Interview with Lizbett

Updated: May 7

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?

All right, Lizbett. Welcome to Any Other Anythings? So would you like to start with just a little like introduction of the roles you’ve had with Grey Box?

LIZBETT: Absolutely. So the roles that I've had with Grey Box include being a performer in It’s Not That Simple 2018. And I’ve also taken on a directorial role, for two shows with Grey Box Collective.

MOLLY: Yeah, and is there a warm-up and/or a grounding activity that you'd like to share with us today?

LIZBETT: So, I think my favorite just kind of warm-up, a real quick kind of warm-up, and I would also say just check in, that I tend to be a fan of, is just opening with a gesture and a sound that communicates how you're feeling in that exact moment. And so, for me, right now, because I believe in modeling these kinds of things, my gesture is just gonna be deep shoulder shrug and *sigh*, cuz I need some air. Some breath.

MOLLY: Yeah. That feels nice too to just like mirror you right now, just like, “Oh. Oh those were locked up high. Thank you.”

LIZBETT: You’re welcome.

MOLLY: And thank you for describing it for those who are listening as well. I'll hop in and my gesture, so I’m fanning myself right now, and like a *exhale* with that, because our AC just went out. So it is toasty. Yeah.

LIZBETT: That double fan.

MOLLY: The double fan cuz my little fan is not pumping out much right now. Nice. So do you consider that your check in, your warm-up, and your ground down? Or do you wanna share some other ones?

LIZBETT: Okay. That I would consider just a really concise check in. As far as warm ups go, I really, forgive me, I don't know the exact name for this exercise, and in theatre we tend to be pretty, uh not naming things and naming where they come from explicitly. So this is just a thing I have learned along the way, which seems pretty par for the course. But it’s a count down where you’re kind of using all corners of your body. So I call my hands, my top feet. So like asking people to raise their top feet, and then plant their bottom feet, and just kinda shake out. Since I’m left handed, I go from left to right. You start at ten and so…

MOLLY: Ooo here we go.

LIZBETT: And so shaking out your left top foot. Uh huh and you really kinda get out of breath giving it like a ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one! Then you move to your right top foot. And then you move to your left bottom foot. I know it gets tiring, so I’m not gonna do all. But then, right, as you go ten, then you do nine, starting from the left, going around, eight. And that for me is a good kind of warm up because it really gets everything moving, and the time you hit zero, people are just like shaking, moving messes but in a really enjoyable way, I find. So that will be one of my favorite kinds of warm ups and as always, that can be modified in any way that people need. Using terminology that so fits. Or maybe you want to isolate that to just a head, belly, knee, or whatever works, right? To me, I think it’s just important to hit different parts of your body.

And then, a ground down...for that, I find asking people to find points of connection to be a ground down activity. And usually for me, I will ask people in their own space, in their own time, to find a point of connection; and I might call out a body part. So finding a point of connection between your eyes and an object in the room, right? And then asking people to focus. The you move to finding a point of connection between your left rib and energy you feel. So just, again, varying and also being cognizant of people’s abilities in that. You can also just ask people to move through the exercise how they would like with a broad kind of structure that you’re just focusing on finding different points of connection in different parts of you, and different parts of the space.

MOLLY: Nice. That’s wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing those. I enjoy them all. And just the language that you brought to it as well like I think that's really...Oh there’s a kitty in the background. I think that's awesome. I think it's also just that like, open-ended prompting is so important so that people can really like take it where they need to take it in that moment.

LIZBETT: Exactly.

MOLLY: Yeah, and so then from that, where would you go with a rehearsal? Like if you were getting ready for your Hyphenated States rehearsal, and that's how you checked in, and you're warmed up, and you are grounding down, then what happens?

