Roger Bowman, longtime Recorder editor, is fondly remembered


Recorder Staff
Thursday, June 14, 2018

Roger Bowman, who edited The Greenfield Recorder’s arts and entertainment section when it was called Leisure and became central to the newspaper’s daily entertainment pages as well as its A&E and Life & Times sections for 20 years, died last week at his Greenfield home at age 84.

Bowman was more than an arts editor who had moved to Turners Falls and the Recorder after years of editing experience in New York and Washington, D.C. He also had a theater background from New York and Washington and was active in the Arena Civic Theatre in its early years.

As a member of the Shea Theatre board, Bowman was still also active in the arts community when he worked at the Recorder from 1980 through 1998.

“We had sweet times talking about the arts when I was putting shows together at Memorial Hall,” said Linda McInerney, who was artistic director of Old Deerfield Productions. “He was very supportive, and he was very gentle and he had a very high aesthetic in a world that it didn’t feel like it embraced high aesthetics much at the time. He was very cultured and very sensitive, and always wanted to talk about the classical plays,” which she was directing at the time. “He knew the history of ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ or the Shakespeare plays, and always remembered the characters and had sweet witticisms about whatever show we were putting on.”

Tim Neumann, executive director of Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, who was in several plays with Bowman and also briefly headed ACT, remembers going with Bowman each Christmas to see “The Nutcracker” performed in Northampton.

“He was also very knowledgeable about music and dance,” Neumann said. “He was really committed to covering large and small operations, and as an actor and director, he understood staging and could really see the quality of the work.”

But as for reviews, which the newspaper still did at the time, “He told me early on that he learned quickly when he worked for The Recorder, working for a small-town paper, it was very different than in New York,” Neumann recalled. “You weren’t a critic. When you were a reviewer, you were a reporter, rather than analyzing. He knew how to be encouraging for people and nurturing rather than judgmental.”

Back in the 1980s and ’90s, when there were large papers, he said, Bowman “worked really hard to cover every little thing that people were doing. That helped knit the arts community together. And Roger was central to that. He knew everybody, and everybody knew him.”

Chris Devine, who worked as a novice actor with Bowman in Arena Civic Theatre’s ACT II project the late 1970s, recalled, Bowman’s “naturally genuine presence on stage, the real deal. You never felt you were watching an actor, but that you were watching the character he was doing. And not everybody’s got that. He was always a booster.”

Pioneer Valley Symphony also found that it had a friend in Bowman, recalled Judy Hudson, who managed the symphony for 11 years that coincided with Bowman’s work at The Recorder.

“In the days before the internet, when I first met Roger Bowman, publicity for the arts in Franklin County was up close and personal. I’d bring my typed press releases and glossy photo prints for the Pioneer Valley Symphony to his desk, and he’d ask, ‘Do you want me to send a photographer to rehearsal?’ Or he’d suggest, ‘Let’s do an article about the Symphony.’ And then we’d gossip about upcoming events and people. He was interested in everything about the arts world in our county. Not only did he give good coverage to the PVS and other groups, but he was actually involved in the arts. He came to our concerts. He really loved what he was doing. … I enjoyed working with Roger a lot.”

“He had considerable impact because of what he wrote,” said Mary Kay Hoffman, former executive director of the Franklin County Arts Council. “He was interested in the arts very heavily. Roger was really good to work with. It’s too bad to lose somebody like that. ”

“He was a really smart, knowledgeable and charming man who was always very encouraging to me,” said Jenny Coliskey, ACT’s current vice president, who recalled being introduced to Arena Civic Theatre by Bowman, dressed in a top hat at Wilson’s as a promotion for the theater company a few years after its formation in the early 1970s.

After his retirement from the Recorder, Bowman was also involved in the community as a volunteer for the Center for New Americans.