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AOA S4 E3: Gaining Traction Inauthentically: Season Two

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.


All right. Hello everyone 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 checking in before I go much further. So I think it was actually this season, season two, that we're talking about where like the care-to-shares need-to-know language maybe came up. Maybe. Anyways, that's what I'm gonna share now. Just sharing that I, I have a lot of tension in my throat and my voice and so, I think I sound a little bit different. Maybe I just sound different in my head. But it's still me and because of whatever is going on with my voice today, I might take some more breaks. It might be a little bit more of a choppy episode. But yeah, I'm in the headspace to do this, so I'm choosing to still do this. Yeah, 'cause that's where my brain is and when my brain is on board, I try to rally as best I can. So we're talking about season two in this episode, and so I've titled it in my notes as Gaining Traction Inauthentically.


So this is… this was quite a season, in hindsight and honestly, at this point, even just reviewing season zero, one to two, it's like, shit, we were kind of cruising. A lot was happening. I don't know. It didn't feel like that. It felt very appropriate, I guess in, in the moment. Or it felt, yeah it felt like, fuck yeah, like we're doing this, like this is a thing. Just like hitting those early markers that you're “supposed to” as a startup. And I'll start by kind of going over what season two brought. I'll also say that season two, that summer between season two and season three was. I don't know like it kind of, it really blurred together just with the opportunities that we had coming up. So I'll talk a little bit about what that summer also brought. 


So this is fall 2017 to summer 2018. Yeah. I'll talk a little bit about what Summer 2018 brought. And yeah, so it might just kind of blur a little bit or be a bit mushy with season three. Which it is in my brain anyways, so I guess it makes sense that perhaps it is in this format too. All right, so the primary focus of season two was the performance It's Not That Simple. And I had mentioned this in a previous episode that It's Not That Simple was, you know, really the piece that I started creating in 2007 or that started like this whole journey back in 2007. And it felt... it was something that I did in 2007 as part of undergrad, and then I staged it again as a performance in my graduate studies at University of Maine and specifically studied the impact of that performance. As student advocacy through performance or something to that effect. So I was studying higher education at that time and looking at the impact of these kinds of performances, on audiences. And like, is really kind of this fascinating study of, seeing the journey that performers go on and then also seeing the journey that audiences go on, right? And the performers obviously like go through this longer journey of being in rehearsals and developing the work. And what I found was that even though the performers go through a longer journey compared to the audience. The audience is just there for one night. There is a very similar, uptick in, in understanding, the impact of sexual assault on college campuses, is basically what the results of that study showed.And so I had done that in my MEd program and then in my MFA program, I really did a deep dive into the performers experience. Doing like one-on-one interviews, really, extensive qualitative work with journaling. That was a part of the process and all of that. And then, so once Grey Box Collective formed, I felt it was necessary to, you know, revisit this show that started this whole journey. I would not have started a company if it wasn't for this show. And so it felt necessary to bring it under the umbrella of Grey Box Collective and also to take it out of an educational context, right? And so the focus being, It's Not That Simple. It started to veer more into rape culture generally as opposed to specifically where the previous iterations were addressing what it was on college campuses. And so this performance of, It's Not That Simple, like this feels like the most formal. I think this was the last time we did formal auditions. Does that make sense? That might make sense. Yeah. I'm saying with as much confidence as I can. The last time we ever held kind of your traditional in-person audition was this season, so season two. That's cool to notice. And it was just focused on, It's Not That Simple. It was a pretty, I think it was a pretty long, extensive rehearsal process. And we performed it at, in Mesa at a location called the Movement Project. We performed it at SMOCA, Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Arts. We performed it at the Phoenix Hostel and also at the Artist Box in Tempe. And, for each of those four performances, it was pretty much the same piece, right? But I do wanna just name that as I was saying, this is a piece that I had done through three different educational or three different degree programs, and then also did this in the company. And I think this is where like iterative work really shows itself and how over a decade basically of working on this piece. Yes, we come in with the, this framework, however, who's in the room matters and the stories, the experiences, beliefs and knowledge. All of that also comes into play here. And so each piece was really different. It wasn't just like, oh, here's the scripts, here's the choreography. Copy, paste, go. It, it allowed for the evolution. 


