Running successfully since 2004, Griffin Ambassadors is an annual access-all-areas program for Year 10 to 12 students supported by the Robertson Foundation. The year-long program is stocked with a hearty menu of workshops, performances and access to industry professionals, all geared to support the next generation of theatre-goers and theatremakers.
We caught up with one of our awesome Ambassadors, Helia (Year 12), who participated in this year’s online writing workshop amidst Sydney’s lockdown. Read on!
Hey Helia! What does being a Griffin Ambassador mean to you?
Being a Griffin Ambassador means a lot to me and I’m genuinely very grateful to be a part of it, because I was able to learn about the basics of the different sectors of the theatre world. I got to watch a Griffin production in the time before we went into lockdown, which meant that straight after I went through a day of amazing workshops about those different sectors of theatre. I got to see it all play out, literally.
What do you feel you’ve learned through Ambassadors that you couldn’t have learned at school?
Everything I’ve learnt at Griffin are things that I had no chance of learning at school. All thanks to the horrendous neglect that the arts get, of course. Most notably, the lockdown Zoom series has been great, where over four weeks we learnt the process of writing a play. I learnt where to find ideas for a play, how to develop the story and character, the subtext of it all, along with understanding dialogue in other plays for your own use. I could NEVER learn anything like that in school.
The learning process at school, at least for me, is not a learning process. Everything is too mechanical, way too formalised, and my brain pretty much shuts off. At Griffin, everything and everyone is approachable. And when everything and everyone is approachable, my brain is infinitely more switched on. I don’t overthink the things I do, thinking if I ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ do or say something, because it’s an open environment. It doesn’t feel like I’m sitting in a room, paying as much mind as I can muster to do as I’m told. We may be listening and learning from a teacher, but it’s all collaborative. We’re allowed and expected to let our creative sides flourish. For example, before lockdown we worked with the Movement Coordinator Shondelle Pratt and spent the workshop letting our bodies move the way we deemed fit for the prompt we were given.
School tends to do this really cool thing where they do not prepare you for genuine things you can/could do after high school. The things I learnt at the day of workshops earlier this year were fun and realistic. I was having fun, and I was also learning about the intricacies of working in different sectors in theatre. Like when we spent a workshop making set designs out of pizza boxes! We were put into groups and had what felt like hundreds of magazines and craft supplies at our disposal. Which turns out, is what the person leading that workshop does to do their very job!!! It’s not all of their job, but to actually do even a little bit of what someone does especially a job in theatre, is more than I’ll ever learn at school.
What has been your favourite part(s) of the program?
LEARNING. Genuinely, truly, learning things. Also, meeting so many people who are interested in theatre and are actually tolerable! Not pompous! I’m not saying there WASN’T anyone like that in the crowds of kids in other programs I’ve done, but it was a nice breath of fresh air to meet fun people who also like theatre!
You’ve just finished a four-week playwriting course with Griffin Literary Associate, Julian Larnach. Any advice on how someone could get started writing their magnum opus?
Just START… just start with something. ANYTHING. Just dip your feet in and go in completely free of self-judgement. When you start judging your process, things derail. Don’t slowly go into the water and judge yourself for how you went in. Just go in, don’t think about it, take your time, and be patient with yourself. The creative process is a long one, so be there for yourself. Be patient towards yourself and take your time. ♥
What would you tell another high school student who was wanting to get more involved with theatre?
SCOUR the internet for program opportunities or theatre opportunities in general. I was nowhere near being as confident as I am now in the world of theatre than I was before I did the Griffin Ambassadors program.
What do you hope to do after school?
I’m not sure specifically. I have many ideas that bounce around slowly like the old Windows screensaver in my head, but in at least two of those ideas are theatre related. Writing, directing, MAYBE acting, but there’s also things like counselling that’s bouncing around up there. Who knows—I’ll cross those bridges when I get there. And if everything hasn’t collapsed. ♥
And finally, what’s helping you through lockdown?
Deep cleaning my room, cooking and baking, playing with my birds, a (very newfound) room cleaning ritual, going on video calls with my friends, and barely doing any schoolwork. 😊
If you, or someone you know, would like to be a Griffin Ambassador, submit an Expression of Interest.