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AOA S4 E11 Stairway thoughts

Hello and welcome to a podcast about creating experimental art in trauma-informed and sustainable ways that support artists, our communities, and the organization as a whole. You're listening to Any Other Anythings. And in this season, we are focused on the journey of Grey Box Collective, and we will take you through from the very beginning, before Grey Box Collective even existed, and all the way through to present day, and talk about what the future of Grey Box Collective might include as well. Highly recommend listening to this season in chronological order since it is somewhat building upon each part of it, but it's up to you if you want to take a nonlinear approach. Appreciate that. Respect that, and hope you enjoy this journey of Grey Box Collective.

Hello all and welcome to another episode of Any Other Anythings. I am your host, Molly. I am the Founder and Creative Producer of Grey Box Collective, and this is the Stairway Thoughts episode. So stairway thoughts are those thoughts that you have after like you leave a conversation or you log off Zoom and you're like, “oh, I should have asked”, or, “oh, I should have said this”. Or if you are someone who like recounts everything that's ever happened in conversation in your life before you fall asleep at night, like that kind of thing, you're like what if I had said this differently? That’s stairway thoughts. And it's something that we involve in the rehearsal process - when we check in stairway thoughts are also welcomed and in play, so to speak.

So yeah. I realize I didn't do a check-in or check-out on the last one, but checking in, how am I doing? I won't do a MEEP check-in, I'll do - like I won’t do a full MEEP, I guess. Doing okay today, I'm realizing my brain is a little glitchier than I would like to be while on the microphone. But muddling through that, so we'll see how this goes - and yes, at the same time, like a glitchy brain probably works well for a stairways thought episode because it is jumping around to different ideas.

 So let's dive into this - so this is like either after I hit record or when I was in the editing process for other episodes. Or listening to them and I was like, oh, I didn't talk about this. Or I was like, in conversation with a friend, a board member, and I was like,“oh, actually that would be a good thing to actually share as well”. So here we go - this is in no particular order other than where I happened to take notes. So it's like an odd chronological order over about a month of stairway thoughts.

So one of them is regarding, like a value held within our rehearsal process - and that is to always have an outside eye. So creative team leaders who might take on like that director or choreographer type of role do not perform in their own work. The only exception to that over the years has been with that postcard performance series when there was a little bit more of an even division of responsibilities, to the best of my knowledge.Yes. So that was like the one exception, but then it's also like you do have that outside eye of the camera, so I think that's a little bit different. But yeah, we always have an outside eye and that's not to devalue the internal. Like one of the things I'll ask after we go through a run of a piece, it's like, “how is that on the inside?” Because sometimes how things are on the inside makes sense with maybe some oddities that I've seen on the outside. And I think there's a real value to having those two perspectives in a rehearsal space at all times. And I guess, right, like it feels like this polarity and speaking of polarities and pulling up other notes. Yeah, so, okay, so. So it sounds like polarities. I really don't see them as that because I see them as working in relationship with one another. And instead of thinking of polarities as these opposite ends of a continuum, like what if we think of them as like stops on a cycle that really like, swirl around each other and are in this working relationship with each other. Yeah. This conscious acknowledgement, intentional, way of working together. So yes, that's one of my stairway thoughts.

 And similarly, like some of the like “rules” is that all of our performances are ensemble based - meaning at least three creatives coming together. And I think every project has had at least three people there. I feel like maybe there is one where we had to make an exception and it was like two people, but yes. And part of the reason - maybe these stairway thoughts are actually more connected than I'm realizing until this moment - part of the reason for that is, like it's about the collective - not just in terms of like the people in Grey Box Collective, but meaning like the whole collective of like society, the world, our communities. And oftentimes I've had conversations with people who see the work that Grey Box Collective does and assume that it is a storytelling platform where everyone is sharing their own individual stories and their personal stories, and I can understand where that comes from. And if you go back to, I think it was the episode where I talked about season seven and I read off about how I think we all come in with our own perspectives and biases and philosophies, but underneath that are stories, like we're still carrying that in. However, stories are only shared in relationship to others. I think when it gets to a single story, like we don't tell single stories, we tell collective stories. That is part of it, right? Like part of the whole collective thing is to be sharing a variety of fragmented stories instead of centering on a single person, which also feels slightly hypocritical to be doing this podcast, saying that yes. But I feel like I am the keeper of the Grey Box Collective story as the most consistent human over eight years, so that's why I am doing this. At the same time, it does feel a little weird to do this solo, and I think I've said that this will probably be the only time I do this solo. I hope it's the only time that I do this solo because we're bringing in more people to be working on this, and my goal is to do less work with Grey Box Collective in this manner. Hence why I'm firing myself, and just working on currently hiring new people. So, yes. 

