Between April 1st- 5th, accomplished actor and mime Bill Bowers spent the week with our students at ASH. During his visit, he met with our students, gave theater workshops, and performed his show ‘Beyond Words’ in the ASH theater. His visit aligned with HS Theater teacher Anthony Cunningham’s belief that exposure to various artists and theater forms helps our students be inspired to further develop their passion and upskill themselves in addition to what we offer through our curriculum and learning goals. Allowing for interaction with artists also helps our students understand how artists create and make a living after leaving school. Mr. Cunningham offered that Mr. Bowers shared Beyond Words five years ago at our ASH HS ISTA festival and the response then was so positive that we wanted to bring him back. Hosting an artist on campus for a full week allowed for making real connections with students and teachers school-wide. Mr. Bowers sat down for an interview with our External Relations team and ASH Journalism Club leader Natasha F. Below follows a transcript of their conversation.
We’ve heard you say that you were very quiet and shy when you were growing up. Can you say now that you have overcome this introversy or is it still part of you?Not so long ago, I read a great book called “Silence” that talks about learned extroverts. It explains that a lot of introverts learn how to function in the world, that outgoingness is often very rewarded and that introverts can be passed up because it’s in their nature. I am definitely one of these learned extroverts. I perform a lot, so I am comfortable with that. But instead, I am not comfortable in parties because I am socially shy. So, I didn’t overcome this shyness, but I learned another skill.
How would you describe the experience of working with Marcel Marceau, was it life-changing for you? Absolutely life-changing. When I was a kid, everybody knew he was synonymous with mime. I had seen him perform around 25 to 30 times. I saw him for the first time when I was 17 and then I knew “that is what I am going to do”. And then many years later I had the opportunity to work directly with him. I worked with him during the last four years of his life (he was 80) and he started to realize he had to pass this knowledge on so he started teaching. It was great timing. Back then, I was working in a Broadway show and making quite some money, which actors rarely do, but I left that Broadway show and went on the road with Marcel Marceau. Being in the same room as your idol is great and hard. It was a very interesting lesson for me. I decided really early in my life that Marcel Marceau was going to be like my ‘mime loving father’ and I have kind of cast him like that but that wasn’t his personality at all. He was an old, very famous, very French guy and that was in the room with him too and that was a bitter pill for me to swallow, he wasn’t at all what I intended him to be. He was also a very hard teacher, an old-school masterclass kind of teacher. But it was also amazing. It was because of him that I started writing my own shows.
You have toured all over the world so I was wondering if you have a favorite place to perform? I’d have to say The Hague. Anthony Cunningham (HS Theater teacher) invited me here five years ago and he is one of the first ones to invite me to Europe so I have an affection for this school and I’d love to live in the Netherlands. I also really like performing in Central and Eastern Europe, like Poland, Macedonia, Romania, etc. Mime and theater are a big part of their tradition and hundreds of people come. One of the most famous Romanian artists is a mime and I was amazed. In the USA it is kind of a joke and he said to me that mime ‘is the voice of Romania’. During communism, one of the few voices you could have was in silence so he became very popular because he could express things and get away with it.
What do you take from your experience of teaching at ASH? What was the most rewarding part? Also, if you’d like to change something about our school, what would it be? It’s nice whenever I get to spend more than a day somewhere. I am here five days and I have worked with a lot of different students from different ages and then I meet them during lunch break, get to know them a bit more and blend in here.
Would you like to send a message to all our students that are wondering how to start a career in acting? I felt really lucky, and I am from Montana and I didn’t have a lot of exposure to theater. But my family was really supportive and I also had a lot of teachers that directed me to the next thing and that’s what I’d wish for everybody to have. I know a lot of times students have parents who don’t want them to become actors because they will never make a living. But what I want to say to them is that “if this is really what you want to do, you can totally do it and you have to look for the voices that are the ‘yes’ ”. I am a good example that you could do it.
At ASH we have 5 core values: Respect, Responsibility, Empathy, Integrity and Communication. Could you pick one of these and make a mime interpretation so we can guess which one? Video Link