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AOA S4 E2: A Journey of Confident Disbelief: Season One

Updated: Mar 4

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.

 Alright everyone. Hello and welcome back to another episode of Any Other Anythings. I am your host Molly, I am the Founder and Creative Producer of Grey Box Collective. And in this season we are going through and capturing kind of the journey of Grey Box Collective over the years and we are now into season one. Which in my notes, I entitled it a Journey of Confident Disbelief. And I think in the last episode you kind of got a sense of that. If you haven't listened to the previous episodes, highly recommend going back and listening for context. While they're not like totally building on each other, I mean, it is, it's the journey. Please join me for all of it. And yes, so let's see, season one. Actually let me start with a check-in, to get in that habit and I'll do just a general check-in as that's roughly what we were doing in season one. Checking in, and it's basically a time to say anything that you need to say, like get it out of your system before diving into the work. That's at least one part of why we have a check-in. And so, my check-in. Let's see, I am feeling the need to say that like these first few season reviews are tricky. I'm finding them... yeah I'm finding them difficult in my brain and my body. And I feel like the later episodes. I mean, partially, I'm looking at my notes and I can, I can say with some confidence that later episodes definitely have a lot more content that I could add to them. But yeah, these first couple ones, it's like, I don't know, I feel like I'm kind of, I, I'm struggling with these first few episodes to discuss what the early seasons were like, and yeah. I'm just gonna let that, let that be what it is. And let's see, so our first official season was fall 2016 into spring 2017. And I, I guess, you know, being in the U.S. you know, 2016 into 2017 was a... I don't know how to summarize. It was a time, was, was a significant period of time for, for us, like socially and politically. And one of the pieces that we presented that season, one that I led, directed, at that time was called Understanding Otherness. And it was definitely born out of witnessing like the extreme hatred. And when like, yes, we can see that throughout our history in the U.S. There was something about the embodied way we were witnessing it on our phones. Like the visual that comes to mind is like bizarrely, it's of someone like yelling out of their driver's side of their vehicle. But what I remember so distinctly about it is their throat and like the tension in their neck that like, how can we hold so much hatred there. And let is like, I'll bring in my somatic movement therapist side of thinking about the neck as, that is the channel that is the mind-body connection, right? Like, mind and body, all of that communication goes through our neck. And there's so little space in there to have so much tension and so much like, just like gunk like clogging it up. Like, no wonder there's so much, so much going on that just hurts our souls, right? Yeah, and so it, it was that, that I found very intriguing.

I think that was also about the time that I was, or another, let's see. We were also... we use a lot of bell hooks and john a. powell's work in that original iteration, and we also pulled in a little bit from, I think it's called Unmasked. It was looking at like masculinity, in kind of the U.S. Western cultures. And that was where a lot of our source material came from and also that programming. So we presented Understanding Otherness in the spring. We had been creating it during the election year, so like really looking at the extremes. And it's interesting like thinking back to then, especially since now we are in another election season in the U.S. And we have spent from, gosh, fall 2022 to fall 2023 also, engaging in this work around understanding otherness, and we are going to be continuing it into the spring of 2024 now. So yeah, it's like that's where it started. 

We also were exploring the new director series at that time, and so this was, two other people who had been a part of, the part of my thesis and part of our residency that we held in the summer 2016. They took on directing new work as well that spring. So we had Anya who was doing a piece called Out of Hiding, and that was looking at mental health. And then we had Thomas looking at creating a piece called Social/Anti-Social and looking at like anxiety. And I, I don't think really mental health was such a predominant conversation in our earlier seasons, but clearly it also was right, because it's there. So yeah, because I was thinking when season one happened. It was more looking at like these various cultures, like looking at rape culture, Understanding Otherness was looking at hate culture, Finger Painting {for grown-ups} was looking at busy culture. Which is the piece that happened a few years before Grey Box Collective became a thing. And, I also presented another piece called Fool Me Once… Fool Me Twice… which was looking at shame culture, and that was kind of the next iteration of our previous piece. I Am Enough, which was when we were in residency. And so yeah, we, we had four shows in that first season, four evening length works. Which is wild to think about. Like we hit the ground running, and funding wise, operations wise. Like it was just, it was scrappy, right? Like we were just continuing to basically produce work as we had produced work while we were students. That was the other thing, Thomas, Anya and I all had overlapped while we were students. So I think like that kind of just spilled into how we continued to operate and let's see, yeah. So funding was coming from ticket sales. It was coming from leftover funds from that spring, the like from season zero, because we had the, what's it called? Whatever the word is I'm looking for, funds that you can like, use however you want, those funds. They're the best. And I, we lucked out having so many, we lucked out, having like general operating or like funds that we could use as we wished very early on. And yeah, actually the first thing I wrote down when I was prepping for this episode was the word lucky. And that's where like this confident disbelief is coming from, of just like, oh, we're, we're doing the thing. Okay, we're doing the thing. I guess we're gonna just keep doing it. Right? And part of the way that we also were making that work, right? Like being resourceful and doing more with less was, making work in living rooms, right? Like ensemble, like we made work in my living room. That's where stuff came from, 'cause we didn't have space. And so to save on rent, we just used what was available to us. And same with like the other spaces. There were other avenues of like where we could find places to create. And so that  was one way. And then that's how we like financially survived. And I'll also say, like for me professionally this season, I had left my administrative job and was going down the adjuncting world route along with re-entering the fitness industry. And so I was teaching a lot. While also running the company. And what I... similar to what I was saying I think in the previous episode around like being in a human doing mode, not a human being mode.