One thing that I did, I think it was in 2021, I really did a deep dive into bodywork and like somatic bodywork. And I was talking to this practitioner about like my calves were so tight. They still are, but not like they were, but like my calves are just like doing the work I feel like for the entire posterior kinetic chain for me. Meaning like all the work in the back of my body is just my calves doing it - and he without question was like, “well that's 'cause you have a company that keeps you on your toes”. So it's become something that I actually think about a lot. I think about the weight, like can I feel my heels on the ground is something that I've been really intentional about in my personal practice. My personal, like somatic embodied practice, and that's one of the signals of like if I'm feeling grounded and in a space to really engage with this work.

One of the things that I haven't really talked about - actually, now that I mention the role of like somatics, my journey with that in 2021, I think, or 2022, somewhere in there when I was finishing my somatic movement therapy training like I had to do like a case study or some presentation as part of the final project, right? I actually chose to talk about how somatics work in business, and I haven't really talked about that at all. Like, but that's been a huge shift and I think that ties into the decolonial work both in like decolonizing your business as well as the decolonizing the mind and body work - the shadow work, there we go. But like bringing somatics into business which to me is talking about like bringing our whole selves into the business and not in service of like capitalism or like in service to like “the man”, but just like what is it to really take into consideration our humanity in how we operate business and how to do so in a sustainable way. And that is, that was probably a significant shift for me in making some changes for the company. And it was also was really helping me realize how much resources are really needed to be poured into people like independent contractors, and the creatives that come work for Grey Box Collective, like in order for this work to really be moved into the world in a well resourced way. Like it's a lot and I talked about this actually in Trauma-Informed Creative Practices the podcast like, there's like a right sizing or an aligning that's going on, and I think bringing somatics into business is another way to do that - where you finally like, I don't know, I felt like I could finally say no to things and turn away from doing “business as usual”. So yeah, like looking at some of the principles of somatics and how to fold that into business has definitely been something I've thought about a lot. And I think it was something that kind of naturally happened within Grey Box Collective, right. So if we look at the journey of Trauma-Informed Creative Practices, yes it started as something with the creative process and therefore it impacts the creative output, that product, if you will, right? But then in order for the process and the product to be trauma-informed the organization needed to change. And that kind of inside out change, shift within the company, I think inherently started to bring more of like that somatic work into the organization. But then layering in, like being really intentional about the efforts that are involved in marketing or producing a project and the rhythms that can be a part of that. I think I've mentioned, I've been on a rhythms and efforts kick lately - more rhythms, but efforts need to be a part of that conversation too. So, yeah. And if you are someone listening to this also thinking about how the organizations that you're a part of run, like start to look at like what is the rhythm of those projects or the flow of the year? What is the effort that is happening? And do you wanna hang on to it that way? 

Another stairway thought is realizing my own - I'm gonna like, maybe it's a trauma response, I know it's a fear-based response to like, I don't wanna burn out again. And when it comes to administrative work, like I feel like I am someone who just like, I have that natural admin brain, and some of that is probably in like my DNA and that is just, that's how we operate in my family. And I think growing up in Maine we are just, I don't know, naturally inclined, that feels big and broad to say about an entire state, but I feel like there's something like, yeah, we're just like administrators - we get shit done, that's what we do. We don't make extra like anything about it, we just get it done. And feeling pretty solid about who I am as an administrator, who I was as an administrator. 'Cause I definitely hit a pretty significant burnout being an administrator which would've been roughly the time that Grey Box Collective started. And I think there are parts of my fear of burning out again as an administrator that has held me back over the past eight years, 'cause like, yes, I can organize, I love a color-coded spreadsheet, but it's like, what? And even like Google Calendar, it took me - after all of the like, I still struggle with this, I am aware that I am currently struggling with scheduling stuff and getting stuff done on the back end, 'cause I'm fearful and fearing burnout again. And yeah, so just I think that's also something to be aware of that like, if you are running an organization right now, what is your effort, right? Like, let's tie it back to the somatics - what is your effort looking like, what is your rhythm looking like? Where is the preparation, exertion and recuperation coming in? And yeah, like I think about that a lot on the administrative side, like, I can hang out in a creative process - it is reenergizing. Like I could live in creative process It doesn't drain me at all, but having to like organize shit these days is a real struggle for me and I come up against a lot of my own history in it. Not just these days, I'm actually working through it these days - but I'm aware of some periods of Grey Box Collective where I think it really held me back. 

So yeah, I think I've talked about doing less with more. That's with the whole like alignment that I brought up. I'm really tired of perpetuating that starving artist and like, ooh, look at like all we did on such a tiny budget. No - because that also suggests like free labor or really overextending ourselves, I believe. Yeah, to a point. I have some other thoughts coming up with that, but I'm not gonna keep going with that particular thing.

