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Care & Creativity Panel Discussion

Updated: Dec 15, 2022


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MOLLY: Hello and welcome to the podcast where we talk about creating experimental art and trauma-informed and sustainable ways that support artists, our communities, and the organization as a whole. I'm Molly and you're listening to Any Other Anything's?


SARAH: The title for this panel is on Care and Creativity, which for me I see as in the performance space is something that goes hand in hand, right? Um, so I'm thinking we can open up the conversation on care and then walk away into creativity as we talk about how those two go hand in hand. So the first question I have for you three is when you think about care in digital performances what comes to mind?


FOX: So the first thing that comes to my mind is something that I had that I don't have a lot of experience doing myself, but I have experience like witnessing in uh in other performers and creators. Um the first thing that I think of is like uh twitch streams how um it's a very different form of media than say broadcast television, right? For the very simple reason that you have a chat window or like down or to the right wherever whoever is watching everybody in the audience has the opportunity to immediately engage with uh with the creator and the performer no matter what they're doing. Um, and it's up to the performer to decide what like what level of response they're going to give or what kind of interaction that they're going to have but I've found that especially in the streamers that I've watched who are who are like Trans or LGBTQ generally streamers one thing that I'm so heartened by is seeing how those folks create these caring supportive like safe environments for people to be themselves and also to hang out and just do normal things together, like watch somebody play a video game. And, so that's what I think about is, is digital media and especially live digital media gives us this opportunity to connect directly with people which works in a way different way than like audience participation has in the past or would in like a physical medium so, that's that's where I go first.


SARAH: Cool! So you're thinking a lot about um, because audience participation and maybe has more of a like like in-person energy or maybe you're like like do I touch this person or do I not? Now that that's gone you're thinking about how does it show up in a different way when it's a very like controlled and mediated um wave interaction right they only have one option and one way of interacting with the person streaming.


FOX: Yeah, yeah I agree because um because that I feel like we've all been in a situation where we've been asked to participate as an audience member where we weren't expecting it, right? And, there is that question of like to what level like to what extent am I supposed to engage and like what's, what's okay and what's not okay. Um, and that is one of the cool things about the digital digital space like that where all you have is text as an audience member like you have the chat window and the streamer can speak and and do anything else. Um, so yeah like limiting that engagement or that mode of engagement I think allows for a lot more freedom because you have like you know exactly the limits of what your interaction can be.


CHELSEA: Thank you. Um, as far as care I immediately think of I guess digital burnout or media burnout. I guess I think a lot of times we assume because we're working from home we're like fine you have all like one as a performer you don't feel like you have any room to be like you don't feel as comfortable saying, I'm so exhausted because that's hard to say when you're at home, but it's like very true. And, then sometimes if you're like maybe in that leadership or director role you can't you might be like everyone should be totally energetic and energized because they're in their homes but it's like not the case you actually get burnt out a lot faster online. Um, and like there's not that much good about like staring, especially doing these things on Zoom something's been really hard for me as far as like self-care is like having to constantly like see yourself um because that's something I actually don't even like about like doing like film stuff and this is like I'm constantly in my own face. Um, so I guess figuring out how we can work around those factors to create a more caring environment.


BRIANA: I think something that's been coming up for me lately is I'm very introverted and being in the digital world it's like I'm sharing the most intimate part of my life with everybody online and that's that's been really hard to adjust to um and, also with like family members or the people that I live with usually I keep my creativity like in the studio and then I have like my home life and sometimes maybe I'm, I'm working at home too but, I'm never creating like dances or anything in front of my partner necessarily but right now I am. And it's it's almost like someone's watching me create right now like it's that's been an interesting adjustment as far as care goes and and knowing that like I don't know I-I can disconnect and be away from the computer and I don't have to constantly be sharing these intimate parts of my life online.


SARAH: And your cat! So I guess what I'm thinking about now is as you were doing On Repeat and assets in seats. What was the conversation like in terms of care in these different ways that you were talking about? And, how did that influence in the way in which you used your creativity as collaborators for each of the performances or did the conversation happen at all?


