Adrian Griffin, Actor / Meisner Acting Coach
Sing! Dance! Act! Thrive! Podcast Episode 005
My guest today is actor and Meisner technique coach Adrian Griffin. He is a graduate of the famed Neighborhood Playhouse, where he studied with Sanford Meisner, Bill Alderson, Ron Stetson, and Robert Modica.
For the past 30 years, he has been a working actor at the Shaw and Stratford Festivals, Neptune Theatre, Sudbury Theatre Centre and many other theatres across Canada. He is also the founding Artistic Director of both On A Wing and Prayer and THE CO. theatre companies. Adrian has been teaching Meisner’s work for over 10 years and is an experienced audition coach, for roles that range from Shakespeare to contemporary film and television.
Actor Meisner / Acting Coach, Adrian Griffin
Sing! Dance! Act! Thrive! Podcast Episode 005
Welcome to Sing Dance Act Thrive, featuring conversations with performing artists and industry influencers on what it takes to succeed in the arts. I am your host Diane Foy and I believe that you really can make a living from your creative talents. As a publicist, podcaster and coach. My mission is to educate, motivate and empower you to thrive with authenticity, creativity, and purpose.
Diane Foy 0:40
Hello and welcome to episode number five of Sing Dance Act Thrive. My guest today is actor and Meisner technique coach Adrian Griffin. He is a graduate of the famed Neighborhood Playhouse in New York, where he studied with Stanford Meisner, Bill Anderson, Ron Stetson and Robert Modica. The past 30 years he’s been a working actor at the Shaw and Stratford Festivals, Neptune Theatre, Sudbury Theater, and many other theaters across Canada. He is also the founding Artistic Director of both On a Wing and Prayer and THE CO. theatre companies. Adrian has been teaching Meisner’s work for over 10 years, and is an experienced audition coach for roles that range from Shakespeare to contemporary film and television. This is a not to be missed episode for actors. I’ll also warn you that there’s no real introduction to this interview, we just jumped right in.
Adrian Griffin 1:44
You have to have something to show and they have to have some sort of brand. And a lot of the students that I guess, who I coach who I teach my classes with, they just want the answer and, and they just want to get on with it. And that’s it.
Diane Foy 2:00
That is how I got into this because I get a lot of people wanting to hire me as a publicist. And they’re just not ready. They don’t have their stuff together yet.
Adrian Griffin 2:08 No, they haven’t fallen flat on their face.
Diane Foy 2:13 They just want the easy route, they want to skip those steps.
Adrian Griffin 2:16
I give them a little slack, because they don’t know that that’s what they’re asking for. Right? You know, you have to be compassionate and go oh, yeah, you’re young, you don’t exactly know, all you know, is what you’re being fed through certain source, right? And then, and then they come into my class, and they go, Oh, shit, I actually have to work? Oh, crap, man, which is, you know, which is great. But you know, the attrition rate can be relatively high, because some well, and it was probably like that when I was younger as well, I just don’t remember it in this particular set of terms. But people will either gravitate to work, or they will go fuck you. I need something else, I need an answer. And you’re not giving it to me. And my thing has always been well, the answer is actually in the work. I can give you lots of tricks and things that will possibly get you a job. But when you get that job, you’re not going to know what you’re doing.
Diane Foy 3:23 Then you have to have that work ethic that will you’ll figure it out.
Adrian Griffin 3:27
Yeah, those are. It’s interesting, because when I was in school in New York, everybody studies, everybody study, I was studying outside of my class. Being a part of a studio being a part of and getting studio classes was a thing. I came back to Canada and nobody studied.
Diane Foy 3:47 Not every actor does the serious studying, they just kind of jump into it.
Adrian Griffin 3:51
But people who’ve gone through conservatory programs, they get out and they go, yeah, I know what I’m doing. You know, I’m an actor now. Boom, Off I go. I was like, no, that’s not that’s not how it goes. This is a this is a progression, we continue to learn. And a lot of those people dropped out, you know, because they didn’t know what they were doing.
Diane Foy 4:18
They see the glitz and glam and go, yeah, that’s what I want to do. But they don’t know what it takes. And that’s part of what I want to, you know, share on the podcast is that I want to talk about the struggles along the way and the challenges and what got you through it and set an example of what it takes to have. You know, you’ve had a career for 25 years as a working actor.
