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‘The Man the Sea Saw,’ a one-man physical theater show for families

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Published : 2014-07-22 20:36
Updated : 2014-07-22 20:36

Theater playwright and performer Wolfe Bowart has dedicated his life to engaging audiences of all ages and nationalities through thought-provoking, physical comedy.

Bowart admitted that he was always a “goofball” as a kid, wanting to share stories in front of an audience and engage a crowd to elicit one of the most satisfying reactions a physical comedian can receive ― laughter.

However, after studying theater and receiving his degree, the actor ended up in Hollywood ― the mecca for most of the world’s entertainers ― writing scripts for the short-lived American TV crime show “The Net.” However, Bowart soon had a change of heart and realized that his career approach was in need of a dramatic shift.

“I’m a physical and visual comedian, I’m not supposed to be killing people on TV,” said Bowart during an interview with The Korea Herald. “I’m a writer, but that’s not what I wanted to do.” 
Scene from “The Man the Sea Saw” physical theater. (David Wyatt)

Instead, Bowart chose to refocus his career on his family-friendly comical roots and produce nonverbal shows that highlight the art of physical theater. Through circus art, video projection, magic acts, acrobatics and puppetry, the playwright has created a new experience for families, something he considers “visual poetry” for ages 6 to 96.

Bowart’s original nonverbal production, “The Man the Sea Saw,” has been staged in numerous countries including Australia, where the show was launched, Hong Kong and New Zealand, and is now in Korea for the first time.

The show takes place against a majestic backdrop of ocean blue and is described as having an emotional storyline as it unfolds on stage like a surreal pop-up book. In this one-man show, Bowart portrays a man who finds himself adrift on an iceberg, and through encounters with various animals he is led to reflect upon his life and his family.

“It’s not a children’s show, it’s a family show,” he added.

Comparing his show to Charlie Chaplin films and productions like Cirque du Soleil, shows that both kids and adults can watch and enjoy, Bowart stated that he also wanted to avoid the all-too-common pitfall of creating a show that doesn’t give “kids enough credit.”

The playwright says that one of the key aspects in all of his shows is that despite being nonverbal performances, the visual nature of his stories spark curiosity and open dialogues between children and their parents.

“The simple act of a melting snowman, especially if it’s your only friend, it can be very powerful, and kids can handle that,” Bowart says.

“Oftentimes there are children’s shows that pander to adults ... what they think the child wants to hear. This (his show) is a bit hipper in a way in that there are emotions and feelings in the show. It’s very exciting, it’s very quiet, it’s adventurous ― it has a lot of different levels,” he added.

“The Man the Sea Saw” will have its final local staging at the Incheon Culture and Arts Center on July 26 and 27.

By Julie Jackson (juliejackson@heraldcorp.com)

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