Alright. Whew. That was a bunch of tangents. Okay. What else happened this season? It was, again, focused on, It's Not That Simple. This is also where we started doing the letter to the audience, because typically there's the director's note in a program. And because the work has been developed collectively, it felt weird to suddenly be like, okay, well we all put our time and energy resources into this, but I'm the one that's gonna like write the note to the audience. Like, no. So we started doing a letter to the audience and we, this season had filmmakers, so we also were able to bring that into a film version form. It was, I don't, it was really exciting. I love that this was something that came out of this season. It is something we have done since. And I think there's also, right, like even just like the framing and the language, like a director's note versus a letter to the audience, and it involves the audience more. Like, it's not just about like what we wanna say. It's like,"Hey, we're also keeping in mind the audience's experience through all of this". 


That season we also performed at Take Back The Night. That was when our partnership with La Frontera began. Which has been just like the most beautiful, warm, fuzzy partnership ever since, even through COVID and like kind of navigating that. But yeah, that's when we first partnered with La Frontera. That is also the Artist’s Box, which is no longer there, but they, this was the first time we performed at the Artist’s Box. And then we performed all of season three there and season four, we officially co-leased that space. So this was where that connection began.


This is also, this is what I have in my notes, again, this is where I'm like, this feels a little fuzzy, but maybe it was in the summer of 2018 where our educational branch of Grey Box Collective started. So we had Sarah, Jisun and Chris were very focused on how this work can be sculpted for like theater for youth, at really all ages. And I think the seeds were planted in season two, but we really didn't take it too far until season three. And I think it was that summer that conversations started to happen.


This was also the season where we first were fiscally sponsored, and so for those who aren't familiar with fiscal sponsorship, it was something that like I had not heard of. It felt like this like little secret that like, now I feel very open and people are like, yeah, of course, get a fiscal sponsor, duh. But in the beginning of Grey Box Collective, I don't, I don't remember anyone ever talking in any of the like businessy kind of spaces I was in about how a fiscal sponsor works. So a fiscal sponsor is for those that are currently formed as LLCs. And, or I guess you could be maybe in some other corporate organizational structure. But for us as an LLC, having a fiscal sponsor that was a 501c3. So basically for-profit nonprofit, I don't like that language. I probably won't use it again. That's not true. I will use it again, but... yes. As an LLC, we were able to basically be under the umbrella of a 501c3, and that allowed us to apply for grants and get funding for this work. And yeah, I guess that's all I'll say there. But that was a big shift. That was an important shift, was being fiscally sponsored by a nonprofit by a 501c3, opened up the door for funding for us.

 

This was also the first season where I started to use the phrase “trauma-informed creative practices”. While it was something that I had been doing for nearly a decade at that point, it was the first time I really framed it that way because of some consulting work that I was doing and... yeah, so that also like enters the scene in season two. I guess season two is a lot of entering the scene, which is interesting with what I'm gonna also talk about, or in contrast to something else I'm gonna talk about. 

This was also the season where we were selected to be a part of the Boulder Fringe Festival. So if you're not familiar with fringe festivals, freaking love this.You basically apply and they literally pull names out of a hat. So, our name was pulled out of a hat for Boulder Fringe Festival and so we did some crowdfunding as well for the Boulder Fringe Festival 'cause we did not have any other way to really get there. And that was for the performance Fool Me Once... Fool Me Twice…. And this was also where I started realizing the importance of resources. And specifically funding, but also like time and energy, in terms of who was a part of Grey Box Collective and realizing that once we took it out of the valley, that we really needed to be better funded, in order to like supplement the, right. So most people who were able to go had a lifestyle where it was possible to take off for a week. It was possible to take a long weekend, basically away from life here. And that's not really that, like, that's a privilege, right? To be able to relocate or take time off of work or away from whatever kind of responsibilities might keep you in your space. So that was I think, some eye-opening moments for myself of realizing like how location matters, realizing that it was a different commitment to sign on for, this sounds so silly to say I guess. Realizing it was a different commitment for people to sign on to a performance to develop the work for a local performance versus signing on to maybe go someplace else to travel it. Which is an excellent epiphany that I kind of wish I framed in that way at that time because that is what I definitely experienced in more recent seasons too. So yeah, that was a challenge. It also is very exciting, like who in season two gets to, you know, do a local tour and then also gets to take another piece out of the state. Like, I think that was really, that felt huge, right?