Adrian Griffin 4:39 Yep. Actually, it’s been 30.
Diane Foy 4:42 30 years, you have got to update your bio.
Adrian Griffin 4:45 Yup. I do.
Diane Foy 4:48 So what are the some of the highlights of your career?
Adrian Griffin 4:51
Well, there are lots I mean, the funny thing is, it’s not just a one thing. It’s many accumulated things that we, maybe it’s maybe it’s age, I don’t know, where you start looking back. And it’s a series of events that really, really formed you. And also start to crystallize what you really, really want in life, right? And what you really, really want in your career, and those highlights are so varied and they came at different times, again, they came at and I guess probably why they’re so powerful is that they came at that time when you really, really needed it, when you needed to move on or you needed to, as you said earlier, take a break, or somehow redefine what you were doing. But I would say going into Shaw Festival almost right out of theatre school, actually I did a show at Theatre Passe Muraille under Clark Rogers. And it was this wonderful madness. A Donna Lypchuk play, whom I absolutely and you know, I knew nobody when I came back. And it was this people were high and drunk and on many different drugs. And this was probably 1987, early 1987. I was like, what the hell is going on here. But I mean, it was it was a carnival. And it was really, really eye opening, going into my sort of first experience in Toronto Theater. But then, almost immediately after that, I went to the Shaw Festival to apprentice and what I learned there and kept for so many years is stagecraft. Just the grind of working in Repertory Theater. This is something that Brits knew forever, which was all yeah, Repertory Theater, you go there and you learn the technique, the ability to grind it out for, you know, how many months, nine months there, right? You’re doing three different plays, but you’re also doing workshops and you’re meeting a ton of people and directors and people come from different aspects. And for me, it was an eye opener. Wow, this is the this is the theater. This is you know, the big time theater, it’s not your Fringe theater. So that was you know, I think if not a highlight, it was definitely a grounding, it was definitely a place where I learned and I learned from a lot of great actors who I got to work with and directors and designers and what the theater you know, actually was and and what it took. Boy and I also got to wear great costumes that you know, were tailored for you like what, we usually went and bought these at the you know, Sally Ann and you’re actually making my costume? It was incredible. It was incredible eye opener. And I and I came out of that experience though, creating my first theatre company because, you know, as an apprentice, you don’t get to do much and you do you do a lot. But you then you don’t do a lot you have a lot of understudies, you have a lot of work to do, but you want to get out there and create and be an actor and, and have a voice out there. And so I created my first Theatre Company coming out of out of that. And between my first and second season of the Shaw Festival, I created a company called On A Wing and a Prayer Theatre Company. And we did a play called Ned and Jack written by Sheldon Rosen who’s a Canadian. You know, I believe he now lives in New York or in the US somewhere, I’m not sure. But it was about the friendship of John Barrymore-Edward Sheldon, it was a playwright in the 20’s. And it was during the opening night of Hamlet for John Barrymore on Broadway shows this lovely friendship. Yeah, it’s a great play actually its a really, really great play. And now I’m probably actually old enough to do it, then I was not old enough to do it.
Diane Foy 9:10
How did this all start? Like what? When you were young, what drew you to acting? how did how did you get into this crazy business?
Adrian Griffin 9:16
Oh, boy, I could take up an hour just talking about that. My parents, my mother was a dancer. She’s Australian, actually. She was touring in Europe. And she met my father who was a cinematographer. So arts was always a part of our family. They took me to plays, they took me to the opera, they took me to the ballet. So it was always it was always there was always present. But I think actually, the real answer is that by the time I was a teenager, girls were in the theater programs. And boys were playing sports. And I could be in a locker room with all these guys, or I could be with five other girls or 10 other girls, and be literally one of the only guys in the room. So it was literally pure puberty was the defining factor in that.
Diane Foy 10:12
So there was no with your parents, there was no forcing you to go to college and university to study get a real job. You know, you came from that arts background, which is great.
Adrian Griffin 10:21
No, in fact, they didn’t try to entirely discourage me. But every time I would bring it up, their eyes would roll like, Oh, God, not this. Are you kidding? Have you not learned anything from us?
Diane Foy 10:35 So the opposite. They were like, yeah, you don’t want to do what I do.