LIZBETT: If we’re at a point in the rehearsal where people are comfortable, in… and you know, I’m envisioning this as like an in person thing, but as I talk through that, I’ll also think about what that can mean in a digital space, or maybe we aren’t convening together in a physical ind of space but, I think my impulse then, would be moving toward partnering kinds of activities. From moving from finding points of connection between yourselves and the space, within that space, I image there being other kinds of people; and so, this is something that you did with us as well, throughout the rehearsal process for INTS, would be to just like, find another person, and find a point of connection with them physically. And then, moving into some kind of weight sharing. So that could look like something as simple as grabbing another person’s hand that is across from you, and people, both kind of leaning their weight backwards, and relying on that hand to kind of help keep them up in place. Just adding movement and awareness to that. So right, the shape that people are making can travel. And it doesn’t have to be far, it can be, you know, spinning in a circle with it. It can be taking one step to the left, perhaps. But I think that's where I would go in a physical space just to get people physically connected. And then, if we were in a digital space, we had just gone through points of connection, I might then ask people to, to show something that's in their space that they connected with. So for example, I have not eaten, so I have this burrito next to me, so I’m holding it up to the screen and showing Molly my burrito because I am just staring at it. And offering that as a way, to like, bring someone else into the space with me, but also showing a little bit of like, where I am at, and where my consciousness is, which is, you know, on food and this burrito.

MOLLY: Yeah, that’s lovely. That’s lovely. Especially since we are being invited into each other's home’s constantly right now. It's like what are some of the cues, or the the things that happen in our environments, that kinda let us kind of settle in here. Like food.

LIZBETT: And as a person who loves to work in found spaces with found objects, I think it’s also important to just highlight, you know, cool, this burrito can be something. In Hyphenated States, we had a yam as part of the show because someone just brought a yam with them to rehearsal. And so again, just honoring the fact that like, hey whatever you bring is whatever you bring, and like, I respect it.

MOLLY: Yes. Yes, I love that. Taking it not just to that point of whoever is in the room really matters and shapes the show, but it’s also like what are you physically bringing into the space because that might also make it into the show. I was wondering if the yam was going to come up in conversation and I'm really glad that it did.

Could you talk a little bit more about Hyphenated States, I guess version one and version two?

LIZBETT: Okay. Is there...that feels like a big question.

MOLLY: It is

LIZBETT: Is there a point of entry that would be maybe most helpful?

MOLLY: I'm thinking maybe chronological, and taking that like creative process lens through it as a director?

LIZBETT: As a director, I'm trying to...I generally feel a little out of my element taking on the role of director. And I understand, right, intellectually, I get that that can be and mean whatever I need it to be, and mean. However, the way that I was trained, right, was that a director means like I am facilitating the space, and holding it in this way, I have a vision that will be executed, and you all, it is your job to figure out how to execute my vision. That’s not how I work, so, Hyphenated States, particularly the first iteration, was really about, one, me figuring out how do I figure this out for myself? And work with people who can also help figure out and shape a show in a way that feels ethical? In a way that still feels nuanced? In a way that feels honest. So like there’s that aspect of it. And then creatively, I love me a good structure, and I feel as though I can look at, or absorb, or see, hear, you know, just experience different things that provide structures. And I like to translate those structures into different spaces.

So for example, Hyphenated States, is about foster care. Particularly the foster care system in Arizona. Foster care in and of itself is an entire. And what I wanted to do in the first iteration is figure out, cool, what are some structures we can work that are from foster care but artistic? And can live in an artistic kind of place, and communicate what the system is without overtly saying: here is the process of foster care in Arizona, and what it looks like, and here’s the bureaucratic mess. So, so that’s kind of the process for version one and I’m happy to expand on that if there’s anything you want me to say, particularly.

And then in the second iteration, which I think, there was about, nine months in between the two, maybe? Does that sound about right, Molly?

MOLLY: About right.

LIZBETT: Okay. My sense of time is all over the place, so…

MOLLY: That’s okay. Yeah, I feel that. I think it was about, it was essentially Spring to Fall.

