In the heart of Broadway, an alumnus mixes whiskey with a dash of Shakespeare

28 February 2017

A UQ alumnus and accounting entrepreneur has proven he can ‘make it anywhere’ after turning a passion for arts into a critically acclaimed Broadway production in New York City.

Scott Griffin (Bachelor of Science (Computer Science) ’02, Bachelor of Commerce ’01) is the creator of the wildly popular New York Off-Broadway show, Drunk Shakespeare, which recently surpassed its 1000th performance in the "library speakeasy" space it calls home.

The show involves a professional actor taking at least five shots of whisky before attempting to act a major part in a Shakespearian play, said Mr Griffin.

“The drunk actor tries to remember their lines but often ends up taking the show off the rails and the other four sober actors aren’t allowed to say no, while they attempt to keep the play rolling,” he said.

Naturally, chaos and comedy ensue, with every performance becoming a unique experience.

“The play is very interactive and people can choose whether or not they get involved with the performance depending on where they sit in the theatre,” said Mr Griffin.

While he may be a successful producer now, a theatre career wasn’t always on the cards for Mr Griffin, who said he thought his only option after high school was to start a Law and Commerce degree. 

“It seemed like the obvious choice for me; I had many friends who had gone straight on to study Commerce or Law. In addition to this, my whole family are accountants and all five kids studied a Bachelor of Commerce at UQ,” said Mr Griffin.

“My family have all studied at UQ; it’s a great university; my education at UQ provided me with skills that I still use to this day in my current work.

“I don’t think you realise how amazing it is at UQ while you’re there – not just the St Lucia campus which is beautiful, but the involvement in clubs and groups, which enabled me to continue with my immersion in the Arts.”

A natural born entrepreneur, Griffin created what would become Australia’s most popular online tax return platform www.Etax.com.au with his father, Don, and brother, Kent, while he was still studying at UQ.

Mr Griffin said the success of www.Etax.com.au  gave him the opportunity and confidence to pursue his passion for the Arts.

“My father, brother and I created Etax while I was studying at UQ and this gave me the chance to start something else,” said Mr Griffin.

Like many students, Griffin studied the Performing Arts and Music as an extra-curricular activity outside of his normal schooling hours, which he says at first reinforced the idea it wasn’t a serious career choice.

“Art and music have always been big parts of my life, but they were always relegated to extra-curricular activities.”

“I think it’s a weird aspect of the Australian education system that the Arts are taught as an extracurricular activity.”

“I am a fan of a well-balanced education where children and young adults have exposure to a broad range of subjects which expand and challenge their worldview.”

After travelling and trying his hand at a few other endeavours, Mr Griffin decided to take a chance on building his own production.

“I found a crappy building near Times Square in New York that used to be a strip club and had a bit of a shady past. I gutted it and built a library with 15,000 books to be our performance space.”

“I think my family thought I was crazy because the nature of accounting is to be conservative and this was very risky. They were worried I would run off and join the circus.”

“I never imagined the show would reach this level of popularity, I would have honestly been happy if the show had only run for three weeks,” he said.

However, with over 1,000 shows under its belt and a Chicago expansion now in the works it’s safe to say Drunk Shakespeare has been a success. 

Mr Griffin said he would encourage others to take a broad range of subjects at university and not shy away from pursuing their passions even if setbacks were inevitable.

“For anyone wanting to become an entrepreneur, getting out there, experiencing life and getting to know people and your future customer base is invaluable.

“You also need to take risks, you should always do your research and be as prepared as possible, but sometimes you just need to take the leap.

“Not everything I started worked out, but I had some great experiences and it has made the success of my current venture so much more rewarding,” he said.

Mr Griffin said he would also advise students to try and broaden their education by taking on different courses and opportunities at university.

“I would suggest if someone is unsure at first on what path they want to take, that they should try a whole range of different subjects.”

“I’ve seen too many people quit and change their whole career and I think that could be avoided by taking on a wider range of subjects in your first year or two of study so you can really decide where you want to specialise.”

The University of Queensland aspires to create a consolidated fundraising platform to further empower student success and transform teaching and learning. To help support students and teachers of the Arts at UQ please visit https://hass.uq.edu.au/give-humanities-and-social-sciences

 

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