Adrian Griffin 10:39
No, in fact, even when I was in theater school, my mother would send me cut out from the newspaper, good paying jobs that I could apply for when I get back from theater school in New York. So they weren’t particularly encouraging.
Diane Foy 11:02 They don’t want you to struggle.
Adrian Griffin 11:04
No, they don’t want to struggle. And God love them for that, you know, they don’t want you to live the life that they had to live. I remember the first time I said, I want to be an actor to my father. And he said, well, you better learn how to drive a cab. Like what the hell does that mean?
Diane Foy 11:20 Let’s say you gotta love it more than anything.
Adrian Griffin 11:22
Absolutely. I actually started at YPT. And they have a summer youth program there. And I started doing that summer youth program. And from there I found my parents actually found it was funny. They would discourage you, but then they would find all these things for me to do, I was like, Oh, great, thank you for facilitating this. A woman named Ana Furstenberg, she ran a group called the Theater Plant in Toronto, and it was sort of a youth group, where you wrote about, actually she mostly wrote, but you would improvise stuff. And she would take those improvisations, and she would create a show around the things that were important to youth. And at that time, she was great. She was she was literally the first person that took me inside and said, You know what, I don’t know what you’re thinking, but you might want to think about doing this. And that was huge for me know, and I probably about 13 or 14 when that happened. And that was, you’re right, I should do this. So she was a huge influence. And she would have you know, play readings. You know, I learned about Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill and The Shakespeare, and it was just incredible. She was a real nurture of young artistic youth. You know, I believe she lives in Montreal now. I hope she’s well. But she was huge. He was huge in my development, for sure. Because she made it exciting. She made it accessible, that a lot of those are big ideas and concepts were immediate and available to young people because she took the time.
Diane Foy 13:19 So what made you move to England to study, what’s with the detour before New York?
Adrian Griffin 13:24
It was a detour but it came out of restlessness that I dropped out of high school, there was a lot of family strife at that time. Actually, before that, this has to go back to the time I was 16. Because we were living in Italy, my parents had moved to Rome. My mother was continuing studying and my father was also. But they decided that they were going to have a big divorce right in the middle of that. So the family blew up. And my father and I, took a train ride. Then my school year, after living in Rome for a year, took a train ride back. And we stopped in Paris and then stopped in London stayed with a friend of my father’s who he had in the 1970’s worked with, and he was a driver for the film company he was working for Nielsen Ferns at the time. And he owned a pub. And I was like, this is the greatest thing in my life, right. And I want to come back here. And he said, well if you ever want to come and work here for a time, you always have a spot. I went done. And about two years later, when I was 18, I quit High School, because things just weren’t going well here. And I said I’m moving to England, because to my father and said, I want to contact your friend Peter, I want to work there and I’m going to go to theater school there, and they’re going to be a Shakespearean actor. So I proceeded to do all that. And he supported that which was really, really quite amazing. not putting a wrench in my own falling land letting me to figure it all out, which was great of him to do that. And I did, I went there, I audition for a bunch of theater schools there. But I was unbelievably young and naive. And ill-prepared to do the work that they the standard what they were looking for. But you know, I got the last round of the RADA auditions, which was crazy. But eventually, it was me living there working in a pub. But then I met this other actor and I ended up doing a pub show of Vaclav Havel’s play, called Audience about Vaclav Havel’s life working in a brewery. And I fell in love with this writer and I fell in love with this work of traveling around pubs and putting it on yourself being able to do it. And which stuck with me. And still I do this today was a DYI time right? This is 1983 punk rock and DIY was it was a thing, don’t you know, don’t let them keep you down. Do what do what you want to do. Right. So that philosophy really, really carried forward for me. Also, at that time, a big punk rocker.
Diane Foy 16:28 I work with D.O.A.
Adrian Griffin 16:29 Yeah. Did you really? Wow.
Diane Foy 16:31 I’ve worked with him for I don’t know, 11 years now.
Adrian Griffin 16:34 Wow. I just had a fan moment. That’s right.
Diane Foy 16:40 Yep D..OA. There you go.
Adrian Griffin 16:41 That’s awesome.
Diane Foy 16:40 As you were.
Adrian Griffin 16:45
Yeah, that ended up you know, coloring me creating my own theater company my, you know, theatre companies, plural, and doing a lot of work on my own, and not relying on others to give me work, or deign to give me work. I spent a year there had a big love affair that broke up. And I decided to leave, came back to Canada for about five months and then headed off to New York after that, because I was restless.
