and friends, he began to consider putting together a solo show about doing a solo show.
He'll bring "All Over the Map" to Millibo Art Theatre on Saturday. The fundraiser will benefit MAT's scholarship and visiting artist programs.
About a dozen stories pepper the 65-minute performance, including the one where he performed at a nudist colony and another when he talked about his career as a mime to a group of disapproving Amish kids.
"It was an amazing crazy, weird experience," Bowers said from New York City, where he lives. "It's about unlikely connections. To be in an Amish community and just in another culture that isn't particularly about using imagination and expressing feelings, which is what I talk about when I talk about mime. It was an unlikely pairing, but ended up being kind of beautiful."
What bubbled up from beneath the finished product was a simple motif: "There's more that connects us as humans than separates us," he said.
Bowers is best known as a mime, though his new show is the most talky one he's ever created. It was a path he stumbled on during his formative years growing up in Montana. It was born from being a young, gay kid who grew up in a quiet family in a quiet place, he said. His earlier one-man show "It Goes Without Saying" detailed his journey.
"Early on, I paid attention to silence," he said. "I like silence. I like the silence of nature, and I paid attention to my family and what wasn't getting talked about but was in the room with us. That's what led me to being a mime, not being a performer. I never wanted to be a performer."
In high school, Bowers discovered there was a name to this silent art form. He taught himself enough to perform, and the encouragement he received from teachers kept him engaged. Eventually he met and studied with Marcel Marceau, the French mime who made white face and striped shirts famous. They worked together for three years before Marceau died in 2007.
The legendary mime passed along two pieces of wisdom that Bowers will never forget.
"He said you have to teach this and pass it on. Mime, by the nature of what it is, exists only if you do it in live theater. The second thing he said was the space between him and audience was where genius happens. It's what happens between people that I find so interesting."
JENNIFER MULSON, THE GAZETTE, 636-0270, JEN.MULSON@GAZETTE.COM