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Robin Williams and the Addictions of the Artist

Robin Williams

Robin Williams


Almost as striking as Robin Williams’ passing, is the magnitude of grief being shared online in response to this shocking news. I find it easy to be cynical about the increasing need to publicly share the depth of one’s own loss in a scenario like this, but it’s impossible to ignore the impact he had on the world as an entertainer. There’s a dissonance between the unbridled joy Williams seemed to embody in performance and the darkness intimated by the circumstances of his passing. That disparity is difficult for many to reconcile but familiar to those of us who work in the arts. It is a maddening thing that we do, and while many wonder why those who pursue a life in performance fall prey to depression and addiction, it may be better to ask why those susceptible or prone to such things pursue a life in the arts.

Performance and creation are seductive pursuits, yet it’s impossible to find complete satisfaction in either. The “could haves” and “should haves” of one’s current endeavour invariably morph into the “what”, the “how” and the “why” of the next. Artistic excellence, like many addictions, is a tantalizing and elusive gateway to happiness. Let’s work together as a community to protect ourselves and our fellow artists from the demons at the door and to find joy, more often than pain, in our pursuit of excellence.

This is the point where I should offer support more concrete than aspirational, but I’m embarrassed to say that I know little about what’s available to artists in our city. Do you know of resources for artists in Toronto coping with mental health and addiction issues? If you do please share them with us.

  • A co-founder of Studio 180, Mark is a Toronto-based actor, writer and producer. As a member of our Core Artistic Team, Mark coordinates the company’s new play development initiatives and is one of our Studio 180 IN CLASS workshop leaders. More posts by Mark McGrinder

3 Responses to Robin Williams and the Addictions of the Artist

  1. Mark McGrinder says:

    Thanks so much to Kesta Graham for sending along the following links. Great resources to be sure!



  2. The Artist Health Network http://artistshealth.com/
    CAMH http://www.camh.ca/en/hospital/Pages/home.aspx
    You can always call the Mobile Crisis Unit – call 911 and ask for the Mobile Crisis Unit
    Distress Centre: 416-408-HELP (4357)
    Gerstein Centre: (416) 929-5200
    Thanks Studio 180 for starting this conversation.

  3. Mark McGrinder says:

    Thanks for adding to our list of resources Melissa. Happy to share.

    Much obliged.

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