Diane Foy 17:16 So you got into the Neighborhood Playhouse.
Adrian Griffin 17:18
No, I didn’t, I actually ended up at another school because I missed the deadline. And but the application was still and they still held my application. I went to another school called in New York Academy. Which I didn’t learn very much at. No, it was a an interesting little place. But I was like, Oh, yeah, that’s why you took me so quickly. There’s my money.
Diane Foy 17:43 That’s why I didn’t get into that school. Yeah.
Adrian Griffin 17:43
And just opportunity you know, living in New York is an education in itself. And I studied, I studied hard and I had gotten a call from my father and said, Oh, they want to see what I’ve been trying to get a hold of you. At this time, I lived 158 streets in Broadway, which was Spanish Harlem in 1985, which was rather dangerous. And the only phone I had was actually out on the corner, which was a payphone.
Diane Foy 18:13 Oh my god. That’s such a movie.
Adrian Griffin 18:16
It was my office like, actually we did everything like papers everywhere. This is when you had you know, paper and had to make phone calls and plug quarters into. My father, I’ve been trying to reach you had left a message at the New York, the other New York school, the New York Academy, that he’s been trying to reach me because it was the only way you can reach me leave a message unless I had called home and said you have a meeting at the Neighborhood Playhouse tomorrow at blah blah blah. I’m like, oh crap. Okay, thank you. So I went in there and gentleman named Harold Baldrige who was actually a Canadian from Calgary and was actually fundamental in the opening of theater Calgary with Christopher Newton, who eventually was the artistic director at Shaw Festival, who I eventually ended up working for. So everything everything ties in, in one way or another. And they accepted me. And I started the next year at the Playhouse.
Diane Foy 19:23
Oh, can you tell me a little bit about the history of the Neighborhood Playhouse and its importance to acting? It’s has such a great reputation.
Adrian Griffin 19:34
Yeah well, it’s funny. When I got accepted, I had absolutely no idea who Sanford Meisner was, or what the Neighborhood Playhouse meant. I was unbelievably naive. And I ended up in a lot of places by accident. I as I look back and go, how did that actually happen. But once I did understand what was going on, it changed my life, man, literally, everything that I had known about acting, everything I thought I’d known about art, all of a sudden, was turned upside down. And that it wasn’t just about pretending it wasn’t just about doing anything that you wanted. It was actually it had technique, and it had a way of doing that. That would allow you to explore but also be specific in what you were trying to accomplish. And it blew my mind. I said, Oh my god, this is and it was literally after the first day. I knew it was that light bulb going off. That what for whatever reason that this was my path. This was this was the thing that spoke to me, because I’ve been wandering around for, you know, five years already trying to figure it out. And this was the first thing in my life that actually spoke to me, that said, Oh, this is for you. You know, it’s not for everyone. Right? The path. You know, it isn’t just one path Sanford Meisner even said that himself was this might not be for you. This is not, you know, there’s not just one path, you may have to go and do a lot of other things. In fact, he encouraged us to do other things and to learn other things, you know, that the things that he and all the other group theatre, people were doing it were wild, if you ever read Harold Clurman’s book about the group theater, The Fervent Year’s, it’s an incredibly enlightening and they were doing wild wild shit. You know, trying to find it trying to trying to find how to do this how to be specific about this thing that is performing and being an actor and or in a writer or a director or any part of the actual experience. I realized in that in that moment that it was more about being creative person than necessarily just being an actor being Sanford Meisner’s. I can teach you to act but what I can do, you know, many I say this to my students, as well as I can’t necessarily teach you to act. But I can hopefully be a part of or illuminate some way of having a richer, artistic life and giving you tools to explore that.
Diane Foy 22:24 Right and how long was the program?
Adrian Griffin 22:25 Two years.
Diane Foy 22:27
I saw some other names that you listed as your instructors. Could you maybe mention each one and what was the key lesson that you learned from them? We could save Meisner for last, then we’ll get into the technique.
