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Interview with Chris

MOLLY: Hello and welcome to the podcast where we talk about creating experimental art in 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 Anythings?


Hello Chris and Welcome to Any Other Anythings.


CHRIS: Thank you for having me.


MOLLY: Of course. Let's start with a check in. If you want to do a little bit of an introduction, and any other care to shares, or need to knows in the space.


CHRIS: Okay. Well, hello my name is Chris Weise. For Grey Box, I am one of the Education Coordinators. I am also a teacher, a theatre teacher and Drama teacher in the valley. And I also do directing and all sorts of other things like that. In terms of...I can’t think of any other major care to shares. I don't really think so. I think I like that right now. I think that’s a nice place to be.


MOLLY: Cool. Excellent. Would you like to lead us through a grounding activity or share your favorite grounding activity?


CHRIS: Sure.


MOLLY: That we could do?


CHRIS: My favorite grounding activity...This is one that I learned a long time ago in my undergrad days. It's, it's the roll down of the spine. It's one of my absolute favorite ones. We just stand, feet shoulder length apart, keep your shoulders back a little bit, and then you hold your arms up over your head, and then you just send you release them. You release your wrists, you release your fingers, you release your wrists, you release your elbows, you release your arms, and then you just let, you release your head, and then you just let that pull you all the way down over so you're bending completely at the waist. And you to stay there for a little, you bounce on your bended knees, you sway back and forth, then you slowly kind of retract back up on your spine. And then as soon as your head gets back on top of your spine, just floating there like there’s a little string attached to it. Man. That is one of my favorite, absolutely favorite grounding techniques. I forget to do it a lot with my students but man, it is always works wonders for me. I love that technique.


MOLLY: Yeah? How, like, yeah, dig into that a little bit more. Like what is it about that makes it your favorite for you?


CHRIS: Well, for me, the thing that I think really, really makes it interesting for me is that it finds a way, of like I am completely connected to my entire body and engages my whole body. Like all the way...and I really enjoy this whole stretching things up, and just kind of the segmenting of the joints, I find very helpful. And it kind of helps me think about, like this is exactly what...like parts of my body that I can control. These are all the little things that I can control, and this is how it happens, and then kind of feeling that in the arms, and then coming down to the head, and then letting that whole feeling down the rest of my body. And then feeling the weight of my body with the swinging and then coming back up. It's almost like a deconstruction and reconstruction of the structure of my body.


MOLLY: Right? Cool.


CHRIS: And that, to me, has always felt like really like...I adore it so much.


MOLLY: Wonderful. And I feel like it parallels being in the Phoenix area of like, the ashes crumbling, and like the birds coming out of the ashes. Could you talk a little more about your roles, because you’ve had multiple, within the company? And if you wanna dig into any of the shows or experiences, you’re welcome to, or I might get us down that road.


CHRIS: Sure. I think I’ll talk backwards. Like right now...talk backwards as in through the…


MOLLY: Reverse chronological. Yes.


CHRIS: There we go, there we go.


MOLLY: Yeah.


CHRIS: Like I’m currently one of the Education Coordinators. And this has been a really interesting and, I think, really fulfilling like work in the company. Like recently I was able to, or I guess last year, or maybe it was this year. I don’t remember anymore. Working with, doing some workshops at the Arizona Thespian Festival. And things along those lines like really thinking about how to engage..like working on lessons plans. How to engage young people in certain spaces and really thinking about, and really coming to understand Grey Box from more of a like a wider structure; a wider like organizational structure, and how this particular part, like the education section, like how that works within the greater organizational structure.


MOLLY: Yeah.


CHRIS: I think that’s been really useful. I think it’s been a challenge for me and I also think in this way, it’s been, I think ironically, I have learned more about Grey Box’s kind of artistic process not, like being in this position, than I have when I was a stage manager. Which I find really fascinating. So yeah. It’s co-education work so I work with another member of the company and...delightful human to work with. We really enjoy working with each other, and one of the biggest challenges, I know that we always come across is that we tend to be very detailed humans. And so we focused a lot on these details, and sometimes it’s a little harder for us to zoom out and get a little more perspective. We’re like, “This, this, this, this. Okay. Great. Cool.”