CHELSEA: Well I think one great thing about especially in Grey Box that I don't necessarily experience in every other company I've worked with is that we always do a check-in and we always do a check-out. Um, which might not be as intentional about enforcing like care and safety I guess but at least we always know where the other people in our group are kind of starting from. Um, and I think as we got more comfortable with each other too um, because for this piece this was the first time working with Brianna, also in like a digital space. Um, so I feel like we learned a lot about each other kind of throughout the process and it took us a little bit longer to like be more vulnerable where we could kind of express ourselves that way. So, I think I think we started checking-in a little bit more as we like dug deeper into the process and got more comfortable with one another.


SARAH: Thank you.


FOX: As far, as asses in seats go I can say that the uh that the question didn't really come up in terms of like in terms of like care as it relates to audience experience um but I do think that even though it wasn't like necessarily an explicit uh conversation that it was that part of the navigation of rehearsal and devising for asses in seats was very much about care for each other as performers and collaborators, right? So, um so it was very like a very flexible and open sort of rehearsal schedule where we had like we left plenty of time for the rest of our life to happen and have tons of time to recharge and also make sure that it fit in with everybody else's schedule. And, I think really uh one of the decisions that we made which was now that I think about it more uh more about care for us as performers was probably the idea to uh to keep both the chat window closed and uh and everybody else's cameras off uh during asses in seats, because we were like the the direction that we decided to take the, the piece was more focused on this very presentational sort of thing. Where the interaction was between each other um so you have you still have that decentralized sort of thing that you can only have online where it's like a bunch of people in their own rooms um, but not necessarily opening that up to the entire audience as uh as the purpose of this uh at least this version of it.


BRIANA: And, then I would say in On Repeat um while we were checking-in and of course getting more vulnerable over time it became really fun too. Um, because of the nature of the piece that we created it became really fun to go through Chelsea's makeup tutorial um if if everyone here assuming everyone here saw On Repeat um Chelsea had a really fun makeup tutorial and it was just something I always looked forward to when we were going through the performance so it was kind of like getting with your friends, which I consider an active self-care like to socialize and have fun with your friends so in a way the performance was taking care of us.


SARAH: Yeah I really like that and it's I think a lot about how um the parameters that were set up for um assets in seats and On Repeat people very different in that for On Repeat the chat box is wide open, right? Touched on the point about how the chat box being open can also make you more vulnerable as a performer because anyone can just type anything and you can't filter that and it makes me think about how in live performance we can't control, how the audience is going to respond in the moment either but maybe there's like a set of like audience rules or like social norms that they've already been trained in um that maybe don't exist on Zoom any...well don't exist on Zoom yet, right? With like people who Zoom bomb um and the fears of that coming up. And, how we're finding different ways to learn about what Zoom etiquette is I think that's very it sounds like that's what's slowly happening as more online performances happen so that's really fascinating for me to think about, especially since all of you also wore director hats right as as collaborators in the device process. Um, so now we're gonna expand to beyond just On Repeat and assets in seats but, how has creativity maybe shifted in your own personal life if it has it all during this time during this time? It can be in relation to COVID, it can be in relation to quarantine, it can be in relation to what's going on in the world with Black Lives Matter movement and any other um political thing that's going on. Um, how do you feel like your creativity might have may have shifted it during this time as you're trying to create in your different spaces?


FOX: Uh I'll start I think that um my creativity has been like the the motivation is uh is higher than than before say for example quarantine, uh in COVID in general. Um, I would say that that's probably personally just more like a function of of cabin fever uh because I know that um I know for myself that I am in a better that I am always in a better state of mental health if I am creating something, if I'm making uh if I'm making uh art or something like it. So, um so I think that the like I definitely noticed an uptick in uh in motivation now uh actually putting pen to paper or like do it like making something has been much more difficult for a number of reasons which I would say like I feel like my schedule is way busier now than it ever was before COVID, right? Like, uh I have a lot more things that uh and, and like interactions that happen online now that demand my attention on a much more regular basis than uh than they used to. And, so it's actually harder to find time or to set aside time to say, 'okay cool I'm just gonna noodle right or I'm just gonna compost a little bit to get like the juices flowing and then have uh like have a like a space to actually make something.' Um, because it's also we're also going through like a collective trauma, right? Like it's not just uh hey everything's kind of on hold now just do whatever you want to do like it's the world's going crazy go like it's like it's way heavier than it then it feels like it should be because we're just staying at home, right? Um, and I start to question like what my role is as an artist in all of that, right? Like, and especially now like you mentioned with the Black Lives Matter movement. And, like my voice is absolutely less important than a lot of people's voices for this particular moment and probably in general, um I'll own that. But, uh so that also like that enters into it too like I have to temper my my desire to create things with that, with that need to to hold space for other people whose voices should be heard right now and I don't know how good of a job I'm doing at it but I'd like to do better, you know? I feel like I've hit a lot of points and I'm sort of just rambling so I'm going to I'm going to pass it off to y'all.