Adrian Griffin 22:43
Well, the thing is, I, we had Meisner in our first year, we had a once a month on a Friday. But when we in their second year, we had him twice a month on Fridays, which was great. But there were, as you said, there’s a there was a lot of other teachers there that really, really were profound in their, in my experience with them. And now that I’m teaching myself, I really, really want to thank them. Because I realized actually how hard it was the work that they were doing, to give us that bit of knowledge, the tools to work in, in the theater, to work as an artist. My first-year teacher was William Alderson. I believe he now I don’t think he teaches at the playhouse. I believe he’s been out in California for a long time now. William Alderson he was tough as nails. And he really, really took me to task about a lot of the things that I was doing and made me a question in a deep way what was true. Because, you know, at that time, you know, I’ve gone through a lot of stuff, and I was more than willing to bullshit anyone. But he was really, really a taskmaster and being honest and truthful. There was another teacher, their name, Richard Pinter, who ended up actually being the head of the acting department, I don’t think he is now. But he gave me a sense of play in the sense of joy, working with this technique where it which was a great balance between William Alderson and him, they serious, the very, you know, take yourself to task, truthful entity, and then the joyous part of it. He was very funny he was, and you know, you got oh I can take the piss out of myself too. That’s great. It’s not just all drudgery. I believe Ron Stetson, who is now I don’t know if he is the head of the acting department now there. But he, when I was started there, he was his first year as, as a teacher, and he brought a fresh perspective of just being new and excited about it all which was great. And then probably, the teacher that had the most effect on me was a gentleman named Bob Modica because he also had such a demand about truth. But he also had what I would call a Bruce Springsteen-y, kind of family truth and home and hearth, and it was very attractive and everything that wasn’t my life. But it was very raw and open. I think the whole theaters and school experiences very raw and open. That’s kind of the point of it. But he taught me a lot about love and not just other people but your art and loving your art and loving what you’re doing and bringing yourself to that art. That you were enough that the experiences that you had, that you didn’t have to be anything else, which is very important. And Sanford Meisner was so brutally honest, so brutally honest about everything is terrifying, you know, just talking about it, my hands, sweat, not terrifying, because he was mean but because he was just honest. You know, and, and you’re, you’re a kid and you and you want to perform and you want to be like him all those, you know, all the baggage that being a student knows, right. So, and the blessing was at the beginning, I didn’t know who the f**k he was. It was like, I don’t even I what, I don’t know who you are. Then I started to learn. And then I started to go. Then I started to learn about the group theater then I started to learn a lot and learned a lot in a very, very short period of time. But he’s genius, well, which is the entire technique that this man invented is pretty incredible.
Diane Foy 27:09 Explain that to me, what is the Meisner technique?
Adrian Griffin 27:13
Well, Sanford Meisner believed that actors had two major problems. They don’t know how to listen. And they’re self-conscious. And he invented a series of techniques or a series of tools in the technique that allowed the student to or taught them how to listen, A number one, and B loose your self-consciousness. And the major component, one component that most people know about is called the repetition game. And what it does is it eliminates the language, so that you don’t have to be clever. And through that rapid repetition game, we start to recognize true behavior and affecting his behavior, then we can get down to truthful behavior, things that we are not trying to cover up or come from a clever place. And that really, really for me, is the genius of the technique is by removing that expectation, we become truthful in our responses. Once we become truthful, and our responses, we then start to know how we truly feel about things. What really means something to us, and what really doesn’t mean something to us, then we can take that knowledge and then we can use it artistically.
Diane Foy 28:39
And how does it compare to Stella Adler and Lee Strasberg and also the method. So what’s the deal there?
Adrian Griffin 28:47 What’s the deal there? Well, the deal there is …
Diane Foy 28:53 I’m not an actor. So tell me about that.
Adrian Griffin 28:57
It’s really sort of gotten a bad rep or because people think they know what that is or the end. Because all you have to become this and you have to dredge up your personal memories of you know, you’re dying cats. But what what happened was, all the divisions that really, occurred when the group theater was together, you have to go right back to the source.
Diane Foy 29:24 Right, because they were all in a group together.
Adrian Griffin 29:27
Yes, the group theatre started in the 1930’s, with Harold Clurman, Lee Strasberg, and Cheryl Crawford with the major directors of this. And what had happened is that they had experienced the Moscow Art Theatre coming to New York and performing and said we want to do that. And what they were doing was the work of Constantine Stanislavski, and they wanted to create a company that did American plays. Because at that time, Broadway, it was all imports from England farces, comedies, music hall, vaudeville, right. There were no real American playwrights at that time. Well actually there probably were….
