Robbins takes his constitutional right to question very seriously. And he has always seen theater as one of the best ways to ignite dialogue and debate. Just don't call what the Actors' Gang does "political theater." "I'm not even sure I would want to go see political theater," he says. "Our first responsibility is always to provide entertainment."
Many of Robbins' fans and, he says, even his Hollywood peers are surprised when they hear he works in theater at all -- and are even more amazed to learn he has written seven of his own plays and is the artistic director of a 99-seat warehouse theater company in Los Angeles.
"I can't tell you how many times I have gotten befuddled, confused looks from my colleagues in the film industry when I talk about the Actors' Gang," Robbins said in a speech to regional arts presenters in Long Beach in September. " 'Theater in Hollywood? Why are you doing that?' I guess the assumption with these folks is that theater is something you do until you become famous and then once again when you are famous for having once been famous. But theater for me has never been about fame. From the first it has always been about community."
Robbins founded the Actors' Gang with a group of drama buddies from UCLA in 1981, years before he became a movie star. They modeled their edgy agitprop aesthetic on the in-your-face antics of the San Francisco Mime Troupe, and they shared what Robbins calls a "punk-rock sensibility." (In the program of "Embedded,'' Robbins dedicated the play to The Clash's Joe Strummer, who died last year.)
"Theater is an extremely responsive medium," says Robbins. "You can engage with the news and the stories that we're being fed that are affecting our perceptions of the world -- right now. I think we are living in iconographic times."
When asked if there have been ramifications to his career because of speaking out politically, Robbins says, "I think there would be even more (consequences) on me as a human being if I didn't. If you believe something and you sit on it, whether it's to further your career or to get more money, then there's no difference between you and a politician." (Read the full article...)
2005- The play was written before it was fashionable to acknowledge the truth -- yet Robbins is still attacked as an activist in a country where the word "liberal" is a profanity. "But we were right!" Robbins says. "We were right. They were wrong. And why was it us who were the ones who stepped forward to say those things, to ask those questions?"
By "us" Robbins is referring to other Hollywood celebrities, such as Sean Penn, Alec Baldwin, Janeane Garofalo and Michael Moore. "And most of us, by the way, were simply saying: 'Let the (UN) inspectors have more time.' We weren't purporting to know what was going on but just saying: 'Let's be patient. Let's not be hurried. This is human life we're talking about. Let's be judicious.' It's not like we wanted to do that. It's not like, if there was an opposition party, a strong voice of resistance, that we would go: 'Wait! I want to be on the show, too. I want to say something.' No, there would be absolutely no need for it. There would be no need for an actor to speak. But we don't live in that world." (Read the full article...)
2007- Robbins raged, "Before we got into this war, there were countless military experts, intelligence analysts that told us this was a good idea, we had to do it. They presented their information and were so terribly wrong. These people are still affecting public policy and they're still considered experts."
"I'm sorry, shouldn't there be rule or a law that says if you fucked things up so badly, you can no longer be considered an expert. The American people were suckered into this war with false information and with propaganda." (Read the full article...)
"Let us resist this war and our impending oil war in Columbia, and let us resist fundamentalism in all its guises. Let us hate war in all its forms, whether its weapon is a U.S. missile or its weapon is a domestic airplane". (Tim's Website)
(Tim on Real Time with Bill Maher, full episode)