Academy Award-winning actor-director-writer Tim Robbins was invited by Live Talks Los Angeles last week to participate in a Q &A about his career and speak about the Actors’ Gang theatre troupe he founded in 1981 at The Ivy Substation in Culver City.
The session was held at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica and was moderated by comedy writer and performer Marc Maron in front of a packed house.
The interview began with Maron asking Robbins about his up-bringing and influences, and then how he put together The Actors’ Gang. Robbins had plenty to talk about since he’s been involved in films such as The Shawshank Redemption, Mystic River, The Player, Dead Man Walking and Bull Durham, among many others. Bull Durham (1988) is the film that shot him into stardom.
Even though he has had much success as an actor, his real love is being behind the camera.
One audience member asked him if he knew at the time Shawshank was being filmed that it would end up being a blockbuster. “We had no idea,” Robbins said.
The Actor’s Gang was his brainchild after he graduated with honors from UCLA in 1981 with a degree in Drama. Makes sense that he chose Drama since both of his parents were in the entertainment business. His dad, Gil, was a former member of the folk music group The Highwaymen and his mom, Mary, was an actress. They both were given acting roles in a few of Tim’s films.
The Actors’ Gang is a unique not-for-profit arts organization that not only entertains from the stage, but is also involved in education, outreach programs and workshops to empower social change among at-risk youth, gangs, and the incarcerated.
Robbins lit up as he spoke about their three annual eight-week workshops held inside the California prison system. The Prison Project uses The Actors’ Gang theatrical technique to foster self-esteem, tolerance and non-violent expression while preparing participants for life beyond the prison cell.
The Actors’ Gang also has a focus on local schools. In response to budget cuts that have eliminated arts programs in LA public schools, they help to fill the arts education gap by providing free in-school, after school and summer programs, especially in economically challenged communities.
Some of the schools that have benefited are from the Culver City School District, Inner City Arts, Get Lit, and Hollywood High.
“While entertainment is the means through which we connect with our community, it is a gateway to our education and outreach programs that serve the community’s greater good,” Robbins said.
The final question of the night came from a member of the audience who asked Robbins if the greatest change can be created by working in the arts or in politics, to which he replied, “A politician should go forth with an artist’s soul.”