MacArthur Fellows Program

Bill Irwin

Writer and Performance Artist | Class of November 1984

Writer and Performance Artist
New York, New York
34 at time of award
Area of Focus
Theatrical Arts
Published November 1, 1984

About Bill's Work

Bill Irwin is a performer and writer who has a special interest in bringing traditional vaudeville and silent film imagery to contemporary comedic theater work.

Irwin was an original member of Kraken (1971-74), an experimental theater company under the direction of Herbert Blau.  He was also an original cast member of San Francisco’s Pickle Family Circus (1974-79), and since 1979, he has pursued his own unique vision for theatrical clowning based on a more naturalistic-looking character.  He created several stage pieces and has been commissioned to create original works for the La Jolla Playhouse, the Seattle Repertory Theatre, Radio City Music Hall, WGBH of Boston, HBO, and the Olympic Games in Atlanta. 


Irwin draws from the fields of classic mime, dance, performance art, and theater, creating an original spectacle that defies categorization.  His works, developed in cooperation with other performers, include Not Quite/New York (1981), The Regard of Flight (1982), The Courtroom (1985), Largely New York (1989), Mr. Fox (1992), Fool Moon (1993), Hip Hop Wonderland (1996), and Texts for Nothing (2000), among many other television, film, and stage credits.

Irwin studied at the University of California, Los Angeles (1968-70), the California Institute of the Arts (1970-71), Oberlin College (1971-74), and the Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Clown College (1974).

Last updated January 1, 2005.

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