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AOA S4 E4: Settling In & Hitting Our Stride: Season Three

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. My name is Molly. I am your host. I'm also the Founder and Creative Producer of Grey Box Collective, and we are moving right along into season three. But before I start going into season three, let me just take a moment to check in. I'll say again, my voice is a little like, hmm. I don't know, how it's holding up today. But again, my brain is in the space to kind of like dip into this, so I'm making a choice to do so. And also a stairway thought. Okay. So stairway thoughts as just like a phrase is something that I remember. Someone in like my acting 101 class in undergrad had some monologue where they talk about stairway thoughts. And it's like this idea of as soon as you like walk away from a fight, you're like, ah, that's what I should have said to the bastard back there. And if anyone knows what that is from, let me know. I have tried to find this monologue so that I can properly cite where I got this idea. I can't, I can't. So yes. Anyways, that's where stairway thoughts comes from. And so not quite about like what you wanna say to the bastard back there or whatever, but stairway thoughts have become this phrase that we use within Grey Box Collective just to mean like, as soon as you logged off Zoom, you were like, oh, I should have asked this in the meeting. Or as soon as you left rehearsal, you had this thought that felt really important to share with the group. So it's almost like saying, I guess it's another way to say like, let's circle back to this. But like a better way, in my humble opinion, to say that or just like,"oh, I had this thought that I probably like if I had had it. You know, when we were meeting or when we were rehearsing, I would've brought it up then, but I had it actually after, at a later time." So anyways, that's what a stairway thought is. And one of my stairway thoughts is actually, so I'll say the algorithms on social media, just they have been listening real well lately, to, to my thoughts, it feels like less my conversations. And there is one video that just popped up about the creative process and sometimes like you don't know what you're doing until five years later you'll look back and you're like, oh, that's what I did. And I feel like that's kind of what this is in. And as I talk about season three in my notes, I also kind of have that... I have that in my notes, like being so in, it is just like, I don't know what happened. I was just like really wrapped up and lost in this like, whirlwind of a couple of seasons. Like even the fact that season three was fall 2018 to spring 2019, I thought season three was our covid season. So yeah, that's just kind of the blur and the mess I guess, that I was in of just doing the thing without really thinking about the thing. So yes, that is, that's my stairway thought of... kind of in retrospect. It's been, interesting to like put this puzzle together. Not put, I mean the puzzle happened, but see what the puzzle was that I put together, I guess.

Anyways. What happened in season three? So, we presented Tangled Mess at the Artist Box and I think this was one of the only fall events, or was Tangled Mess in the Spring. Never mind. I'm not even gonna get into that. Yeah, well I think I kind of dropped some of these ideas earlier about how, like leaning into the seasons a bit more. And when I say seasons, I'm talking like equinox, solstice. I'm not talking about like when the calendar says a season or whatever. Or I'm not talking about like the, the imposed four seasons per se. But just that... it's something where it's almost always been in the spring. That new work is, that's when it comes out. Anyway, so in this season, we presented Tangled mess at the Artist Box and I really appreciated this process. And the phrase tangled mess actually came, comes from the, It's Not That Simple performance. I think the one for my thesis where we started in what we called a ‘tangled mess’, right? And it was just some vocabulary that we had named from within. That's one of the things that we typically will do is, you know, name the movement score in a way that like really resonates to us. It helps like take some ownership of the work. And so Tangled Mess was the performance and one of the creatives, or I guess maybe a few creatives had shared the sentiment of, you know, we spend so much time trying to understand these complex kind of cultural ideas around like shame culture or busy culture or rape culture. And we, we unpack that whole... like how do we get into it? But the question is how do you get out of it? Right? And kind of that idea of like, if you've ever had a necklace tangled up, right? And you finally get that moment where you're like, oh, I think I see how to get out of this. Like, that was kind of the essence of what we were looking at.

And then we also had the Wild Card Series, so this was new-ish and this was very intentional. So part of what I saw as the trajectory, was that… you know, this work is iterative and that there would be creatives who have been a part of other performances and then choose to step into, like maybe they performed and then they choose to step into more of a director creative leadership role within the company. And so that they would also produce work and it would start with, a relatively small piece of work, like a 10 minute performance and then work their way to like a 30 minute performance. And then eventually Grey Box would produce it as a full evening length work. And so the first time we kind of dabbled with that was with the Wild Cards Series, and we had three pieces performed. One was called Friend Me, Follow Me, Say Hello. And it was the first and almost only, first of two, performances where we had itty-bitty ones, we had youth, I think ages six and eight. And then we had Hyphenated States. Oh, and Friend Me, Follow Me, Say Hello, was Sarah Hyphenated States was with Lizbett and was looking at system involved youth. And then the last piece was led by Dienae and was titled, Tune Into My Live Stream and Please Stop Staring. So looking at ambiguous bodies and surveillance. So we had those three pieces in one evening. We also performed a part of Tangled Mess at Take Back The Night continuing that, that partnership. 