MOLLY: Yeah


CHRIS: Yeah. But that’s also been a thing that I very much enjoy. Like thinking about, getting back to the idea of that organizational structure, being such a detailed person, and a person focused on minutia, backing up and seeing all that, and utilizing this position to take that action has been helpful and challenging.


I’ve also done some stage management. Or the one that I always think of is Fool Me One, Fool Me Twice. And that was a delight. It was kinda fun to be...I think it was the redux, if memory serves.


MOLLY: Yeah, so the second version that we had done that went to Boulder Fringe Festival.


CHRIS: Yeah, yeah. One year ago.


MOLLY: Two years.


CHRIS: Two year ago.


MOLLY: Two years ago.


CHRIS: Oh my god. My brain.


MOLLY: Two years, yeah, yeah.


CHRIS: So thinking about, like that process was interesting. I would, like, participate in the warm ups sometimes, and like the grounding activities, I participated in those. But other than that, and I think because it was the second version, a lot of the sequences, or a lot of the ideas were kind of there in a lot of respects. I didn't witness the generation of like, like I didn't witness the entirety of the Grey Box structure, rehearsal structure and creative thing. So I think that’s one of the reasons why; which is why I think now, from an organizational perspective I’m understanding that more the more I try to dig into it. And this is another thing that I talk about with the other Co-Education human, is that they have been a performer and done a lot of stuff. So they’ve gone through the process and I’ve never, I haven’t directly gone through the full process as a performer, or as like an artist in that way. So I’m always...I always feel slightly disconnected from that point.


Hold on. Hands are sweaty. Hold on. Okay.


MOLLY: Yeah


CHRIS: I’m like trying to figure that out.


MOLLY: It’s almost like very external perspective to the process.


CHRIS: Mm hm. Yeah.


MOLLY: Instead of living and breathing it.


CHRIS: And being in the, being, as a stage manager for the second version of Fool Me Once, Fool Me, Twice, because it wasn’t the... because it was a...not a remount but a reimagining.


MOLLY: Yeah.


CHRIS: There wasn’t...I didn’t get a chance to witness that process. And so, or the full process, I guess I would say. And so it’s interesting to like when I was doing stage managing and whatnot in that way and like, “Oh okay.” That being said, I also stage managed for a couple of other shows, some youth shows – Friend Me, Follow Me, Say Hello and Stay (Dis)connected. And those were...and I did some stage management work with that which was a blast. And so I kinda saw the process there. But it was still very different because it was a very different rehearsal from what I’ve come to understand what Grey Box usually does. Again, it was still kind of like, “Okay.” Still kind of on that perspective of outside looking in to certain things with certain stuff I’m trying to pick up and trying to understand. And I did some work with that. I really enjoyed that. That was where I was really getting into, again, running lights, running sound, always a fun time. Actually being on stage at points, moving picture frames around. Yeah that was great. Those are the main things I have done in Grey Box.


As the Education Coordinator, I have been working on doing some online workshops, that we’ve been doing. So being involved in those as well.


MOLLY: Mm hm. Yeah. So you’ve had a really, like, unique combination of experiences; like a lot of our kind of one-off experiences, of... we've only been to a Fringe Festival once and you were part of that. We have only had two youth shows with Sarah taking the lead on that, and you’ve been involved in both of those. So it’s a very unique perspective into the collective as a whole.


CHRIS: That is true. I haven’t thought of it that way. But very much so.


MOLLY: Yeah, and I’ve said this to you and Sarah before but like, I really appreciate how the two of you have pushed us into working with youth more. Cuz I think... this, like the methodology that we use and how we hold the space is very applicable, but that's not my wheelhouse of populations to work with. I don't work with the itty bittys, being under 18. So I’d love to hear, I’d love to hear a little bit more about like what was the process like working with the little ones especially compared to… I mean, Fool Me Once, Fool Me Twice was like definitely a PG-13 show, maybe R...not R, I don’t know what the ratings are.


