2017 Laureate Prize Winner
2017 Benjamin Franklin Creativity Laureate in the Arts and Public Service
Tim Robbins has done it all. Academy Award-winning actor, director of performances on stage and film, producer, writer and activist, Tim Robbins believes in the joy and transformative power of the arts. In addition to pursuing his own diverse career, he also launches and nurtures others in their own theatrical productions -- in prisons, schools, summer programs, public parks, and communities around the world.
Tim Robbins was born in West Covina, California and raised in New York City’s Greenwich Village. He began acting as a teenager with the Theatre for the New City and studied drama at UCLA. After graduating in 1981, he started The Actors’ Gang with a group of his friends, including John Cusack. The group developed their own acting methodology they named The Style, which incorporates elements of commedia del arte, mask work, viewpoints, and focus on developing emotional states. Robbins remembers, “We didn't want to do the theatre that was being done at our university theatre department. We had a different idea of what theatre could be. We wanted the energy we felt when we went to punk shows, that drive, that sweat . . . Why shouldn't actors commit like that, too?”
Robbins first caught the public’s attention in 1988 as a likeable but rather dimwitted baseball pitcher named Nuke Lalooosh in the film Bull Durham. Later, he delivered iconic performances as Larry in Cadillac Man, Griffin Mill in The Player, Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption, and Dave Boyle in Mystic River. Among his many acting awards are an Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor.
In 1992, Robbins stepped behind the camera to write, direct and act in Bob Roberts. In 1999, he wrote and directed Dead Man Walking starring Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn. Robbins received an Academy Award nomination for directing the film, and a Golden Globe nomination for Best Screenplay.
Throughout his career, Robbins has been outspoken, using his celebrity to bring attention to the causes he believes in. The Actors’ Gang, which he co-founded, has nurtured innovative writers, built an ensemble of accomplished actors, and produced more than two hundred plays that have been performed on five continents. In addition, The Actors’ Gang has reached out into its community, providing free arts education to thousands of elementary, middle and high school students in the Los Angeles area -- in afterschool, in-school and summer programs.
In 2006, when California was drastically cutting funding to all Arts in Corrections programs, the Actors’ Gang began providing theatrical workshops to incarcerated men, women, and juveniles in the California State prison system. As Artistic Director of The Actors’ Gang, Robbins runs the Prison Project, which is changing the lives of prisoners and correctional officers. In California where the recidivism rate is more than 50 per cent, that number has dropped dramatically to 10.6 per cent for inmates who’ve completed the Prison Project. The program aims to change behavior, providing those who are incarcerated with a wider range of emotional tools to deal with violence, aggression, disappointment, and negativity. In improv workshops, member of hostile groups work together in a safe setting, discovering new ways to interact. The Prison Project is still going strong, and has expanded to prisons throughout the state.
Robbins lives in Los Angeles and is the proud father of three children and two grandchildren.