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AOA S4 E9: Unfolding Echoes of Seasons Past: Season Eight

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 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 I am just about near the end of this season of Any Other Anythings, talking about kind of this - time capsule and capturing what that Grey Box Collective journey has been thus far. And this feels like the weirdest one to record 'cause it's like in the, we're in the middle, right? We're in the middle of season eight, and I don't know, it's interesting 'cause all the other episodes have felt very like in retrospect, and this one's like, well, while I'm in the middle of it. Here's what I have figured out and here's some of the setup and here's some of what we are doing or have done. And yeah. 

I guess checking in real quick for this episode, care-to-shares need-to-knows. Oh, I'll share. In this season so far, actually just the most recent process we went through in rehearsals, like we always do, check-ins. And I added a layer in to check-ins at this point, and I called them MEEP check-ins, M-E-E-P. And to the best of my knowledge I've made it up, and so M-E-E-P stands for, how are you mentally, emotionally, energetically, and physically, right? So, it allows us to kind of tease apart the pieces of how we're doing. And then of course, a reminder - it's always important to make sure that we integrate those parts of ourselves back into our whole self. But yeah, a MEEP check-in, and I can't remember what I was listening to, but there is some conversation about like, you know, ask people how they're doing mentally, emotionally, energetically and physically. And I was like, oh, we can like put that into like a little acronym or whatever. They actually didn't talk about it in that order, so I rearranged it to make it something that I could actually remember. So yeah. My MEEP check-in, let's see, mentally, how am I doing today? Yeah, so mentally doing okay, it's been a bit of a stretch of a week. Yeah, and I think my, like, mentally, I'm still like a little bit on vacation, but also like enjoying getting into some work here and there. Energetically pretty low, and that connects to emotionally, I've been pretty amped up in the past 48 hours, so I think the emotional side of me took the energy. So energetically, I'm, I'm feeling a little low energy, with like some, I don't know, some little sparks here and there of energy coming out. And then physically I'm doing okay. I actually did a fair amount of movement before doing this, and I was thinking maybe I need to start like lightly challenging myself to move every day until I feel better in my body. 'Cause I work through a fair amount of chronic injuries and chronic pain and then like, I'll do just the right amount of movement. And it's like, oh, right, I have the tools that make this all go away. So yeah, I did that. So that, that feels nice. And yeah, overall I am excited that this is, I'm excited on a few levels. I guess that this is like the last-ish - kind of turning that corner of the end of this project. I think I was really nervous about doing this project, but I love how like, once you just like get going, then it's like, “oh no, this is, this is nothing new, these are thoughts I've had before and it's just a matter of organizing things”. So yeah, that's been exciting and - or that's been, surprising is probably a better word. And I am glad that we've got this last part to share, and again, it's like a little weird because it's season eight currently, and, capturing season eight while in it feels a little funky. But, I don't know, the, the past few months, this first half of season eight, feel like there's been so much growth or so much has clicked that, this might still be a pretty significant episode. I will say my notes for this are pretty short, but that's okay.

 So, season eight, what have we done so far? Great question. So season eight started off pretty strong. So we had our tea time and I'll share some of the stuff that I shared during tea time. Tea time is like basically a director's report or a season kickoff kind of thing, but like a softer version perhaps 'cause it's tea time. And from tea time we had - the Mesa Arts Center commissioned us to be a part of their season kickoff, so we performed there. And then, this season, the real focus has also been the Play in the Grey Patreon page, and then we most recently, like less than a month ago, performed for a group of high school students, primarily drama students. So we performed Understanding Otherness, all these shows were Understanding Otherness because this is like the show that is not leaving apparently. I did not think last year, oh, well wait, it's 2024 - I did not think a year and a half ago that we'd still be working on this show, but this seems to be the show that is sticking around. And yeah. So we performed Understanding Otherness in a planetarium, which was like so cool. Like we've performed in a lot of really random-ish places, but like planetarium has to be one of the coolest places that we have performed. And we are, let's see, at the time of this recording, there are some other performances coming up or in the works. So hopefully by the time this recording comes out, we'll also have confirmed another performance in the planetarium, possibly another residency, possibly working with high school students again, and also doing a new coloring book and having that launch as a workshop performance with the coloring book hybrid kind of thing. So yeah, we've got some really cool things coming up. There'll also be, hopefully, not hopefully, there will also be a, right now, at the time of this recording, I'm calling it a value scale intensive, that is for primarily artists and creatives and kinda runs parallel to the Play in the Grey that we have going on. I guess I should just like talk about those things instead of talk around them. So yeah, I can talk about those in a moment. So yeah, it's been, okay.