Another big shift that happened for me was changing my relationship to grant funding and funding in general, and money mindset - and I've talked about this in the Patreon page in a workshop on money mindset. Yeah, changing that relationship and really unpacking kinda what I've been taught and what I've been told from organizations that are, granting organizations in positions of power, people in positions of power, people who have been doing this longer. And yes, there is something about when that happened - when that like it happened in a moment - it was a journey, right. But like over the course of that journey, like energetically, it really shifted something for me. It allowed me to be in flow instead of feeling really stuck. And for a while I was really quite proud of being nearly 100% grant funded every season, but then that started to really become a struggle especially when maybe you remember this like period where like, “no one wants to work anymore”, or “everyone's quiet quitting”, or whatever other trends were happening about that time. I was noticing that grant checks were coming in much slower. This was also like when my admin stuff was getting in the way of stuff, so I was also barely making deadlines or asking for extensions and all of that. And so like, I hate to say it, but like the flow of funding really was a huge factor, the flow of energy for the company and then having to like hide that. I didn't, this is the first time I'm really sharing that. But yeah, and so looking at different funding models and that's another reason for bringing on a more consistent set of board members who will also be responsible for that and making sure that the flow is there and it's taken care of, right?


And I think my last-ish stairway thought, or here, it might not be my last stairway thought, but it's gonna be the last one that I share today. And I've already brought it up, but it feels important - so the rhythm, right? I've talked about the rhythm probably more than I've ever talked about rhythm in my life before, but there's something about what is the rhythm for the long term. And I feel like when I observe organizations, I can tell if they are playing the long game or if they're just playing like that fast and furious, immediate gratification, splashing into the, the field energy rhythm. Yes. And it's something that I'm also very conscious of with partnerships - I look for partners who also understand that this is a journey. There is like no pressure to partner right away, and really it's about finding the right timing. And I remember there was a training I was going through where it was like, okay, you pitch your thing and then like you have to have an ask right away. And I was like, I don't have one - like to me, that promotes transactional relationships, which is not what I'm on board for and I'm not up for anymore. Like there's just, it's a lot of work and there's a time and place, right? But it becomes very transactional and transactional relationships do not feel trauma-informed for me. I am looking for that reciprocal relationship. I am looking for those that understand, like we're gonna go through some like bumps together - the rupture and repair, right? I think that was in Trauma-Informed Creative Practices, I talked about it more. I want to go through some shit with a partner to figure out whether or not we can repair that, that relationship, can we have a plan that falls through and still be like, all right, well, let's see what we can do moving forward instead. Versus I feel like some of those transactional partnerships are like, well, that didn't work, so I guess we're done. And that is something that I'm really looking for in a board, in collaborators, in creatives is what's that energy that you're bringing into the space? Are you, even if you're not actually going to like be an active member of the company for the long term, is there still that acknowledgement of life outside of this very moment, right? Like I'm all for being present, and I'm also like, can we be good to our future selves. There's something about the energy of showing up, like being here for the long game where. There's a much more grounded, calming energy I find even if there's like a high energy, there's still a rooted energy to it. It's connected to something versus like this frenetic energy that can like come in and then just like burn itself out, right? And maybe this is connected to like my fear of burning out again. Which I think is just something that I'm going to work through and probably do again, inevitably at some point in my life, but hopefully to a lesser degree. 

And, yeah, I think, I don't know, maybe this is more just like to leave it as a reflection for you all, like, where's the frenetic energy. Like if you're only playing the short term, like when do you play the long term? What's the point of the long term and what's feeding the desire to go very quickly? And I think it, it comes, I think a lot of that is informed from our conditioning, from the systems that we exist within. It can be a stress or trauma response to move quickly or we're told that this is how to be successful in business. You have to like meet these markers and I don't know, I think that feels just like old outdated, not the reality of the world as it is anymore.

So yeah, that's my last stairway thought. So, from having an inside and outside eye in rehearsal, to playing the long game. I hope you've enjoyed this very meandering episode of stairway thoughts related to Grey Box Collective. And I already feel like, oh my goodness, I must have missed so many stairway thoughts and I've got so much else I could probably say, but I'm gonna leave it here. So, yes, thank you very much for listening. One more episode in this series. And yeah, take care of yourselves and see you next time.

Hey listener, thanks so much for listening to another episode of Any Other Anythings. Be sure to check out the show notes for links mentioned in the show as well as how to stay connected and learn more about Grey Box Collective. Thanks so much for your time and energy. Please take care of yourselves and each other.

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