LIZBETT: Oh yeah. Okay. So in that amount of time, I felt a little more comfortable being like, okay, this I learned from Cornerstone Theater, right? Like you can always make things more collaborative. And that was a goal for me, was to make things more collaborative. I don't believe that, you know, I had the directorial, with a capital ‘D’ vision of like, this is this thing, you're gonna make this thing. But it was a process of just like, cool, yeah, let's literally just like things. I’m gonna massage them. I’m gonna take a little more time with it. And we’re gonna look at foster care in the ways that you all want, and you know, hey ensemble, what are some of the themes that you see? What are some movements that we keep repeating in the rehearsal process? What’s the mirroring that’s naturally happening amongst people? What are the stories that are just emerging from what we’re doing together? And then trying to shape those together in a way that felt, again, just good and honest, in that it was nuanced and challenged us. So, there wasn’t, if I think about the specifics of the rehearsal process, I don’t think there was a huge difference in terms of the activities that we did or the exercises. But the material that was generated because of people’s lived experiences was vastly different between the first iteration and the second.

MOLLY: Yeah. Thank you for all of that and walking us through it. Could you, could you talk more about like, kind of the in between of iteration one and iteration two, of that self-reflection to get to the point of wanting to amp up the collaboration?

LIZBETT: Okay. Part of my desire to do so came from reflecting on the fact that I, I hadn’t necessarily explored what my own creative process was in ensemble-based work; because I am so used to being an ensemble member, and I love working in that way. You know, where I’m a performer, and I’m bringing whatever, and ultimately someone says like, “Uh… yes. No. Maybe. Mm hm,” you know? And so for whatever reason, it felt necessary to me, that I started kind of, you know, okay, let’s feel out what this thing is but I'm going to, I'm going to do that as more of a solo process because I don't know how to communicate necessarily what I’m experiencing, or what I hope to achieve even, or what my like big vision is in this. So, once I got to the point of being like, okay, the show happened. We had a compressed timeline. We still made something that felt good, that communicated a message. But what does it mean, and I remember this in our production talks together, like what does it mean to come see a quote, unquote, “Lizbett production”? And that question just kept eating at me and I was like, “Ah I don’t know.” How do people see a piece of art and like, “Oo, Lizbett had a hand in that.” So I realized...Cool. Maybe if the only hand I have in it is saying, this is about foster care, I can let everything else fall to the wayside, and let people just be. And I can share my ideas a little bit more transparently about, here’s how I see the show shaping up, and here’s a thing, but I don’t...can we try this and you tell me what you think? So that’s, that’s part of the reflective process that happened, and also you know, I was also doing a really solitary process of writing my dissertation, which I wanted it to not be such a solitary process, and didn't quite know how to make it otherwise. Which was like, “Cool. I need to make art about this.” And yeah, so that really forced me to like, open it up.

MOLLY: Yeah. That's great. I'm surprised, just like listening to you talk and also having gone through these processes with you for the past two years, I'm very surprised to hear you stay that director feels out of your like wheelhouse. Out of your like comfort bubble.

LIZBETT: Why does that surprise you, can I ask?

MOLLY: Yeah! I just think of you as like having so many ideas, and this is, and getting to know you really through the rehearsal process of It’s Not That Simple, of you always, like your brain’s always going, and you're always generating things. And so it felt very natural, I think, to just see you move into a director role quite quickly.

LIZBETT: Thank you! For me the fear comes around, I love performing, and I miss it a whole lot. And so part of my own fear around directing is like, oh I’m just gonna like step in, and I wanna be part of the ensemble, and I wanna be on stage, and I wanna do this. You know, and there’s like a time and place. There are directors who do that. But I didn’t necessarily think this was the time, or place, or space. So that’s my own hesitation around things.

MOLLY: Yeah. Makes sense. Makes sense. But yeah, I just wanted to name that. I didn’t know that that was something that felt like, out of the bubble.


