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T Q&A

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The last time Tucson native Wolfe Bowart premiered a new production in Tucson was in 2003, with LaLaLuna. The show went on to garner rave reviews in Great Britain, Hong Kong, Greece, New Zealand, Brazil and Australia. This month, the physical comedian and actor is once again premiering a new work in his hometown before going on tour. Letter's End shows at 3 and 7 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 24, and 3 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 25, at the Berger Performing Arts Center, 1200 W. Speedway Blvd. Tickets cost $15 for adults, or $8 for children younger than 12. For more information, visit spoontree.com, or call the box office at (800) 595-4TIX.

You still make your home part time in Tucson?

When we're not on tour. I met my wife in Hollywood 10 years ago. We were both working in the industry--I was performing and writing screenplays, and she worked for Miramax. We left in 2002 and have been on tour nonstop since then. My wife is Australian, so we split our downtime between Perth, Australia, and here.

Because of that, you have a special relationship with Australia; in fact, this next tour takes you all over the continent.

Yes, we have a 150-show tour lined up starting in March that will take us around the country. We were fortunate to be awarded a grant from the Australian government, which, in addition to touring all the major cities, allows us to take the production to more remote towns like Alice Springs in the heart of the country. That (city) wouldn't otherwise get to see theater productions like this.

Besides Australia, you've toured in other countries, including China. What is it about your work or physical comedy that transcends different cultures?

I incorporate circus, magic, film, physicality and just a little language to tell the story, so the shows lend themselves to multicultural touring. Also, some (other) family shows are just for kids, and leave adults out in the cold. The comedy in my shows seems to speak to all ages.

What is Letter's End about?

A quirky guy is burning packages in a dead-letter office. At one point, he realizes that, in fact, he's burning his own memories. As he looks at his life, we realize one's memory can play tricks--sometimes, wacky ones.

How does a kid who grew up in Tucson near Sabino Canyon make his way into physical comedy and acting?

As a 10-year-old, I'd get together all the neighborhood kids and direct us in crazy Super 8 films. I was influenced by Chaplin, Keaton, Monty Python and, oddly enough, (Spanish filmmaker) Luis Buñuel. And then I'd add a Zappa soundtrack. I went from there to theater school in Seattle, and have been performing in one way or another ever since.

Where do your stories and images come from?

In LaLaLuna, I take off my shoe, and out comes sand, and I keep pouring and pouring and pouring it out. Sometimes, it's one surreal image, like that, that I take and work with. Sometimes, I draw on memories. As a kid, I'd look up and ask myself, "What if there was a person with a light bulb working the moon?" In Letter's End, memories play a big part. Behind all the comedy and circus craziness, I'm exploring the legacy of our stuff, how memories are attached to things.

What was your inspiration?

You know that odds-and-ends drawer that people often have in their kitchen? It's got a pencil, a broken toy, a Christmas-tree ornament. It's where you find the Scotch tape, perhaps a photo of someone, a bit of string. The oddest collection of things can hold the deepest memories for us. And then sometimes, these drawers end up at yard sales dumped into a box. Letter's End is a bit like that drawer.

Have any of your performing experiences had bigger meanings?

Once, we were in a heavy drought area in the wheat belt in Australia. Some families had lost their farms, their livelihood. After the show, people came up to us and said, "Wow, we really needed that. We really needed to laugh. Thank you very much."

Do you like being on tour most of the time?

Yes. We're lucky that we're able to tour the world, and that new markets continue to open for us. It's a joy to do these shows. How great (it is) to be in a room full of 1,000 laughing people.

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