In play ‘The New Colossus,’ Tim Robbins shares stories of refugees

 – Actor, director, playwright, musician and more — Tim Robbins is best known for his roles in “The Shawshank Redemption,” “The Player,” “Mystic River,” and currently the HBO series “Here and Now.”

But 37 years ago, he started a theater company in Los Angeles called The Actor’s Gang, and throughout the success of his career, he has continued to act, write and direct plays there.

The Actor‘s Gang ensemble has included actors such as Jack Black, John Cusack, John C. Reilly, Helen Hunt, Kate Walsh, Fisher Stevens, Jeremy Piven and more.

Robbins joined me on Olympic & Bundy to talk about the play he’s directing, called “The New Colossus,” which features 12 actors sharing their ancestors’ stories of immigration and fleeing from oppression to freedom. It’s performed in 12 different languages.

The play features live music, poetry and asks the question — who are we as a nation right now?

“The New Colossus” shares a title with the sonnet written by poet Emma Lazarus in 1883 for an exhibit to raise funds for the base of the Statue of Liberty. Even though the Statue of Liberty was not created as a symbol of immigration, Lazarus’ “The New Colossus” poem reinvented the statue’s purpose:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

When not on stage or directing, Robbins also spends his time inside some of California’s prisons as part of his theater company’s “Prison Project” that brings acting workshops to inmates.

The project began in 2006 in response to California’s high rate of inmates returning to prison within the first three years of being released. Additionally, the state cut funding in 2008 to all Arts in Corrections programs in spite of evidence of the impact it can have.

Inmates attend classes to help them express their emotions and develop social skills that can also help them once they return to society.

Mobile app users, click here to listen to the full episode with Tim Robbins.

“The New Colossus” is showing Saturdays through May 12, 2018 at The Actor’s Gang in Culver City.