CHELSEA: Great. Thank you.


BRIANA: Um creativity has really felt kind of like a wave to me lately it's like I go through periods of being uninspired and unmotivated and then just like bursts of like energy and wanting to do things and create things and being really inspired and then kind of touched on making space for other creators I've kind of turned my Instagram lately into just like sharing information and whatnot from other creators and other things that other people have written. But, I've also been taking a lot of time to write on my own that I haven't had time for um before this and I haven't really had a desire to write so much as I have lately during the quarantine and, um, yeah. I think writing has come back a lot but I was working with Kazo Dance Company and we have shifted the dates for a performance three times until the show was actually cancelled and, then I had an audition with them last week and at the door before we went into the studio we got our temperatures checked we got a towel to bring in to wipe sweat throughout class and every like 15 minutes maybe it felt like we went and we washed our hands. So that was an interesting studio experience but, yeah it's been my creative life.


SARAH: Yeah, that's interesting because it feels like it breaks if you're like on a creative train it feels like you need to take out stops in between to wash your hands.


BRIANA: Yeah.


SARAH: Chelsea, did you have any thoughts on this one?


CHELSEA: Yeah. Um it was interesting at the beginning of all this because I had been working, like I was getting my teaching certification so I was going to I was teaching five days a week regular teacher hours but, then on top of that I still to go to my pain. I'd go to a job to make money and then on top of that like sketch group it was just like 70 hours a week spent just like not being home. So, when all this happened I'm like finally time to be so creative, but I was like when I'm home apparently like I like I have to be busy to actually like feel creative, I guess. And, I saw like, I was like this meme or something it was like for all those people who said they just needed time and aren't doing anything like you're just lazy. And, then that just like hit me. I was like, 'oh my gosh' but then I read other stuff that was like, 'no you need it'. Like it's okay to just like rest during this time. Um, so I kind of took that mentality and resting actually has been super helpful and I think as I move forward as a performer that's gonna help me in the long run. Right now I'm just focusing more on just listening. Um I miss this white person so, at the moment like I feel like my voice is not me, it definitely does not need to be that loud and it's a great time to be listening and I've had so much time to read, actually like more literature and things that I'd like to read about just being like learning about police brutality and all that and like reading about communities without police and stuff. And, it's actually super interesting and finding ways to donate because I think before I didn't really know how to be and quote unquote ally or how to like really help a movement and like having all this like time off and so many people using like being active on social media I feel like I've learned so much about how to be like more effective and how I support other causes.


SARAH: Awesome, thank you. It sounds like all of you. It sounds like part of the creativity is also in figuring out if we thinking about like process versus versus products, right? What kinds of products are we producing or sharing as a way of supporting our current community in the ways that they need it? Um, and I think that's very, that's something that um is like difficult to to answer in the moment, right? But, it's a reflection of the way in which social media is so prolific and the way social media can continue movements and strengthen movements. Um, so then thinking about how we are using on our own social media to share our arts because I know a lot of um a lot of my dancer friends have their own Instagram, right? Whereas, like their improv dances are posted, right? But, then how we like Brianna, that you say that you were sharing other people's art I'm seeing a lot of other celebrities do the same thing. Where they have um a black person take over their Instagram account just so that their voices are getting shown on their account since they have since they are like the white person in this space who is like a very famous celebrity with a lot of um followers. So I think it's exciting. I think it's exciting how people are seeing the way in which the online space and, the arts can be used in different ways to to support what's going on in the world now and hopefully improve it. Um, so then that brings me to my last formal question uh before the Q & A so if you could predict the future um how do you think this increase in digital performances and creative works can or may influence the post quarantine world? This can be in regards to creativity it can be in regards to care or both.