And that, that is definitely season one. It was just, yeah, we're doing the thing and we're like figuring it out as we go and we did it right? And I think it was, it was a few years ago, right? So, a few years after season one happened where I realized the importance of having think time. Having time to spend with my thoughts, and it is difficult to, like justify, think time when you're starting a company, right? Because it's just, it's that hustle again, it is the narrative that is shared widely around. You know, that like just ridiculous urgency and you gotta do it and you say yes to everything and you just like go, go, go. And when you finally slow down and think like, I can't believe we produced. I don't know how we did it. I think I must have, I must have funded it somehow. I know I wasn't paying myself at this time. And there were very, very tiny stipends. I think there were very tiny stipends. I honestly don't totally remember. I think there are tiny stipends going out to any creative who was involved in the work. So, yeah, but I, on kind of on the flip side of all this, like artistically. I think this was this last, this is awful to say, but 2016, 2017, season one, both Understanding Otherness and Fool Me Once...Fool Me Twice... I am still so proud of that work. I think it's some of the best stuff that I have produced in the past decade. And like I say, I produce, but like collaborated with like, it was solid performances. They were layered, there was nuance, there was detail. It was like everything I really love about producing and creating this kind of work. Maybe that's a better word about creating this kind of work. Like it was there and I felt that we were taking - as ensembles, as teams - we were taking a lot more risk. We were trying things, both in terms of the content of these shows as well as the form of these shows, that we were experimenting and really honing in on the artistic side of what Grey Box Collective work would be. And I do feel like now looking back on this, I am hoping to revisit and get back to that like feeling really proud artistically of what we produce. And I think some of it definitely comes from, again, we were coming out of school at this time. We were still students where you do for free, pour your heart and soul into things, and everyone's on the same schedule and everyone's kind of coming from like the same mindset.

So there are other things that are a little, yeah, lighter to move through I guess. So artistically, like it was a really smooth journey into things, which allowed us to just like dive in. Yeah. And I won't get into it now, but I guess maybe I'll like foreshadow it a little bit. I think one of the things that'll come up in later episodes is how. I'm finding the importance of right sizing the work. Right? Like in these early seasons, doing more with less. Yes. Also, that is like totally a mentality that exists outside of the arts, and I think that's unfortunately very prominent in the working world of like, how can you do more with less? Or to say the PC version is like, “how are you resourceful,” I'm over being resourceful. I, I don't want to do more with less. I want to do what is appropriate with the funding that is available. I don't wanna shrink my ideas. I don't want to have to cut things out because they're not funded either, but I rather cut down and stay in the integrity of the work. And stay in the integrity or stay with values, right? Of paying people per hour at a rate that is above minimum wage, well above minimum wage in Arizona. That to me is more important at this point, right? And I wish that was something that I had done earlier on. Even paying myself. I, I don't believe I paid myself anything for the first five seasons, while putting money into the company, right? Yeah. It was definitely five seasons. Yeah. And so those are some of the things that I wish, had been done differently. That we had the resources to really properly fund and pay artists. And now I'm in a space where I feel much more comfortable and confident saying like, no, we're not gonna do this work because we cannot properly compensate people and we do not compensate with exposure. 'Cause exposure does not keep the lights on, it does not keep bellies full. And those are important things, right? So yeah. Like I think it's really interesting that two of the pieces that of all the work that I've personally led within Grey Box Collective, Fool Me Once... Fool Me Twice… and Understanding Otherness are I think my two favorite. No offense to future ensembles and other groups that are listening to this, but I was also able to… Like I was still living in that place where I could thrive on chaos and adrenaline and that hustle culture. And so I was also able to pour more of myself into these pieces. And I felt like I could really lead the work much better because I was well resourced, which like in hindsight, no I wasn't, but I was operating like I was. Versus now where I feel like I am a little more right-sizing it as well. So, yeah. And it's also that idea, like, I think I saw it on like the tea bags that have the inspirational quotes, right? I saw it like "a relaxed mind is a creative mind”. And I think, you know, season one me would be like, bullshit. That is not true. That is... like creativity thrives in chaos and all this, like it can, and this is like a whole different conversation that I think I've recorded someplace else. I think there is a creativity that comes out of survival and I think the creative expression, kind of creativity that was happening for me in season one, I was not in a survival mode or as in like a, a valley or a dip of survival mode. And so I was able to creatively take on a lot more or offer a lot more. So yeah, I'll leave it there. Checking out with how you doing, dear listener, and what are you thinking about? I hope there's something in here for you to reflect upon. And yeah, I'll see you in the next episode.

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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