 So my word of this season has been ‘unfolding’ and so there's been very little planning that I've done. Yeah, and just allowing like from one event, you know, it's amazing what else happens because of that event, right? And so that's the unfolding and instead of really forcing a season to be a season. Allowing it to, I guess maybe organically show itself, illuminate itself, is another way to think about it. And yeah. Actually let me talk about kind of these other notes that I have first, and then I can go back and talk about Play in the Grey a bit more. 

So, I titled this season, Unfolding Through the Echoes of Seasons Past. That sounds so dramatic, but yeah, it, it is this Unfolding Through Echoes of Seasons Past because there's been a, there's been a lot that has happened in Seven Seasons. And one of the big shifts this season is that we're leaning into being a project based company - we have always been one really, but I think as I talked about, like wanting to be like that “real company” with like that full season and there's all this like programming going on and we have everything laid out in advance and like, that's just not, that's not authentic of how the work has been produced in, in Grey Box Collective. So leaning into project base, which has  presented some of its own challenges, which I think I'm going to not really talk about because I'm still in those challenges to a point - I'm still figuring out maybe the actual like heartbeat of those challenges. So, yeah, with that being project based, instead of someone signing on for all eight to ten months, instead it is like, hey you, we've got this one project, it's a performance, it's gonna have this many rehearsal hours, this many commitments for performances, this kind of training required, and that's it. And yeah, so that has been a really different rhythm to work with. And I don't know, there's something about season eight that feels like really serious, right? Like eight feels like old, like seven didn't feel old, but eight is like, whoa. I don't know why and I don't know - I think there's also some thread in here of like in season seven and eight. In eight like I've entered more like the latter part of my thirties and maybe there's a part of me that's just like, I'm getting too old for this shit. So I'm like, cool, I don't wanna deal with that, I don't wanna deal with that, you know, asking for help with this - 'cause I'm not, I'm not gonna figure that out on my own anymore. And yeah, just there's a part of all of this that is me. The dramatic way to say it is I'm firing myself. Yeah, I'm firing myself from a lot of the roles that I have had in this company. I'm done. I'm over it. I'm tired of writing grants. I'm tired of bookkeeping. I'm tired of marketing and social media management. Those things aren't fun, aren't fun in my brain, and so acknowledging like, what all have I done and what all do I want to keep doing. Like, what is, what is the actual role of a Founder and Creative Producer? And yeah, I mean, of a small arts organization, so like with a grain of salt, I guess - but what do I actually want to do? And, you know, what am I, what's taking my time and energy, my own personal resources away from moving the mission and vision of the company forward.


And so that's, that's kind of the personal journey, or the entrepreneurial journey that I'm at right now. And I think part of kinda restructuring to really lean into that project-based company or lean into it, meaning like, I dunno, it's more like - take the cloak off or whatever, of just like, no, this is, we're actually just a project-based company. It's fine. It has really changed my stress levels and I mean, there have been plenty of moments even in just the first half of the season where it's like, oh shit, fuck. Like, I'm like, you know are you kidding me with this shit? Like I've had plenty of those moments, but there's something about the project-based structure that I'm finding allows me to like work through those stress cycles and complete them. Where I think in previous seasons, those stress cycles just built upon themselves. There wasn't any time for as much as I like, was hoping and trying and praying and whatever for, manifesting. More of that like time for rest and recuperation. It just felt like this constant stream of stress and being inundated. And so by going project-based, you know, I think like that somatic lens, right? Like there's that preparation for exertion and then recuperation and that is the rhythm, right? That is the unfolding - even if you think about like something unfolding there is kind of a like, this beautiful suspension and then a, kind of a collapse, but like a flop. Yeah, there is that kind of, I'm gesturing a lot and no one can see it. So yeah, that I think has been really important 'cause I believe that the health of an organization is very much a reflection of the health of the people running that organization.