Diane Foy 30:16 We will get letters.
Adrian Griffin 30:17
Yeah, absolutely. Totally getting letters. But they defined American acting or modern acting as we know it today. That’s how large their influence was, and is to this day. The thing that sort of really divided the group theatre was how to get to truthful emotion, what really, really sparked the actor and how could you bring truthful emotion and reality to the stage. Now somebody like Sanford Meisner, and Stella Adler believed that it was the imagination, the imagination was the most powerful tool, our brain was the most powerful tool that we had. And Lee Strasberg believes that emotional memory, which is sort of the cornerstone of what we call method acting, what I would say about method acting is are the ideas method where it came from is that Stella Adler had gone to meet Stanislavski in Paris, in the 1930’s because this is the work that we’re doing this is what we are trying to accomplish, where we’re following you, the teachings that you all the literature that he had put out that time the work that they’ve seen the Moscow Art Theatre. And she was talking about emotional memory in Stanislavski said I abandoned that years ago, Stella Adler comes back to New York and says we’re doing it all wrong. He’s abandoned that this is, and sounds like he said, no, I’m working now with your imagination. And this is what we’re doing. And there’s a big brouhaha with the company. And they were brought together and everybody argued about the direction of the company and and and how they were studying what and what they were doing. And legend has it that Lee Strasberg stood up and said, I don’t teach the Stanislavski system, which is what it was called, I teach the Strasberg method. Boom, the method is invented and, and becomes a thing. Right? And Strasberg worked from you know, he was in deep analysis and working from a very deep place which is very rich and holds some valuable lessons, you know. I have a lot of friends who work in that way, and who teach that method of working. And again, nothing is one way or the other. But it is really what works best for you, what tools you can grab and make your own. For me the road of Sanford Meisner’s work. The simplicity of it. Wow, what we believe is simple, it becomes much, much more difficult as you start to go through it. But the simplicity of learning how to listen. There are many, many directors I had before I even studied at the Playhouse, just listen to your partner, just listen to your partner. Okay, how do you do that? Nobody ever taught me how to listen, how do you do that? How do you take your attention off of yourself and become not self-conscious? How do you do that. And he gave me real tools to do that, and to open myself up to possibilities. And that was what I what really attracted me about the Meisner’s techniques is that it was about possibilities. It wasn’t about me, it was always and it is always about my part. It’s always about who I’m working with. And that’s what he taught me.
Diane Foy 34:01 And what drew you to wanting to be a coach yourself?
Adrian Griffin 34:07
Well, I resisted it for years and years and years and years. And really in this scope of things I’ve only been teaching about 10 years now. But the resistance was, was entirely ego-based. It was about, you know, if you’re not saying those who don’t do teach, or whatever it is.
Diane Foy 34:33 Those who can’t do teach.
Adrian Griffin 34:29 So that was always in the back of my head going. That just hurts.
Diane Foy 34:38 Right. It’s like giving up.
Adrian Griffin 34:40
Yeah. Well, I started actually teaching with my second theatre company, The Company, or The CO. And we had built a collective of actors and directors. And we also decided that we would train all our actors and ourselves in many, many facets of the theater. We did Lecoq work, we did mask work, we did Chekhov’s gesture work, worked with Mump and Smoot, clowns, myself, I taught Meisner work, we studied as much as we could, trying to find a common language so that all the actors, the directors, we all work from this place. Which was a fabulous experiment and did some great work. But that’s where I really, really started teaching, which was with my own Theatre Company. So I got around the idea of those who don’t know how to, to teach, by going on and actor in this, and I’m an artistic director of this as well. So I can teach these people and I’m not, I’m not a failure in my life.
Diane Foy 35:46 Right. And you’ve continued to work throughout. So it’s not like give it up to teach.
Adrian Griffin 35:52
No, but it’s just one of those really, really horrible things that is out there and you feel and you don’t want to feel that you don’t want to, you want to feel a part and be a vibrant part of that acting community, which is, you know, valid, but yeah, and I worked through it. And then I started doing sort of one off, you know, weekends, you know, of introduction of Meisner. Things has sort of dipping my toe in to the pool to see you know, how this would work. And that if people are actually interested in being taught by the end also. I was teaching myself to teach, I was learning how to teach, as opposed to hang up my shingle and going, okay, let’s see, who comes and what am I going to do? So I was refining how I, and teaching myself the things that I do now. And those were finding me, you know, and I went and watched other people teaching technique and ask questions. It was a slow process, to finally walk myself into being a full time teacher, for sure. Yeah.
