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Amy Griggs, Hijinx Academy: ‘There is so much untapped talent in learning-disabled community’

Hijinx Academies academy director Amy Griggs. Photo: Vanessa Davies Hijinx Academies academy director Amy Griggs. Photo: Vanessa Davies
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Amy Griggs is academy director at Hijinx Academies, she tells John Byrne about running drama training for learning-disabled actors

How did you start off in theatre?

I studied a BA in acting at University of South Wales, Trinity Saint David.

What is the best piece of advice you have for drama students today?

Embrace all opportunities that come your way, think outside of the box and aim to work with a variety of people.

What would you change about drama/musical theatre training in the UK?

Hijinx Academies were created as a response to the inaccessibility of drama training in the UK. It would be great to see steps made to create an inclusive society within the industry.

What is the best part of your job?

Spending time with our learning-disabled actors, watching them grow as performers and celebrating their successes. It is incredibly rewarding to see one of our actors in a professional production or on the set of a TV show or film.

And your least favourite?

Experiencing resistance from the industry to embrace inclusive casting – especially knowing the amount of extraordinary talent we have in our academies.

Who are the practitioners you admire the most/who should students look up to?

Augusto Boal and Sanford Meisner. Our actors are trained in Forum theatre and Meisner techniques. Forum in particular has been a great tool that our actors have taken to many events, helping to empower other learning-disabled individuals and train customer service staff in companies and organisations.

What is the one skill that every successful actor should have?

Openness and generosity.

Why do you feel inclusivity is important in theatre, film and TV?

As artists, I feel we have a responsibility to be reflective of our society. It is a shame that learning-disabled audience members don’t frequently see characters on stages, TV or film that they can relate to. There is a huge amount of untapped talent within the learning-disabled community.

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