An alumnus of Boston Conservatory’s musical theater program, Tim Bennett’s (B.F.A. '85) decades-long career has seen him grow from a young actor, dancer, and singer in New York City into a jet-setting artistic director for Cirque du Soleil. Despite his busy touring schedule, Bennett found a few minutes between rehearsals to share some insight into his professional journey, and the Conservatory’s impact on his artistic life, which still informs his work today.
As a successful artistic director, entertainment director, producer, and director/choreographer, did you have a clear idea of where you wanted to be today?
My career could not have been less linear or predictable. I went to the Conservatory with the desire only to perform. I had no interest in directing, and honestly thought that I wouldn't have the head to deal with the scope of details that a director would need to manage. I performed for almost 15 years and was very happy doing just that. I was playing Frank in a production of Show Boat at the Media Theatre for the Performing Arts in Pennsylvania when the artistic director asked me if I had ever considered directing. This time, it struck me that I would be interested in being a bigger part of telling the story of a show. I had some successes, and that career took off, after which I never went back to performing. I've always thought that I had a planned path, but [it has] really deviated as needs and artistic desires have changed for me.
How do you feel your time at Boston Conservatory influenced you professionally and artistically?
My time at the Conservatory influenced me in a huge way. I had transferred in from an acting program at Boston University that was very "study" and classroom oriented, but completely disconnected from the professional world. The Conservatory immediately jump started my desire to work professionally, and showed me that we could be working even while in school.
What has been the greatest struggle you've overcome in your career? Do you have any high points or favorite accomplishments you'd like to share?
There is no linear progression from early work to successful working artist. Some of the lowest points have come right on the heels of some of the highest points; one of those times was when I stopped performing and started directing. It took a few years until I started to be able to make a living again. Right after Lion King closed—one of my highest points—I had a period where I returned to freelance directing. While that was an immensely creative time, and I was constantly busy, I was struggling financially. I've learned to never take any success for granted, and to be grateful for every success and every break.
How do you feel about the American theater landscape today? What do you think success will look like for up-and-coming playwrights, actors, and theater makers?
There have been boom times and very lean times—and the landscape right now is on both a commercial upswing and a creative upswing. Also, there is currently a lot of turnover in leadership of theater—both regionally and commercially—and the people coming into those leadership roles are excellent and doing exciting work. This means that new playwrights, actors, and storytellers will have the opportunity to break new ground, and have their voices heard. Now and for the foreseeable future is an excellent time to be working in the American theater industry and live entertainment in general.
What advice do you have for emerging Boston Conservatory alumni?
Keep moving forward. Take every opportunity that you can dig up. Be constantly hungry and seek out new situations and new opportunities. Leave your ego at home—be confident in yourself and your skills, but remember that there is always someone more talented, smarter, and who works harder than you. Respect that and keep striving to be better.