Diane Foy 37:05
Yeah. You’ve done a lot of film and television as well as the stage. How do you find the difference in your approach?
Adrian Griffin 37:17
I like to quote, oh, gosh, what was his name? He went at the time that I was at the Playhouse. He ran the Juilliard School, Kevin Kline and Robin Williams were all part of Christopher Reeves. Houseman, (John) Houseman was his last name, I can’t remember his first name, terrible person. But he was often asked the difference between stage acting and film and television acting. And his retort to that was always if you’re not a well trained actor, then neither is you’re not going to succeed in either. So the acting and being well trained and being a good actor and knowing what to do and having technique is as going to serve you. But the other parts are just technical aspects that can be learned in a day. Really. But and and think about that Houseman was talking about that he came from an institution like Juilliard were they taught voice movement, singing, dancing, they were well rounded actors, as we did at the Playhouse. And those are important to be able to articulate, to be able to have a voice, to be able to take care of that voice, and know what you’re doing with it, to know how to breathe, but they’re just as important actually, in film and television as they are on the stage.
Diane Foy 38:45 Do you prefer one over the other?
Adrian Griffin 38:46
I love making films, I love being a part of that process. But the theater is, and I think for most actors, I’m speaking for most actors. The theater’s first loves, it was my first love and it was the it was my training ground. It was my that’s how I grew up. And it informed me it did so many things as a learning experience. But theater is as a long, hard grind. You know, and I haven’t done it in probably about seven years now, to focus mostly on film and television, but not just because of money, but because I was traveling a lot. And you’re living out of a suitcase a lot. And you are not seeing your family and things that are important to you. And it’s a choice that you have to make its, you know, particularly in Canada, where you travel long distances to because it’s a huge country to go places, and you’re stuck there for you know, six, eight weeks, and you know, life happens and things happen that you want to be a part of. And you don’t have a life as a theater actor.
Diane Foy 40:09 And with film and television, there’s enough happening in Toronto?
Adrian Griffin 40:13
You know, and there’s never enough happening. For an actor. There’s stuff happening. There’s just never enough. But that’s always an actor’s lament. Right. It’s like, there’s never enough. Why did that person get that? Not me. But yeah, there is there’s work here. There’s work here. And there’s there’s always work that you create, I create my own work. I’m you know, I’m also a writer and director. And I write and direct my own film work and I’m directing a piece for a friend in February. I just did worked for CFC, actually an ex student. She wrote a piece for the CFC, and another director I know. I did my third short film for her. You know, there’s there’s always work that’s not necessarily remunerative, where you’re getting money, but you are you are doing your craft, you are working. Right. If you wanted to make money, man, this is not the this is not the field you should choose to be like, but I mean, it’s a life. Right? It’s and it’s a very, very rich life filled, filled with incredible people that you that you will meet that you will share experiences with as well as artistic ideas and values. I mean, I would I wouldn’t give it up for anything. Really.
Diane Foy 41:33 Was there ever a time that you wanted to?
Adrian Griffin 41:35 Oh, yeah.
Diane Foy 41:37 Totally because there’s a lot of challenges along the way the struggle.
Adrian Griffin 41:41
Absolutely. It’s like once a month you go I’m out of this game. There’s no real glory in it. There’s no real money that my there are times that are really, really difficult. And, you know, my, my wife is a stage manager. One point, you know, we struggled, we leave, you know, over, we’ve been together 28 years, we’ve struggled, you know to live. And that’s a reality.
Diane Foy 42:06 A reality for most people in the arts, but you do it because you can’t do anything.
Adrian Griffin 42:12
Absolutely. We hold other jobs. We hold other jobs. You know I finally totally understand my father’s comment, have you better learn to drive a cab.
Diane Foy 42:24 Well, now actors can do Uber?