FOX: It reminds me of a conversation I was having the other the other night with uh with a couple of colleagues from Howell theater project. Um, who uh were were another sort of small experimental Phoenix theater um, and we were talking about um we were talking about what it's going to be like when uh when we go when we sort of go back if whatever that looks, like even if that is even a thing anymore, right? But, like that's a that's another so assuming that we like we figure this out and we can go back to uh to like not social distancing all of the time and a much more normal looking kind of day-to-day interaction with people the thing that we were talking about was that people are going to it's our opinion and we could be wrong, right? But it's our opinion that people are going to crave live performance in a way that I don't think we have in a long time. I mean like we're theater nerds, right? And, performers and stuff so like we get it but like a lot of people it's not really in their in their zeitgeist or their or their paradigm you know because it's like you you watch tv or you go to movies and things like that and like maybe you go to a musical occasionally because your mom wants to go, right?


But, um yeah I think that it's because we're already feeling that like that's that emotional thirst um and hunger that we that we've been starved for and like interacting with people in a in a face-to-face kind of environment and I think that that is going to be one of the things that we're going to see a resurgence of uh of people wanting to go and look at bodies, right? Like doing interesting things you know what I mean? Um, but in terms of so like I think that's going to be like uh like a whiplash effect of all of this but, directly in terms of like how it's going to affect say digital performance. I think it's uh I think it's going to be a huge opportunity like watching as all of the the coming months and years unfold uh to see new conversations like this about what did what the role of digital media is, right? And, how we have these new technologies that that give us immediacy of access and interaction with performers and presenters and things like that in a way that is pretty different from from how it's been before uh so I think that we're like we're gonna see like a retro vibe of everybody being like I want to see a live theater but, also I think we're going to see a huge explosion of different ways of being a person that is in front of other people on the internet. Um, yeah and different ways of thinking about what it's like to be an audience member and how I how I engage with and uh, and interact with the media that I consume as opposed to just being presented with something grabbing it from you know Netflix or on demand or whatever. Um, and consuming it passively like I think it's uh it's the wild west like it's a huge frontier of uh of of active media that is going to change the way that we think about interaction and performance. And, if that's not sufficiently vague I don't know what it is. So, I'll stop.


[SARAH & FOX LAUGH]


SARAH: That's really fascinating. I...yeah that I had different theories on that also, and then the protests happened. I was like, 'oh' and now we're all seeing each other. Um, but Brianna and Chelsea, what thoughts do you have?


CHELSEA: Yeah. I hope um I'm optimistic that this will hopefully, I guess like open up our world um it's I don't know it's interesting because we like all the technology we're using we've like already had for like quite some time, but would like I don't know if it's been like a hesitation to like bring it into live theater or whatnot to like a full extent. But, I'm like why can't like my friend that lives in Switzerland come see my live Grey Box performance and doing this online I'm like there's really no reason, like set up a camera and chair; girl can log in and she's there. So, I'm hoping that it can open up and expand our audience and also for us to see perform maybe we can even work with performers from different, like, I don't think you need to be I guess in Arizona to work with other Arizona artists. So, I'm excited to see that hopefully um that kind of sticks, because I know there's been a lot of theater companies just working with people that are just all over the place. So, I hope that kind of sticks around as we as things hopefully eventually go back to whatever normal looks like.


BRIANA: Yeah. Um, I would say as a positive and branching off of what Chelsea's kind of talking about accessibility is really cool that a lot of people are getting exposure to art that wouldn't necessarily be in an audience, if they weren't given the opportunity to watch it at home. Um, so I think that's really important and really just does broaden our audience. I do definitely crave being back on a stage with other bodies and connecting with other bodies though. Um, yeah just being able to like hug people in person and like I don't know like put my face on them and I really value those things as a performer. I hope that the future doesn't mean that we are just behind screens but, if we can have a little bit of both in some way then that would be amazing.


SARAH: Yeah. I love putting your face on somebody. It was very much a dancer thing. Like, I'm just going to put my face on you. [LAUGHS]


FOX: [LAUGHS] We can have a little human contact as a treat.


CHELSEA: I just want to meet Brianna. That's up on my list.

I want to lay my head on you.


SARAH: We'll do this.


FOX: Yeah, maybe a resurgence of all of those like old uh infant alley songs of like 'Cheek to Cheek' and 'Put Your Head on the Shoulder'.