For the next couple of weeks, laughter will be rising with the evening mists in Forest Park’s Shakespeare Glen as Twelfth Night opens this season of the Shakespeare Festival.
What better time to ask a Royal Shakespeare Company actor to reflect on his career success? Bill Homewood, whose audiobook of Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones was released in the U.S. this month (www.naxosaudiobooks.com), was with the RSC for fifteen of his thirty years on the stage. He lives in the South of France, where he owns an equestrian ranch and trains dressage horses.
Q: What made you successful in your career?
Don’t fight the tart in your heart, I tell aspiring actors. You are essentially a show-off, or you wouldn’t want to do this for a living. I’ve been a performer from my earliest days: an actor, director, singer, playwright, all over the world. (In other words, follow your passion.)
Worship at the shrine of Good Practice. Good preparation means a good job. My father, a minister, would put me in the pulpit during my youth to read aloud from Shakespeare, drilling on voice and elocution till I got it right. I got my work ethic from my mother, who’s 89 and still manages a good-sized, pristine vegetable garden. My wife and I have 27 acres in the heart of Languedoc wine country; streams, woods, orchards, olive trees. Hard work, but magic. (Be a maniac about quality.)
Work hard in pursuit of your aspirations. My agent had 40 or 50 clients. Her day in the office might total six hours, meaning she would have about 9 minutes a day for me. I, however, had 24 daily hours to devote to getting work. And I did. (To see Bill’s career results, visit www.billhomewood.com).
Hustle. I created work. I wrote shows, hassled casting directors, directors, producers. Every night I made lists of things to do for my career the next day, and my diary was marked in advance with projects to be achieved on particular dates. (Success depends on your drive to advance yourself.)
Be in charge of your next opportunity. I trained at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama in London as a concert and opera singer and classical guitarist. I’ve presented games shows on BBC Children’s Theatre and sung ballads as a cabaret singer. I moonlighted between shows with the RSC in New York at an Italian restaurant (and earned more money than I did onstage with the RSC!) (No job, company, or system will take better care of you than YOU.)
I have a restless spirit, an inability to sit still. Often in my dressing rooms, I have written dozens of commissioned stage plays and screenplays. I have taught acting and, in America, have been a guest artist at 65 universities.
I never think of myself as “successful.” “Success” in worldly terms has never been a motivation for me. I never feel fulfilled, as there is always so much to do. Fulfillment is always tomorrow’s promise. Today’s hope is, eternally, tomorrow’s happiness.
As you create your career, talk to people you see as successful, like Bill Homewood. Learn their stories. What drove them? How did they overcome obstacles or recover from failure? Someone’s heart pages will always teach you more than any book can.