In All Over the Map, the audience travels with Bill Bowers to some of the most memorable places he's performed. Each location is entwined with the story of a person he befriended or encountered. Bowers, a renowned mime who currently performs and teaches throughout the world, renders the people he meets skillfully through storytelling, physical gestures, and masterful use of his gaze. When Bill waves goodbye to a new friend in Macedonia or peers through a frost-covered window while trapped in his car in an ice storm, you can almost see what he sees and certainly feel the emotion of the parting and his exhaustion on that icy road. Bowers uses movement to imply subtext and convey more profound points that the audience can piece together. This interaction feels like a satisfying conversation.
The people and places that Bowers talks about represent more than a collection of anecdotes from years on the road. They map the evolution of social attitudes about identity, sexuality, art, and religion. The stories range from heart-wrenching to hilarious, often in the same paragraph. Longer sketches are interspersed with "pit stops" – funny little observations about a place that keeps the tone and pace moving along.
Bowers uses nothing more than six wooden chairs to take the audience to a cabaret theater in Amsterdam, an Amish classroom in Idaho, the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, and the town where his ancestors are from in Scotland. The play is spoken, but Bowers's incredible talent for mime injects his storytelling with authenticity and keeps the audience engrossed. The way he licks an imaginary coffee stirrer is so convincing that you feel completely immersed in his world. At the end of the show, a slideshow of images from the places he talked about is familiar because he painted those places as he spoke.
Bowers spent 30 years traveling to all 50 states and 26 countries. All Over the Map shares and connects a set of those experiences with a quirky and touching human thread: how Bowers was received by the people he met – students in his workshops, audiences at his shows, travelers on a bus – and how he received them. Bowers opens his arms and heart to the audience to draw them into the community he has lovingly built over his career.
"All Over the Map"
Written and Performed by Bill Bowers
June 9 – 18, 2022
The Fellowship Cultural Arts Center (8000 Fellowship Road, Basking Ridge, NJ)
American Theater Group
STEPHANIE EAGAN is a professional writer based in NJ. A fan of every type of live performance imaginable, from taiko drumming to political performance art, she travels the tri-state area and beyond in search of music, art, theater, and excellent coffee.