CHRIS: It was, it was skirting that line though, for sure.


MOLLY: Yeah. So to go from that as you first experience with Grey Box and then work with six, seven, eight-year-olds, is a bit of a 180.


CHRIS: A little bit. Yeah.


MOLLY: A little bit.


CHRIS: A little bit. Well, for me, I think the projects weren’t so close as to where it felt like whip lash. If that makes any sense. The projects had a little bit of distance between them, so like *gasp* That being said, they were totally different experiences in the sense of just working in a room of, of adults that are like, “We're here.” They know the structure, they know all this, you know. The majority of them...their brains are fully developed?


MOLLY: Yeah, if you want to go with the...let’s like just contextualize this for a moment with the audience listener. Of like, going on the theory that we’re not fully developed until we are 25-ish. So yeah. I think everyone was roughly mid-to-late twenties in that group at the time.


CHRIS: Exactly.


MOLLY: Thirties? Maybe?


CHRIS: I think so. I think maybe one of them was, no, I think all of them were at least mid-to-late twenties.


MOLLY: I think so. And if you’re listening, and you were in that show, and you weren’t, apologies for guessing that you were older than you are, but now you probably are. But anyway.


CHRIS: I think only one of them may not have been. But like going, going from, going from that space of working in that group, and pretty much being a, you know, like in terms of stage manager, being an observer, right, and, and whatnot; to working with you know, six, seven, eight-year-olds and being very active in that process. Like activate in a different way. Like as a stage manager for Fool Me Once, Fool Me Twice, I’m like making sure these videos are posted on Facebook for rehearsal purposes. I’m making sure the other things are ready – these notes are done, the score is in the right folders, you know, the sound’s done, I did some sound editing and all that. Where in the other space, I was like, “All right.” You know, it was more of like, “How can I play with these kids, and help them create something?” In a way, and I was very cognizant of like, since I default to director brain, so, as an artist. So a lot of the time, I would be like, “Well, this would be cool.” And like, “This is not my project. Back up.” You know, just being aware of that , and how can I make sure that I'm not stepping on anybody's creative toes that way. But really just do what I can to be there, and react ,and play with the kids per Sarah’s direction; and working with them, and whatnot, and how do we help with that and what does that look like?


So for me, the biggest change was honestly just the developmental way of the humans in space, and how the work was being created. Because to me, the work wasn’t being created in that much of a different way, it was very similar. A lot of it was based on play exploration. And that didn’t feel different at all. It was just the way in which the play was happening. It was very, like, the way in which the play was happening with the adults felt very intentional, in that this is the structure and this is how things are going, and everybody was kind of aware of that. And with the kids, it was like, “Oo let’s just play. Here are some ideas and let’s just play and see what happens.” It was almost more, I don’t know if organic is the right word, but less, less structured or structured in a very different way. Structured to meet the needs of the kids in the space where like the most interesting, authentic, kind of stuff is going to come when they're just playing and experiencing; versus thinking about what structures do they have to play within, or what rules do they have to adhere to. They’re just there, and being present, and playing. And a lot of directions from Sarah, she’s like, “Hey, can you set this up and just kind of be there to respond?” I’m like, perfect. That’s an easy thing I can do. So then the kids have something to respond from, and then something gets developed and created. But that, to me, was the biggest thing. The avenue of creation was very similar. It was mostly the way in which the performers were engaging with the structure or lack of structure in the creation space.


MOLLY: Yeah. So it’s kind of like, the form stayed the same in the process, it was the content change versus like...I don’t know, what was it? The rainbow tongue, the emoji smiley face...


CHRIS: Poop emoji.


MOLLY: The poop emoji. Although that, we don’t have to limit that to the itty bitties.


CHRIS: Nope!


MOLLY: Versus like, for Fool Me One, Fool Me Twice, it’s like, “Oo tampons and condoms. We’re gonna play with like this as our props,” as opposed to like chalk.


CHRIS: Exactly.