 Yeah. So I guess to say all that maybe in another way - like because of the project-based structure if there is a stressor I'm experiencing, like I've got my own stress that exists in my body then there's a stressor outside of me. I can work through dealing with whatever that stressor is and resolve it in some way, and then I can also work through metabolizing it as best I can with the stress that builds in my body. So that I can come back to each project with like this relatively neutral kind of vibe, where, because there wasn't any completion of stressors or me being able to fully metabolize that stress, it just, yeah, it just like, built up within me. And I think all of this again, is to say like leaning into the authenticity of how this work needs to be shared in the world, and that feels a bit lofty to say that, right? Like this is what the work needs, but I think that I was desiring for so long that Grey Box Collective was this like “fully functioning” company all season long, which was in juxtaposition of how our seasons were actually working, right? Especially season seven, like that was just whew. And so, you know, anytime we're out of alignment with ourselves - whether that's like at a personal level or like us professionally, or us, yeah, as like an organization. You know all of that factors into this misalignment and I think being in that role of Founder, I was feeling that misalignment, right? And anytime where there's a misalignment, there's gonna be tension, there's gonna be friction. So it has allowed for this much more natural unfolding, and one other thing, kinda with this project based approach act. And it really started in season seven and six, but I think season eight feels like it's the clearest, or the most, like we're really holding this boundary. 

This season and season six, season seven, season eight - really starting to shift this idea of like, okay, how much time do we need to get something done. Like we can luxuriate in a creative process for so damn long, right? Like, let me just live in creative process, it'll be amazing. I could lose all of my time and energy in a creative process, however, unfortunately we don't really exist in a society that allows that, or rewards that or, like, lets you keep a roof over your head if you do that. And so really putting down some parameters around like, okay, we're gonna spend 12 hours together and that is how long it's going to be for us to create a performance - the end, non-negotiable. Some of that was intentional as we were emerging from Covid in season six, so that we space things out in such a way that like if someone got covid, we could like work through that fairly easily. But then there's also layering in, in season seven and eight in particular, like it's not just about the health and safety from that side of like covid things. 

It's also about the budget. You know, when you only get two-thirds of the grant that you ask for, it's like, all right, well I guess in nine hours, let's see what we can create, because that is all the grant is funding. And I think there is the messaging that, right? The do more with less, be resourceful, all of that. That's fine. That's nice. However, that is not sustainable - that is not going to provide a healthy arts ecosystem, that is not going to provide healthy humans, to always have to be like cutting down stuff. And so I think one struggle with all of this is that because the funding is somewhat limited. Therefore, we're not able to really get work to a certain level - I do think that we have had to sacrifice quality of the artistic work, to hold to the values of paying people. Honestly, I would pay people double if we had the funding for it. We pay at like season eight, everyone gets paid, myself included, $17 per hour, which does not sound like much. I would like to see that get closer to $35 per hour and if not like, $40 or $50 per hour. But when I look at the rates that I've been paid in this area, when I look at the rates of other like published pay rates for other organizations. Like, it's actually, I think quite good and I don't like that it's good, 'cause it's not, $17 an hour is not good. But it's what we have at this time and knowing that we're working on how to, like, that's one of the reasons that it's about working efficiently, and how can we really streamline our work so that we can smoothly create something in a very short period of time where our hours are relatively compensated. And I don't know, it just makes me grumpy. On, I don't know, on, I don't know, sticking to my values, that, the arts aren't funded as well as I wish they were.

 Actually, you know, I was attending some, I think it was some entrepreneurial something with, at Juilliard I attended remotely. But someone said like, what do they wish for the future of the arts, And their wish was something to the effect of that new work development was funded as lucratively as a well-established place, right? Like if you want funding for the Nutcracker or Romeo and Juliet, like sure you can get that. People know what it is, they will fund it, but that funding the unknown - I hope that at some point in the very near future, there is more funding for the unknown. There is more funding for development of new work, even close to what established work is funded for. Anyways, that's kind of where things are at, at least in terms of like what's existing in my brain and body.

 I'll also talk about the Patreon because this is something that I have wanted for a while and it's been in the plans, it's been in the works, and you heard me talk about how Play the Grey was part of some of our online workshops and all of that. So Play in the Grey is kind of the initial phase of having a, like a training program, an educational program, for producing this kind of work. And so Play in the Grey is at this time, a virtual community on Patreon, and it's for trauma-informed movers, educators, and arts leaders committed to divesting from old systems and societal norms and are ready to invest in the evolution of the organization, their communities, and themselves. And with the current, as of like, you know, early 2024 the current setup is four different tracks - and so there's the Somatic Movement Technique Track, there's Trauma-Informed Creative Practices, there's the Play in the Grey Philosophy, and then there's Creative Tools and Practices. 