Adrian Griffin 42:27
Yes, yes. acting jobs end that’s the thing, right? They end you are on contract for, you know, if in the theater, six to eight weeks, and film, three or four days, maybe possibly a day here and there. But most of the time, you’re working at working, trying to get a job. But when you’re working, it’s great. And when you’re not working you are you hopefully have enough money or you have enough other work to sustain you. It’s a life. It’s not just a career, you know, coming out of theatre school, boy, did we have we have a career, we’re gonna be something, then you go, No, actually, it’s a life, you have to choose to be in it. And the attrition rate, at least in even in my class was massive, you know, people, people I have worked with over the years have have disappeared, you know, because it becomes too difficult.
Diane Foy 43:24
What are some of the advice that you give to actors, your your students about the life.
Adrian Griffin 43:31
The life. Well, it’s funny, it doesn’t actually come up a lot. What I really, really try to tell them, or teach them is that if they take care of their artistic cells, that everything else will follow that if you’re if you’re, if you’re looking at this as trying to just succeed and be famous or be wealthy, then this is not necessary. Like that may happen. That absolutely may happen. And and great for you. But that’s not what I’m here to teach. This is not I teach artistic skills that I’ll allow you to explore a specific medium, and then hopefully, other mediums as well. And I can make you solid in those tools. And you can apply them, you can apply them to your life, you can apply them to your and you can apply them to your acting. But if you’re if you’re looking for a specific type of success, I can’t help you with that. And that and that that is that is that is a whole other ballgame. There’s there’s a lot of road in between there.
Diane Foy 44:46
Yeah, yeah, that’s probably why I want to get into coaching too to help them between that and when you’re ready for PR. Lot of just, they just don’t understand the branding part of it. But you’ll have to know business, you need to know, accounting, you know, and you’ll figure out a job where you can have flexibility.
Adrian Griffin 45:09
Yes, absolutely. I wish in theatre school that they taught that. I mean, I think maybe they do not I’m not sure. But in my theater school, they didn’t teach us anything about the reality. When you actually step out the doors to join your life. It was like good luck. Have fun with that. Now you’re trained actors go and do it. But there was there was learning, you know, accounting and and that you’re now a you’re not an employee, you are independent contractor that you have to have this, you have to know this, you have to save all your receipts, like nobody told me that nobody told me that, in the first few years that I was an actor, I then had to pay exorbitant amounts of taxes because I didn’t know what I was doing. I was like, This is not right, I didn’t make this much money, how? Well, because you don’t have tax write offs, which you should have had, because you’re an independent contractor. You’re not an employee, all of it all, all that business stuff. I wish somebody told me how to do that, you know, finding an agent, what that means, you know, paying your agent, all what they take what they know, it was all sort of very well, we had stars in our eyes, for sure. And as they do to, you know, but I’m always very, very open to my students, if they want to talk about that stuff. I’m more than willing to talk about it. Most of the time, most of the time, they’re nervous about, you know, fulfilling thing, the tasks that they have to do within that class. And then they just want to get out because they like either succeeded, or they felt that they didn’t succeed. And then they just want to get out.
Diane Foy 46:58
Well that point, they don’t want to deal with that business stuff. Anyways, they’re working on the craft. But then there needs to be a step after that, to go to kind of teach them the skills of how to manage the career and elevate relationships.
Adrian Griffin 47:15
Absolutely. And yeah, we didn’t get any of that. Nothing out of the world. There you go.
Diane Foy 47:26 Cool. Well, any other tips or tricks or anything you want to share?
Adrian Griffin 47:30
Well, not really. I thought we had a lovely conversation. I really appreciate it. For me, it’s always about be kind to each other and be empathetic, because then you’ll be better artists, be interested in people be interested in life. Don’t be disinterested, because you can’t afford that because everything, again, that I’ve been taught is it’s outside of me. It’s not me. It’s out there. It’s out there. And really, you know, be interested in that be interested in the other person. That’s about it.
Diane Foy 48:06
Cool, and where can people find you online? What is the studio that you work at?
Adrian Griffin 48:11
Fraser Studios. Also, I have a Facebook page. The Meisner technique with Adrian Griffin
Diane Foy 48:19 It was great talking to you.
Adrian Griffin 48:16 You too, Diane.
Diane Foy 48:23
It was so great talking to Adrian I learned so much. I’m not an actor, but I’m sure all you actors learned a lot too. For more detailed show notes, visit dianefoy.com/005.
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