This month, we celebrate a particularly creative individual – 24 year old Craig Griffen. Originally from Adelaide, South Australia, Craig now resides in Mandurah, Western Australia.
Craig is really, really really into theatre, producing theatre and is heavily into production design for theatre. “I love performing – acting, dancing and singing… i’m also into film, writing, reading and just being inspired!” Craig says.
“I get inspired by great creative people and their work. When I see a creative soul who is living up to the skills and the gifts they have been given, it fuels the fire that burns inside of me. I am at my most ‘inspired’ when I have a script or song in front of me that is full of potential. It sets my imagination into overdrive and I start to see a show building up inside my mind.”
“In terms of specific people who inspire me, Julie Taymor is an astounding artist who is incredibly wise and brave; her creativity and creative energy excites me constantly. As a producer, I am very inspired by the work of Cameron Makintosh and the work he brings to the stage; he knows how to get the best people and to get the best out of those people. I am also energised by the costume work of William Ivey Long on Broadway, the cinematic design work of John Myhre (Chicago, Dreamgirls), Dante Feretti (The Aviator, Ganfs of New York) and the work of Director Rob Marshall on-screen. The music of Philip Glass inspires me and at the other end of the spectrum, great Broadway Tunes get me fired up too.”
When asked about his achievments, Craig answers, “this is hard for me to answer because I don’t feel like I have “achieved” anything particularly special – I have just done the things I have to do. But I know the kind of things you mean…”
“Playing the role of Edna Turnblad in Hairspray the Musical in Perth, for this role I received the ITA Robert Finley Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Musical.I have recently played the role of The Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz.
In 2011 I founded an independent theatre production company, Fresh Bred Productions. Under that banner, I produced The Diamante – a jukebox musical which I was involved in writing and which I directed. Fresh Bred has just now launched a full season of community theatre events in WA, starting with a production of Patrick Marber’s Tony Award Nominated play, “Closer”, which is being directed by Jack McKenzie – making his directorial debut – and an original score has been composed by Kohan Van Sambeek. In this production, I take the role of Producer and Production Designer. This production opens February 2014.
Fresh Bred’s driving force is young people. Out of necessity, in community theatre, production teams are made up of a lot of older people, which makes sense because of the skills and experience they have gained. But I firmly believe that given the right tools and the right support, young people who have creative vision and creative drive can bring a completely new and exciting point of view to theatre.”
But it hasn’t been a walk in the park for Craig at all. He exclaims, “it’s been very hard…”
“My biggest challenge is myself. It sounds like a cliche but i t is true. I live with ‘Severe Depressive Syndrome’ and I struggle with that every day. I was diagnosed with the condition several years ago, but looking back, the effects of it were taking effect much much further back. Of course, at the time, you cannot see what the real problem is, but symptoms of the depression lead me to leaving school prematurely (I don’t like the term ‘regret’, but not finishing school surrounded by the amazing teaching team I had around me is a huge regret). I moved away from friends and family to live in Western Australia and suffered through a year of very very hard times. I even went through a time of homelessness. I finally had a friend who forced me to see a doctor about what was going on. Almost three years ago I chose to deal with my depression by nourishing my creativity. I find that since focusing so much more time and energy into creative endeavours, it is easier to cope with the dark times of depression. It is not the sort of thing you can ever be “cured” of, but it can be easier to cope with if you are able to nourish your soul in some way.”
The other big challenge is: other people. When you do start work in a creative environment, even in community and voluntary work, so many other people try to bring you down. It’s like.. very clique-ey and if you aren’t in this clique then they will do whatever they can to stop you… some people almost seem afraid that they might lose their standing or “position” because your work is good…which I get – but my attitude toward those things is that, if you are doing good work, that is top quality, then nobody could ever replace you.”
Do you have any advice for young people wanting to start their career in theatre?
“I dont know if i’m in the position to give anyone advice… but there are some things I know about…”
No matter what your art is – theatre, film, writing, painting, singing, dancing… ANYTHING – if you wake up thinking about it, and you fall asleep thing about it, if in your heart you know you can’t do anything but be creative – fight for it…DO IT! It’s the only way you’ll be able to look back and be happy.
-Surround yourself with passionate people. Negativity is contagious.
-Do something creative every day that is unrelated to your main project – inspiration comes from the most unlikely of places.
-Embrace experience, embrace the challenges, embrace limitations, embrace loss
-If your passion in theatre… be a theatre MAKER and a storyteller, don’t just recreate what you’ve seen before, or “get by” with the bare minimum
Finally, to wrap up…some of the values that drive me, are:
-PASSION. If you aren’t passionate about it, don’t do it.
-HONESTY. In everything, be honest.
-PRIDE. You should be able to take pride in everything you do.