William Needles - Bill & Will: My Life with Shakespeare

Artist: William Needles (with David Shelley)
Title: Bill & Will: My Life with Shakespeare
Genre: Spoken Word

This show was originally compiled for the drama department of the University of California, where I used to teach. They'd invited me to come back and give an evening's performance on the occasion of my 81st birthday, and so I put together the first version of Bill and Will. But the genesis of the piece goes back much further than that.

From the time I was in my teens, all through the war years and into the beginning of my career at the Stratford Festival, I felt an association with certain soliloquies of Shakespeare's. Over the years I came to realize that some of those soliloquies meant a great deal to me: that they connected with things that actually happened to me. When I was in the battle of Okinawa, for instance, I don't know what I would have done without certain soliloquies from Hamlet and Henry V. When the whole world seemed to be blowing up and everything disintegrating, I was able to bring these speeches to mind and focus on them rather than on the horror that was going on around me. They saved my sanity - perhaps even my life. It still amazes me how so many of Shakespeare's soliloquies reflect the things that have happened to me in my life and my career.
When I embarked on that career, my father said, "You've picked the worst profession in the world; you'll never get work." I've been fortunate: I've been an actor now for more than 60 yeras, and I've never stopped working. Shakespeare's words have inspired me and conforted me and delighted me through all those years, and it is my great pleasure to share some of them with you on this disc.


The Birmingham Conservatory for Classical Theatre was founded in 1998 by the Festival’s then Artistic Director, Richard Monette, to prepare talented young actors for the rigours and specific requirements of acting in classical theatre. Originally conceived as an end of season five- to seven-week intensive program under its first Principal, Michael Mawson, it gradually expanded under its second, David Latham; the Conservatory now consists of three terms, from mid-September through mid-February, lasting from 18 to 20 weeks.

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