2015 Best Supporting Actor in a Play: William Bowry as Queen Elizabeth (And Others) in Bad Habit Productions' "Virginia Woolf's Orlando"

Before we announce our 2015 ArtsImpulse Award Winners, we are proud to present our 2015 ArtsImpulse Nominee Interview Series.

NOTE: If you were nominated for a 2015 ArtsImpulse Theatre Award, and you would like to participate in our 2015 ArtsImpulse Nominee Interview Series, please email us at brian@artsimpulse.com

Photo Credit: Brett Williams.

Photo Credit: Brett Williams.

William Bowry played one of the many supporting roles in Bad Habit Productions' Virginia Woolf's Orlando, but he stood out for his commitment to supporting Orlando and the story. His Queen Elizabeth, especially, was a majestic but layered portrayal, a gender-fluid exploration of grace and loneliness. In his Interview, Will discusses his background (we have a Scotsman!), the three things he would bring to a desert island, and his new big project (he's building his stamina!). 

Hi, Will, it is wonderful to talk with you.  Can you tell our ArtsImpulse readers a little about yourself?

Well, I am actually a native of the UK, having been born in bred in the Highlands of Scotland, before moving to Boston in 2012. Prior to that, I was working as an education director at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, a producing house in the midlands of the UK.

What is your performing background and/or training?  How did you get involved in acting?  Have you tried any other artistic or creative pursuits?

I have been involved in theatre for many years, having been part of the National Youth Theatre of the UK when I was at high school. In terms of training, I studied English Literature at the University of York and then trained at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

As for other creative pursuits, one of my new-found passions (which I have actually developed since living in Boston), has been Swing Dancing, a swing style of jazz music that developed in the 1920s and 1940s. I have recently started competing in national competitions, which certainly demands a very different style of performance!

Talk to us about Virginia Woolf’s Orlando.  What is the story?  Who did you play?  Why do you think that this play is or should be performed now?

Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, is a majestic, if rather discombobulating text. To try and summarize it doesn’t do justice to Woolf’s novel, but it is often dubbed as a romp through the family history of Woolf’s partner, Vita Sackville-West. It sprawls four hundred years in which Orlando, the novel’s eponymous protagonist, meets many of the literary and aristocratic figures during this time, noticeably Queen Elizabeth, whom I played. Orlando also starts the novel as a man, and ends as a woman.

Therefore, I believe that the reason this play was so timely was largely due to society’s greater acceptance and understanding of gender identity. The notion and discussion of gender is, in many ways, the central spine of the novel, and I believe is extremely prescient given the cultural conversations that have suddenly become more acceptable in the last couple of years.

Queen Elizabeth (William Bowry) reacts in Bad Habit Productions' Virginia Woolf's Orlando (Photo Credit: Paul Cantillon, Lidec Photo). 

Queen Elizabeth (William Bowry) reacts in Bad Habit Productions' Virginia Woolf's Orlando (Photo Credit: Paul Cantillon, Lidec Photo). 

What is the scariest thing about performing for you?  What is the most satisfying part?

I think, particularly when working in the context of an ensemble, the scariest part is ensuring you don’t let your fellow performers down; this production was heavily based on ensemble work, both in terms of dividing the Chorus’ lines (Sarah Ruhl, the playwright, specifies that the Chorus can be played by one, or many actors) and physical movement. This inter-dependency, especially in the first few shows, certainly created some nerves.

However, without doubt, the most satisfying part is when you as a performer (as part of an ensemble) successfully tell the story of the play, with the clarity that you had all envisioned.

What are some of your favorite stories?  Why?

I think all stories lead back to Shakespeare – and in that, I don’t just mean the narratives of the stories, but the manner and richness of language that he employed.

If you were stranded on a desert island, what are three things that you would bring with you, and why? 

1)      A cricket bat: I fell in love with this beautiful game that still baffles many Americans from a very young age. I imagine I could fashion a ball from some unripe fruit and happily play a quick game of cricket.

2)      My bicycle: I bike most places, and I still get a great deal of pleasure from cycling in even in the New England winter, although many have questioned my sanity! Although, I might worry about all that sand clogging up my gear chain.

3)      A copy of Shakespeare’s Complete Works: On the British radio show, Desert Island Discs (where people chose 10 songs to take to a desert island), the ‘complete works’ is the mandatory reading choice, so I feel like I should I take it along as well. It would also make an excellent paperweight . . .

Do you have any roles on your bucket list?  Do you have any activities or events on your bucket list?

As a man from Scotland, I would love to play the part of Bonnie Prince Charlie, recounting his failed attempts to win back the Scottish throne in 1745; the Jacobite rebellion, which he led, ultimately ended with the brutal Battle of Culloden, but the romance of his story remains undiminished.

What is something or someone that inspires you?  Why?

Queen Elizabeth (William Bowry) in Bad Habit Productions' Virginia Woolf's Orlando (Photo Credit: Paul Cantillon, Lidec Photo). 

Queen Elizabeth (William Bowry) in Bad Habit Productions' Virginia Woolf's Orlando (Photo Credit: Paul Cantillon, Lidec Photo). 

Those who enter public service for the steadfast belief in changing the world for the better; many do so to seek fame, but for the few whose pursuit is the good of others, I will always be inspired by their work.

Tell us about a typical Saturday for you.  What do you do? With whom?

At the moment, a typical Saturday involves me getting up ungraciously early to do a rather long run, as I am training for the Boston Marathon to raise money for Mass Eye and Ear Institute. Feel free to check out my fundraising page:

https://www.crowdrise.com/teameyeandear2016/fundraiser/williambowry

However, once my legs have recovered, I’ll probably still be seen swing-dancing the night away in Boston.

Do you have any upcoming projects?

I am working on a dance project at Brandeis University, called Shoes On, Shoes Off, which will play for three nights in April 2016.

And apart from that – there is the small matter of running 26.2 miles on April 18, 2016!

Do you have anything else to share with our ArtsImpulse readers?

Not apart from thanking the teeming cultural melting-pot of Boston for the opportunities that I have enjoyed in this welcoming and eclectic city.