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?
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: 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.