Irwin, Bill

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Irwin, Bill Gender: M
Williams Mills Irwin
born on 11 April 1950 at 07:33 (= 07:33 AM )
Place Los Angeles, California, 34n03, 118w15
Timezone PST h8w (is standard time)
Data source
BC/BR in hand
Rodden Rating AA
Collector: Wilsons
Astrology data s_su.18.gif s_aricol.18.gif 21°10' s_mo.18.gif s_aqucol.18.gif 17°21 Asc.s_gemcol.18.gif 00°56'


American actor, dancer, choreographer, clown, mime and gymnast who combined his talents to create characters for comedy skits in performance art, a unique form of entertainment. He made a stage debut when he was still in school with a post-modern dance group. Obsessed with his work, Irwin has been compared to such greats as Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton for his unique form of entertainment, which includes juggling, tumbling and "hat moves." He received the 1984 Guggenheim Fellowship and a five-year MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, the first active performing artist to receive the award in the foundation’s history.

Always known as "Bill," Irwin was the oldest of three children born to an aerospace engineer father and a schoolteacher mother. His family moved frequently during his childhood, and he learned adaptability by adjusting to different environments every few years. Almost everyone in the family was stage-struck, and his maternal grandfather had put on plays and pageants in his native South Dakota, with his father designing sets for community theater productions.

Irwin appeared on stage in the early 1960s, playing rock’n’roll idol Conrad Birdie in a junior high production of "Bye Bye Birdie." He then appeared in several more student productions at high schools in the U.S. and in Belfast, Northern Ireland, where he spent his senior year as an American Field Service exchange student. In the fall of 1968, he enrolled in the theater department at the University of California at Los Angeles, but after two years, he transferred to the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, which was a new experimental arts institution founded by Walt Disney. His curriculum at Cal Arts included dance, mime, gymnastics and t’ai chi. While he was a student there, he appeared in a number of campus productions, and he began to create characters.

Irwin followed Herbert Blau, the controversial director of Cal Arts, when he left in the summer of 1971 to join the theater arts department at Oberlin College in Ohio. In mid-1974, Irwin decided to attend Clown College, an intensive training school for circus performers at the winter headquarters of Barnum & Bailey Circus in Florida. He mastered the basics of elephant riding, juggling and acrobatics. Returning to San Francisco, he answered a newspaper ad for jugglers, and was hired to be a clown with the Pickle Family Circus, a small one-ring act. He created clown characters, and partnered in his work with a dancer and choreographer, Kimi Okada, whom he married in 1977. They later divorced, in the early 1980s.

Through Okada he became interested in post-modern choreography. While at the Pickle Family Circus, he supplemented his income by teaching and performing in city schools and by entertaining at trade shows, festivals and private parties. In his spare time, he created comedy sketches, and in 1977, he and some of his collaborators were invited to perform their short sketches. The trio toured Italy, France and the Netherlands.

Upon returning to the United States, Irwin joined the Oberlin Dance Collective, and his comic inventions were so impressive that he was hired to present skits as part of a new, late-night series of performance events. This introduced him to a wider audience and earned him a special Obie Award for "inspired clowning" in the spring of 1981. A few months later, he opened the Dance Theatre Workshop’s "new mime" series with a program that included a skit called "Not Quite/New York." The skit evolved into a new edition of "The Regard of Flight," which opened at the American Place Theater in New York in May 1982 and went on to become the highest grossing show in the theater’s history to that date. The piece was nationally televised in February 1983 by the Public Broadcasting Service, and had a revival in 1987. He received a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in the mid-‘80s.

On June 5, 2005, his portrayal of George in Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? captured a Tony for Best Performance for a Leading Actor.

Link to Wikipedia biography


  • Social : Begin a program of study 1968 (U.C.L.A.)
  • Social : Begin a program of study 1971 (Oberlin College)
  • Social : Begin a program of study 1974 (Training thru Clown College)
  • Relationship : Marriage 1977 (Kim Okada)
  • Work : Prize 1981 (Obie Award)
  • Work : Published/ Exhibited/ Released May 1982 (Opened at the Amer. Place Theater)
    chart Placidus Equal_H.
  • Work : Published/ Exhibited/ Released February 1983 (Televised his performance)
    chart Placidus Equal_H.
  • Financial : Gain significant money 1984 (Guggenheim Fellowship)
  • Financial : Gain significant money 1984 (MacArthur Foundation Fellowship)

Source Notes

B.C. in hand from the Wilsons


  • Traits : Personality : Creative (Originality)
  • Traits : Personality : Hard worker
  • Family : Childhood : Order of birth (First of three)
  • Lifestyle : Work : Loves job (Obsessed with his work)
  • Lifestyle : Work : Travel for work (International tours)
  • Lifestyle : Financial : Gain - Financial success in field
  • Lifestyle : Financial : Gain - Grant, Scholarship, etc. (Fellowships, grants)
  • Vocation : Entertainment : Actor/ Actress
  • Vocation : Entertainment : Comedy
  • Vocation : Entertainment : Mime
  • Vocation : Entertain/Music : Dancer/ Teacher (Dancer and choreographer)
  • Vocation : Sports : Gymnastics
  • Notable : Awards : Tony
  • Notable : Awards : Vocational award (Obie Award)