We also performed Fool Me Once…, Fool Me Twice… an excerpt of it at the Network of Ensemble Theaters annual conference. Which like was so great. It was, I think the first time - Okay, so I don't believe that art should only be consumed by artists. I don't believe that our work is best consumed by artists. I prefer to have an audience that maybe isn't your typical arts patron. Right? Or typical or even like made up of artists. Right? And this I think was one of the few times that the work had been placed in front of people who like were our people. And so to see it performed and to see the audience reactions there, it was so wonderful. I'll say Fool Me Once…, Fool Me Twice…, I think is probably the funniest show we've done. Like there was a lot of comedic moments, specifically up against some very not comedic moments. So that we could like really kind of juxtapose those experiences and those fine lines that take us from like, "oh my goodness, this is hysterical” to like, “oh fuck." that's reality, right? Like playing with that, in it. And so to have an audience that like understood devised work that understood experimental work, that I think probably like, social political alignment was also happening in that space. So it was just, yeah, really incredible to see the work received so well. I also think perhaps in hindsight, some missed opportunities. I wasn't really prepared, I think, as the Founder to like step up in front of a group of people and really talk about what we do in the way that I do now. So I do wish that I had, I dunno, made some stronger connections at that time. Especially where our work was up there and it was just, it was great. It was great.

 Let's see. I think this is also when we started doing some workshops for local high school students and teachers. The educational branch of Grey Box was starting to take shape a bit more and have more opportunities. We had this entire season at the Artist’s Box.

 I think this was also the season that the Soap Box Series became a thing. So the Soap Box Series, I believe that was Lizbett and Dienae, taking the lead on initiating that with this idea of like basically collaging soap boxes, like what a bar of soap would come in. But also thinking about soap box as another way to like state your point around an issue or some like critical lens on what's happening in society. So being able to extend the topics that we address in performances and in post-show dialogue, but also taking it beyond that into other events. We, once again, this season we're supported in season three by the Tempe City Grant. And we had our national fiscal sponsor as well that season.

So, yeah. In my notes, I've titled this season Settling In and Hitting Our Stride. And I think, right, this is one of those like, multiple things can be true. And hindsight's, I don't really wanna say hindsight's 2020, 'cause I feel like saying 2020 is like, a visceral response of not a great time. But yeah, it's interesting to like talk through it and be really excited about it, but also knowing that in many ways while hitting our stride, like there was a certain level of self-sacrifice, I was putting myself through, a certain level of disregarding my own needs. I think in language that I'd use now, would be like self abandonment. Of just being so focused. This is pulling on some of the people pleasing and showing up wantless, needless and boundaryless in the previous season. It was starting to really kinda like sink its teeth in and I think I was so focused on the outward perception of like, look, this is only season three and we're already bringing on other directors and creative leaders, and, it felt like there was a lot more support happening outside of kind of the core creatives producing work. And I think I was so focused on that outward perception that I really kind of lost that internal stability that is needed to be running an organization. And as I think about like what I'm gonna talk about in the next two episodes, like, gosh, was I setting myself up for, for a sub-struggle. And like, no wonder I didn't see it coming. Let's see. This would've been fall 2018 to spring 2019. And that's also where, I now can recognize that my mental and physical health really started to change at that time, and started to decline, but in like an amped up way, like so much, right? I had talked about like really doing well in chaos and that adrenaline rush and just like running on like stress hormones or whatever. It was starting to take its toll this season three. But I don't, like, I was aware that things were weird and funky, but I wasn't really able to like pinpoint it. You know, like going to a regular checkup and all of that. Nothing really like came up as a concern. So I just kind of kept muddling through. And I think I was so focused in being in it and going through it. That never like occurred to me to talk to anyone about it, right? Because I think as soon as I say that, I can like hear that echo in my head of like, well, you know, that's why you, we need to check on our strong friends or, you know, make sure you reach out and ask and ask for help and, right? Like it wouldn't have occurred to me at that time that I was someone who maybe should have been asking for help. It also, I don't know, I don't, I'm not a fan of the whole like, check on your strong friends. My thing is like, well be someone that a strong friend would actually want to reach out to. So just toss that one back. And I think I was aware on a certain level that like there is something missing for me here. There is some aspect of being in that leadership role that is not working or it's not, it's not, I'm like wiggling right now. It's not, sinking in, right? There's something I can feel. There's like a gap in, or a blind spot or something that isn't working well for me. And so actually that spring I happened to be a part of the creativity and leadership training through Mesa Arts Center. And I think that also laid a really solid foundation for me with some of the trainings that I would engage with in the next few seasons. So yeah, it's like, I think of the, like phoenix, the phoenix rising from the ashes, right? I felt like I was probably starting to crumble and like sort of aware of it, but also like, no, I, I can like un-crumble and then just like keep flying or something. Yeah. I guess I can also use like the metaphor from the show we did in season six PAUSE…. We talked a lot about butterflies. I think if I think about, how you talked about shrinking in season two. It's almost like I was going into my chrysalis, and I was trying to like still run a company but like up in a chrysalis you, which you can't do 'cause you can't see anything 'cause you're so like in it, right? Yeah. Maybe that's a good way to think of it. So yeah, there was a settling in and a hitting our stride, I think that was happening, but there was also like some cracks in the foundation. I am all over my, all over the place with like metaphors and symbolism. So hopefully this is making sense, or something in there like resonates and lands for you.

But yeah, I think that that was all I had to really share regarding season three. So we'll check out, dear listener, how you doing and what are you thinking about? I hope that something piques your interest or something clicks for you and... yeah, we'll leave it there. Thank you for your time and energy. I greatly appreciate it. 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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