MOLLY: Yeah.


CHRIS: Yeah and it felt like the same, like again, the form stayed the same but I think...and also I think, and the content was...but I also think the form was. I don’t know the way... I was talking about the way in which the performers interacted with the structure, and I don’t know if that’s a difference in form.


MOLLY: Maybe it’s a value.


CHRIS: Maybe. Maybe that’s a way to think about it but it was so distinct, and it has to be, right? It has to be for every single person. But it was super interesting, and just how to navigate that, and be in those spaces was really fun, and a very rich experience.


MOLLY: I appreciate that you brought up play as both of those processes. Whether you are six or 26, the importance of play in a rehearsal space, like it doesn't go away, no matter what age. You mentioned learning more about the process as an Education Coordinator. Could we dig into that more?


CHRIS: What about that specifically are you interested in?


MOLLY: Just, you said that you learn more, like what's an example of some of the stuff that you've taken away or...


CHRIS: Well, I think a lot of it, a lot of it … but even that idea of form and content, right? That was a concept that I didn't really understand until I was talking with you and, and Sarah, and looking at the Education Coordination stuff, and like what are we doing? If we’re setting up a workshop, how do we do this? How do we create a workshop that mirrors a rehearsal? And what does that look like? Are we creating form? Are we doing a form rehearsal or are we doing a content rehearsal? And I’m like, what does that mean? And then, you know, just talking with you about that, and talking with Sarah about that, like, that’s something that like just really understanding, coming to a concrete understanding of form and content which I sometimes still struggle with and that’s okay. But that and also, I think understanding the meta, the meta structure of the overall process versus the rehearsal structure. And like understanding those have been, it’s been really interesting and unique to look at it from just a logistical perspective and being like, “This is happening. This is happening. This is happening, and while all of this is happening, as this is being moved through, all these other things are happening as well. So it’s like it’s like, the structure being...or I guess, what did you mentioned before...inception it, right? That was specifically with that workshop.


But just that idea of moving through the overall creative process, and then how that creative...how the rehearsals fit in that creative process, and then how the structure of the rehearsals also build into that creative process, and what that does, and how it supports it. That’s something that I didn’t see, or I saw, I just didn’t understand what I was watching. And when I was stage managing, which I think is why it was a hard, it has been a challenge to write workshops and things because a lot of it is, “Well, how do we mirror the Grey Box process?” And having never embodied that process fully on my own, or with another group, from start to finish makes it...like I have to understand it from a brain space, you know, versus like a heart space. And I’m like, “How can I actually come from a heart versus a brain space?” And then I get all up in my head and this is what happens.


But that’s one of the things that I think about a lot is going into the Education Coordinator space and then how...learning about the logistics of all that, and then trying to transfer those logistics into a functional workshop experience has been a big challenge.


MOLLY: So, yeah, well it's a challenge that like y'all are taking on, like fully embraced. So what is that functioning workshop? Wanna talk through some of the structure that you did with Thespian Festival?


CHRIS: Sure. Like all of the structure like a lot of it was content generation-based. It was all about social emotional well-being topics. And the students, we would choose a well-being topic at the top of the workshop, one was about movement, one was about directing, one was about writing and performing. And so, but it was about, like, so we have this topic, and then we go through the Grey Box rehearsal structure using that topic as our through line. And then in that way, then it becomes a process of this is how we're generating, we're generating content around this topic. So that's how, it's a way of generating content. So understanding that this is a content generation experience, not a form-related experience. And understanding that, understanding that like it’s hard to do a form related experience if you have a one-off thing.


MOLLY: Yeah


CHRIS: And if you only do the one off thing, if you have a series, that's different; but if you only have a one thing that you can't guarantee people are going to go to more than once, then it’s like, well, you know, how do you engage them in a way and look at that...and I think, going back to those workshops and the structures has been helpful, and I still struggle with it from time to time. I think because it’s so, it’s so specific in a, I was gonna say vague way,


MOLLY: That’s my favorite.


