Let's head over to the Theater Department and meet Sewickley Academy's new Drama Teacher and Artistic Director Matthew Griffin!
Hailing from Wichita Falls, Texas, by way of Hartford, Connecticut, Matt Griffin has significant experience in all aspects of theater production, from acting and directing to managing the behind the scenes elements, including sets and costumes. In Hartford, Matt balanced both his work with Hartbeat Ensemble, a professional theater company, with teaching in the Hartford Public Schools in their summer youth programs. Matt earned his B.F.A. in directing and acting from Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls and an A.A.S. in directing and film history from The Factory Conservatory in Monessen, Pennsylvania.
Why did you choose to teach at Sewickley Academy?
I chose to teach at Sewickley Academy because of its outstanding students and exemplary faculty. During my interview process, I had the privilege of spending time with students and talking about the kind of theater they wanted. I instantly knew that the intelligence of these students and willingness to explore the possibilities of their own creative potential was something I wanted to be a part of. Likewise, the faculty members I met with were warm, bright, and always eager to help. The Academy, to me, represents the greatest things I love about education – an eagerness to learn, a rigorous educational experience, and a collective creative potential!
What do you want students to get from having known you?
I want the students I teach and direct to say, “I have grown and am more invested in cultural arts!” I want to foster student’s raw talent and hone their skills with practical work designed to make them the best theatricians they can be. Whether on stage or in the classroom rehearsing scenes, these students must be open to exploring themselves and the world around them. When they become active participants in a theatrical education, they grow in all aspects of their life.
What is the most important life lesson you want my child to learn through theater?
I want students to own who they are on stage and in life. Theater is an outlet to explore characters in plays, and through character analysis, students gain insight into their own motivations and feelings. As Shakespeare said: "to thine own self be true."
What do you enjoy most about teaching?
I enjoy fostering innovation and creativity in students. When I can see directly on stage the impact that acting technique and stagecraft lessons are having on students, I instantly feel that the unlimited potential for students to express their individuality is resonating with them. That “ah-ha” moment is what all educators enjoy, and I am lucky enough to see it on the forum for which I am most passionate: the stage.
Who are your mentors? What experiences or people had the most influence on you?
My mentors include fellow cast mates of shows, significant directors and two very special high school theater teachers. Mr. Feranchak and Mrs. Babbitt taught my theater classes at a large high school in Texas. They were always innovating the means with which we explored plays. They never let me beat myself up or over-criticize my performances and they taught me that it is okay to be exactly who you are. When you have accepted yourself, others will respect and accept you.
Outside of theater, what are some of your interests/hobbies?
I am an avid rock climber and love to go hiking. I also love reading, particularly Shakespeare.
How do you get the results you want each student to achieve? How do you help someone who doesn’t like theater to engage in it and perhaps even learn to love it?
Theater is the art of knowing yourself and being confident. If I can connect a student’s understanding of self-confidence to getting up on stage, then the battle is won. The moment self-doubt is alleviated, students are free to explore all aspects of themselves in the characters they portray on stage. How do we achieve this? By using theater games, improvisation, and ensemble-building exercises! As long as students remember that it is called a “play” for a reason (namely that you have to have fun and "play" on stage), then they are much more open to the limitless bounds of imagination. Once their imaginations are open to the possibilities of the stage, you simply have to watch them enjoy their moment. Hopefully, with time and patience, we all can love the theater – even if it’s only as active audience members!