The Midcoast has a rare opportunity Thursday afternoon, July 19. Acclaimed physical theater performer and playwright Wolfe Bowart will present his new show-in-progress at 5 p.m. in the 162 Russell Ave. space formerly occupied by the Center for Maine Contemporary Art. Next month, “Cloud Soup” goes on tour in Malaysia — and the Rockport event, a benefit for Watershed School, will help solidify it.

“This is actually a formal workshopping of it, an open rehearsal in the sense that the show will be 70 minutes, and this will not be,” Bowart said the week before. “It's not pretty close [to the finished show], but there's a lot of really beautiful images.”

Those images cannot rely on lighting and other theatrical devices in this bare-bones setting. And Bowart’s shows — imbued with the spirit of silent film artists Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton; and informed by physical theater pioneers Jacques Lecoq and Etienne Decroux — don’t rely on the spoken word, although some contain a bit of narration. It’s one reason his SpoonTree Productions has been able to tour some 22 countries with original work.

“There's no language, they're multigenerational. They could play city or country, you know,” he said.

His upbringing comprises both, as his New York-based family regularly visited his grandfather in Washington, Maine; abstract expressionist Edward Dugmore was part of the unofficial colony of New York artists who bought farmhouses in Washington. Anne Ayvaliotis and Anne Arnold and Ernie Briggs came up the same year.

“It was an amazing time! Blackie Langlais was up here and Joe Fiori and Stephen Pace. That whole scene … I remember growing up with that,” Bowart said.

His mother, Linda Shannon, and brothers ended up moving to Washington, while he went to Arizona with his father, counterculture writer Walter Bowart.

“I'd go back and forth. I went to Camden-Rockport one year, and graduated from high school in Robinhood, the Country Mile School, the Center for New Learning,” he said. “I still come up.”

Touring, at one time, nine months of the year, Bowart’s “base” is Washington; Tucson, Ariz.; and Perth, Western Australia. The latter has been a touchstone for his work.

“I married an Australian, and, up until recently, they had a lot of money for the arts and supported it,” he said, adding that he’s been nominated twice for the country’s Tony equivalent, the Helpmann Award.

Prior to forming SpoonTree Productions with his wife and producer, Kerryn Negus, in 2002, Bowart worked with Beverly Mann on a show commissioned by the Waterfall Arts-forerunner Arts Center at Kingdom Falls in Montville. But he also performed, and wrote for TV and films, in California. Hollywood is always looking for a great logline – the shortest possible description of a dynamite property (the epitome — “Twister meets Jaws!” — was realized, tongue firmly in cheek, in SyFy’s “Sharknado”). His stage pieces have much more to quantify, and yet, at heart, they convey simple stories.

“‘The Schneedles,’ that was with Bill [Robison], and it’s two guys trying to sing a song and a magic suitcase interrupts them … and they sing a song,” Bowart said of SpoonTree’s first show, which played at the Camden Opera House.

Next was Bowart’s acclaimed solo show “LaLaLuna,” about a man discovering the light in the moon has burned out and figuring out how to fix it. An even simpler story fuels “Letter’s End,” about an old man burning letters in the basement of the Dead Letter Office.

“They come to life and turn out to be his memories; he's losing his memories by burning them, and all these things come to light,” Bowart said.

That show brought him a remarkable letter of his own. It came from the caregiver of a young man in the front row one performance. Bowart had interacted with him during the course of the show and something about “Letter’s End” sparked a return of memories to the young man, who had sustained brain injuries in a motorcycle accident.

“The healing power … not that I'm not taking any credit: I was in the room, he was in the room, that play — we all did this together,” Bowart said.

The specific piece of business involved speaks to the kind of multifaceted theater that Bowart creates.

“At that point, I shake someone in the front row and pretend to take his shoe off, and take the shoe on stage,” Bowart said. “I plant it, a tree grows out of the shoe, I climb up on the tree and do some magic with eggs. Typical day!”

The most recent show — all are still in SpoonTree’s repertoire — is “The Man the Sea Saw,” an icy Arctic tale that Bowart describes as “a man on an iceberg who's been set adrift and starving and he falls asleep and sinks in the water at the end,” which, despite its grim logline, his nephew insists is “OK for kids, and it's funny!”

The logline for “Cloud Soup”? In some ways, Bowart said, he learns what his works are about about 20 shows into the first tour, but the new one is inspired by the saying, “Put another cup of water in the soup.”

“It's about compassion, about loving your neighbor … it's about the inclusivity, compassion. And that's hopefully, ultimately, what the character's arc will be,” he said.

Said character works in a laundry/tailor shop, dealing with a pesky rat and with people who come to the door.

“You don’t see them, but the way he reacts tells you about them. I'm trying to show a cross-section of humanity,” he said.

Bowart’s shows involve movement, gesture, circus-like skills such as juggling and acrobatics, puppetry, interactive film and old-school magic. The latter figures prominently in “Cloud Soup,” which means a lot of practicing of something that resonates from his childhood.

“New Vaudeville was happening in the late '70s and '80s, and there were a lot of people up here doing it. So that was a big influence on me as a kid,” he said. “I was one of the little magic nerd kids, the guy juggling in the park in the '70s. I rode my unicycle down the street, Adam Smith on my shoulders.”

The magic and circus skills, which he began to acquire as a hobby at age 9 — Bowart eventually studied theater in earnest at Seattle’s Cornish College of the Arts — are always in service to the story in his shows, rather than what he calls the classic circus “ta-da!” presentation. On the 19th, Bowart said, he wants to run the show, without lights and other tech, and see how it goes.

“You might even see how some things are done, because it's very intimate,” he said.

He is looking forward to that intimacy and is enjoying being part of a community, if just for a while. The local “Cloud Soup” benefit preview came about via his longtime friend Frannie Wheeler-Berta, whose daughter, Cleo, attended the nonprofit Watershed, an independent high school in Camden.

“They're about community, and that ties right into this, so it seems like a no-brainer. And it's a great excuse to come back and share a bit, because I tour so much,” he said.

Tickets to the benefit will be $15 at the door. For more information about the evening and Watershed, call 230-7341. For more information about Bowart and his work, visit