 

So that's kind of the, the what was going on. And then I guess I'll get back to the whole like gaining traction inauthentically kind of thing. And I think when I started season two, I was trying to like play the role of a really like badass entrepreneur. I was trying to, you know, step in and maybe it wasn't even playing a role, but just like I had a fuck ton of confidence going into this season. And by the time I ended, I was very aware of how much I had shrunken, how much I just felt like I couldn't take up space. And I felt like my knowledge, my skill set had been challenged or called into question in such a way where instead of like unpacking it or dealing with it, I was just like, oh, I'll just like be a quiet little wallflower, which is not a good leader, in hindsight, right? Like I thought that's what I needed, like I thought that was how I was supposed to be showing up in order to allow space for all the creatives to have a voice. And I think as a result it really turned into, like, it started in this spring 2018, end of season two, which is weird to say also because like, there's a lot of like the markers of success, right? Those markers of kind of these big moments as you're starting a company and multiple things can be true. I can hold onto those multiple truths, right? It can be a both and kind of situation, but I was definitely starting to really struggle with kind of that identity as the Founder of Grey Box Collective. And I think I started leaning into people pleasing, but not like obvious people pleasing. I think that's when I started really like avoiding a lot of stuff. I would show up kinda wantless, needless and boundaryless, and again, I think there was, it started in spring 2018 for me and like by the time Covid hit a few years later. Like I was just this tiny little leader, which, is not helpful. I think some of that also comes from being a chameleon as a survival strategy, because at this time I was also living that adjunct life. Adjunct professors are basically like freelance educators, is how I frame it. And getting paid very little, like poverty wages to teach college classes and having to really piece together. Teaching at multiple schools in multiple departments in order to make enough to live on. And I was also teaching fitness classes at this time and in order to really like get by as an adjunct professor and as a fitness instructor, I started to really become a chameleon. Like, what do you need me to teach? Oh, I can teach that. Oh, I can teach that. Sure. I can teach that. I just needed, you know, another $1,200 for another class. Like, okay, cool. And, you know, trying to like piece together roughly eight to ten classes so that I knew I could like make a living for that semester, keep a roof over my head for that semester. And so I think that chameleon kind of vibe is, right? 'Cause again, multiple truths. I think there's something really beautiful about being able to adapt and being able to be in these really dynamic careers. Like that's also something that I've always wanted, and I, I have at this point. But there's a difference between being a chameleon by choice because I think it's exciting and I can like roll with it and do all these things. Versus being a chameleon because like I have to, I have to fit in, I have to make this work, right? Like even my tone changed in talking about it. So, I think that chameleon, in part of my professional life was spilling into how I was leading Grey Box Collective. I also think there's a part of this, like, like I'm an East Coaster, I'm from Maine. We have an edge, we are tough love. Like we will pull you out of a snowbank and tell you're a dumbass for also being on the road in a snowstorm, right? Like, we'll drive you to the ER, but we're gonna tell you like, what the fuck were you thinking? Like, we've got an edge, but we will also care very deeply for your well-being. And I think through grad school I was also kind of getting the messaging of like, that kind of attitude doesn't work here. So I feel like that East Coast style and the West Coast world was also part of like showing up inauthentically and like, okay, oh, that part of me can't show up here. I can't show up with an opinion. I can't show up with a, perspective, a viewpoint, etc. Right? So there's definitely a kind of, I don't know, chipping away at, at who I was, or who I thought I was or who I wanted to maybe be. So there is that layer going on in the background while all of this traction was also happening. Yeah.

Which leads to like an interesting little dynamic. And I do wanna actually go back to having the filmmakers this season. I think it was the first time I really understood the benefit of having people capturing the moments along the way. Like I think about how robust the archival footage of season two is, was, is whatever. And yeah, it just…To capture those moments along the way, even though I think there was a lot of challenging moments, it was really helpful. And asking for help was right as I was like shrinking and all of that. Asking for help was not something on my radar, but I think this was one of the earlier moments where I really saw how handing off certain responsibilities was incredibly helpful.


I think that is all I will share, on season two. Again, like season two and season three feel very blurry for me in terms of like, they feel like they've mushed together, but I guess summer was a very active summer that, that summer between seasons. It wasn't really much of a break, so that makes sense. But yeah, thank you very much for your time and energy of listening. I hope there is something that has, I don't know, maybe clicked for you or resonated for you. And so to check out dear listener. How you doing? What are you thinking about? Feel free to send a message and reach out. Love to hear your thoughts. All right. Thank you for your time and energy. I appreciate it. Please take care of yourselves and each other.


​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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