And, so why Play in the Grey? So letting that be this like phrase used to summarize what it is to engage in art making about the messy parts of life, and the phrase has been used in, you know, other workshop series. And the emphasis is on playing, which might feel like, why are we playing with these topics around like shame culture and rape culture that feels like words that shouldn't hang out together, right? But the emphasis on playing is the center, being in the process and trusting that the content discussed, will allow individuals to discover the way on the way. Play in this context can be considered a vehicle for learning. And there's been, you know, a few things over the years that I have just felt like, there needs to be like a, a, a training program basically - I dunno, maybe onboarding is the way to talk about it with how we work. I think one thing that, you know, happened kind of season six and seven was there was like this kind of like culture within the company. And because everyone had been a part of the company for at least, I think at least two seasons for the most part, there was a certain comfort that came with it and we didn't have to actually articulate what it was that was and was not acceptable basically in the space, right? Like it became so, I dunno intangible almost, but also thinking about how there were people who had been a part of Grey Box Collective since the pre-COVID days. And then those that came on during Covid and those that came on in the later half of Covid, I guess is how to distinguish it. And I could really start to see how those kinda like where people entered was really informing how they showed up, which makes sense, right? And so this idea of Play in the Grey and some kind of like onboarding or training is to get everyone on the same page, 'Cause there's been a lot of change over the past several years and a lot of unexpected change too, right? 

And so Play in the Grey has been this way for me to have workshops. Oh, I guess that was the thing to mention - with Play in the Grey, there are six to twelve hours worth of workshops every month and they're all live and they address those four different tracks. And, yeah. It's been a lot of like what I have learned. I mean, in some ways it kind of echoes what I've talked about on this platform, in a way that's much more, you know, workshop-y. Like, okay, so here are some exercises, here are some prompts, here are some things to think about, here are some things to like move in our bodies about. And that's what it's, it's been for, so that's Play in the Grey.

 I feel like there's something else - I guess also like backtracking a little bit to firing myself and saying like - I don't wanna do these things anymore. So there is a, and I, I think I hinted at this earlier on that there is a transition happening like this. One reason I wanted to do this is, this is probably gonna be the last season where it's just my voice. That, one of the things I've really wanted that's been difficult for various reasons to really, structure or like put together in the way that I wanted to is having, co-conspirators, right? Like a board of directors and an advisory board, and it is going to be on those co-conspirators as well as myself to really share the labor of continuing to put this work out there, of continuing to operate Grey Box Collective and continuing that evolution, right? And so yeah, that's one reason I felt the need to do this was to capture all of this. And then hopefully maybe when there's another like time capsule kind of episode, it will be more than my voice. I think that's where I'll end this. Yeah. 

There'll be two more episodes in this series on Any Other Anythings. I'll do a stairway thought episode - so Stairway thoughts are like all those thoughts and I was like, oh, I wish I had mentioned that, right? So as I go through and edit these eight-ish episodes I'll take notes and, and do a stairway thoughts episode of all the, the things. And I was like, oh, I should have said this in this way, or actually that needed more context or whatever. And then I'll also do a wrap-up episode with like a ‘so what now’? Kind of, kind of thing.

 Thank you, for listening and being here along the journey. I appreciate it. I hope that it has been insightful. I hope that something landed for you. I hope that, so, tangent that'll come back to this. When I'm teaching, doing work workshops I sometimes use the format of share ones. And so it's talking about aha Oh no, wow, duh, or moments, uh, in a class. And it's my hope that over the course of this time capsule sequence of series of episodes for Any Other Anythings that you've kind of had all those moments, that you've had those like lightbulb moments where you're like, oh that's the thing that's happening for us. Or you've had those oh no moments of like, oh, we just, “we just did that, no wonder it would, like, why did we do it that way”? Or those wow moments where your mind was just like blown away and then the duh moments, I love the duh moments where you're like, “why didn't I think of that before”? Right? And then maybe some Hm moments, like some stuff that you're still pondering something complete sentences or incomplete thoughts. Because that's, you know, part of the messy Grey process as well. 

So yeah, checking out, dear listener, how are you doing? What are you thinking about? Feel free to reach out through any of our communication pathways and yeah, until the next time, 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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