Director inspired by students’ ‘lightbulb moments’


Sara J. Griffin

Dauntae Green, Editor

In the UW-W Theatre and Dance Department, there’s a bright lecturer named Sara Griffin who really knows how to make students shine on stage. What stands out for her is being passionate about helping students get their “lightbulb moment” when it comes to acting or other jobs related to theatre production. She teaches students about how important strong storytelling is to create that magical experience for audiences.
Griffin is inspired by the passion and creativity of her students. She uses that energy to encourage them to have these “lightbulb moments” both on and off the stage.
“I really like it when they have those light bulb moments. I’ve talked about this with my students. I love it when I watch them go ‘Oh!’ and they get something that they didn’t understand before or they experienced something that they hadn’t before, or they do something that they didn’t know was possible,” said Griffin.

“I value clear speaking and compelling storytelling. I don’t value flash over specificity or specific work. I’m not interested in a cool take if it destroys the story. Too often in the professional theater, it is lost that people value that flash they want. They want to make the acting choice that makes them feel cool and good rather than letting the play.
I want the students to go out and revolutionize the world of theater. I do want them to shake off the dust and make cool new interesting versions of stories. I want them to do explosive storytelling, but I don’t want it to come at the cost of not knowing what they’re doing, and not serving the story because people choose plays for the community for the audience. I think theater is very necessary. I think theater creates more tolerance in the world. It exposes people to experiences other than their own and allows them to live it for a little bit, but to experience it or give them a window into an experience other than their own,” said Griffin.
There are lessons and goals that Griffin wants to use to help her theatre program more. It is through
mental health, intimacy director certification, and opportunities for the future.
“These students do both, they’re full time students and their artists so it’s like being in a show is the learning, but it is a rigorous demanding program and I don’t think people always realize that. How do you balance that? I think we all feel that burn out from just managing time combined with giving the students a fruitful and positive experience. So they don’t feel so ‘Oh, my gosh. We gotta get this done. We gotta get this done.’ That’s not how you create good art. That’s not how you should learn. Also encouraging them to take care of themselves mentally to take care of their academics. They learn balance because otherwise they’re going to be entering the world burnt out. I am working towards my intimacy direction certification and intimacy direction is new to the world of theater and T. V. and film,” said Griffin.
“Historically actors have not been treated with equal respect in the room they have been told to do things their permission hasn’t been asked before they’ve been touched, or put in any kind of situation whether it is emotionally challenging, physically challenging or dangerous and intimacy direction in training is changing that. And making performers an active participant in what’s being asked of them right? That potentially tricky choreography is subject matter and based on the boundaries and basically you’re balancing the needs of the story, the vision of the director, the boundaries of the actor. You’re advocating for your actors to make the story happen in a way that is positive for everyone. You want your actors to be confident because otherwise it’s just not going to happen right? The way you want. Nobody wants to go to work and feel unsafe. The goal for me is to be a certified intimacy director and certainly incorporate that into the fabric and culture of this university because if we start it here, they’re going to go out and be respectful professionals and change the world out that way.”
Sara J. Griffin has acted in over 35 play production. She is a 2007 alumna from the University of Wisconsin – Whitewater. She is inspired to keep teaching students, helping them, and encouraging them to get their passion. She will be directing an upcoming production in February and two more in the fall.