CHRIS: I know. Mm...but it’s so specific. Well it’s, okay, I think this is a better way to describe it. It’s, the structures are specific...


MOLLY: Like the trauma-informed creative practices structure?


CHRIS: Yes. Or let’s just talk about the rehearsal structure. The rehearsal structure


MOLLY: Well, that’s in it, yeah.


CHRIS: Yeah. So the rehearsal structure’s really specific. However, what can happen in that rehearsal structure is vast. The possibilities that can happen within that rehearsal structure are really vast. So, to me, that feels like an example of vague specificity. In that the structure is super clear, super specific,


MOLLY: Yeah


CHRIS: We’re gonna like go after, we’re gonna explore this one topic. And then while exploring that topic, you’re like you can get some really interesting stuff in there. But there’s no guarantee. Like the structure is intentionally set up to have that play and have that freedom; which I think allows, which makes it feel a little bit more open, a little bit more “vague” quote unquote. Even though its intended that way on purpose for the allowing of the play, and the generation of the content, and what can happen. Does that make sense?


MOLLY: Yes. I think, let’s like zoom out for a second.


CHRIS: See, I’m focusing on the specifics.


MOLLY: Yes, here come the trees. Let’s look at the forest. So zooming out for a second, what does trauma-informed creative practices mean to you? Either in like an embodied sense or an application sense.


CHRIS: You said embodied and what?


MOLLY: Embodied or in application.


CHRIS: Application. For me, the more I think about trauma-informed creative practices, it feels...I think of it very broadly as a way of accessing yourself. Like a way of, like a unique technique for self-awareness. And using that technique for self-awareness, and embodying that in every way like if you infuse that in all these structures. Then like the way in which work is developed from that, to me, becomes like this whole different, I don’t know. The work itself becomes really self-reflective. And I think, and with that idea of like, like cuz again, when I think of any like trauma work and all like, broadly, it is always about how can I understand myself, in a lot of ways. And trauma-informed creative practices, it’s like going from using that lens and zooming in a little bit, and being like, “All right. Well, here’s this structure,” right? But ultimately that structure, the trauma-informed creative practice is a technique that I think of as a way of exploring myself, which then is applied to a group of people, and a topic, and all these other things. And so then it becomes this incredibly self-reflexive and self-aware thing on an individual level as well as a larger level. Does that make sense?


MOLLY: It does. It does. I really appreciate that like lens of it. And illuminating it in that way.


CHRIS: Yeah and I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately, actually, because, I mean as a school teacher right now, which is a whole other thing, cuz a school teacher right now; and being online, the idea of self-awareness, to me is so crucial. And not only for me as an educator and a teacher but for all of the students in the space. And especially teaching an art class online, a theatre class online, it requires an even deeper sense of self-awareness, I think. And so that to me, I keep thinking about that. And I think the more I think of the trauma-informed creative practices, that Grey Box uses, it’s this...cuz all of the work I have ever seen from Grey Box, it’s all, everybody’s; not just their personality, like, very strong aspects of who they are as human beings are infused in those productions, right? To me that’s an example of that self-awareness, right? You spend the time to build those ensembles, be self-aware in that space, and then you apply that to the structures and everything, and that is infused into the content; and that elevates it in a way that’s like wholly unique, and I...that’s the thing that I, I’ve never verbalized it that way before but I, that’s what I’ve always seen. Does that make sense?


MOLLY: Yeah. It does. Yeah, now you have me reflecting on all that too of like ohhh, and like oo that’s a good thing to pop into a grant too.


CHRIS: Yeah. Yeah!


MOLLY: Yeah! That’s admin brain kicking in. Sorry.


CHRIS: There you go.


MOLLY: So self-reflection being a huge component, and you’ve seen that on stage, you’ve seen it in rehearsal spaces, and unpacking it a bit more as you spend more time with the trauma-informed creative practices. So how has that practice of self-reflection informing you as a teacher, as an artist, as like balancing both of those worlds?


CHRIS: Uhhh it’s hard. It’s real hard.


MOLLY: I know.


CHRIS: So hard. It’s so hard.