MOLLY: Mm hm. So are you planning to get back into performing right now? Or are you looking at more directing things? Or some other creative role?

LIZBETT: I am not entirely sure for myself. You know, I want to do all of it. So my answer is yes but I don't know who or what timeline I’m working on. You now, like it doesn’t feel like my timeline right now. So when that will happen and how, remains a little but of a mystery, particularly because I just relocated to Minnesota. And I know two people here. So I’m just working on building that, and hoping to get connected to the community here, and stay involved in Grey Box in some way, shape, or form.

MOLLY: Yay. So then backtracking, you were writing a dissertation while creating a performance, and all the things that you do beyond those two items. So how, how did you sustain it? How did you survive and make it to the end of all of that as an artist and as an educator too?

LIZBETT: I've been, I've been chewing on that question. Particularly because of the word balance in there. And I have come to the realization for myself, at least, you know, what Lizbett’s self right now needs is, I don't need to balance that. And I'm not trying to balance that instead, I'm trying to ask myself, you know, how can I just bring this; bring being an artist into everything that I do and I, I believe that I do, right? But it’s a matter of making it more explicit for myself in how I am doing that. Because for me, being an artist is about the unique ways that I think we can make connections amongst things. And I, I find that to be like, utterly, utterly important and that can be done any time, space, form, you know. So it’s just like, hey how can I bring some creativity into this?

So for example, today I just moved into this place, and there’s supposed to be light cleaning that comes on Wednesdays. And they were like, oh if you don’t want us to come, put a note on the door. And I was like, great. I will put a note on the door. Sure enough. I barely have any paper anywhere, and I sure as heck don’t have anything like to adhere the paper to the door with this note. And I don’t want anyone to bother me. So I’m like, okay. Cool. Time to be creative. I’m gonna bring some art into this. How can I leave this note on the door? And so, I dug in my trash, I found this wrapper for a McChicken which I, you know, had gotten modified, so I had a little sticker on it that said like my special order. And I was, perfect. I was gonna use this sticker off of my McChicken wrapper ,and I’m gonna use that wrapper, and I’m just gonna like post that on the door, and say, nope, don't want any cleaning. And for me, that was a way to sustain myself and know like, there is value in being an artist, and an artist can be all encompassing in the same ways that a director can, you know; and I was asked that question at my dissertation. Michael Rohd asked me. He was like, “Lizbett, what does an artist mean to you?” And my response to him at that time in April was, “An artist is a healer.” With some caveats, right? Like particular kinds of artists because not everyone making art or who is creative is questioning the status quo. But the kind of socially engaged artist that I believe myself to be, and that I believe Grey Box artists to be; yeah, we’re healers, and I’m not necessarily trying to balance that with anything. I’m trying to live in that, and be that, and embody that, and let that out into the world, add that.

MOLLY: That’s beautiful. Yeah, I love that. I my brain’s spinning. Thank you. I appreciate that.

LIZBETT: You’re welcome.

MOLLY: Yes. So like can we hang out with like the healer idea, and how that related to Hyphenated States or It's Not That Simple? And since both of those, trauma was a part of the content that you were creating, and then thinking of artists as healers, how do you see those all hanging out together?

LIZBETT: So I’ll say that at least where I’m at right now, I don't necessarily view healing as a desire for wholeness, in the ways that other people talk about healing. Cuz a lot of what I’ve read of encountered in, you know, feminist disability studies, for example, is this questioning of like, what are our norms? What if, what if people just will not be whole in the ways that maybe society deems normative, or appropriate, or desirable, you know? And so, as I think about healing and artistry in It’s Not That Simple and Hyphenated States, for me, maybe what could be part of that healing work for us was about the stories that we tell ourselves, and what we, what we hold, and the kind of narrative healing that might happen for us. And us meaning anyone involved in any part of that creative process. So it could be the audience, it could be the sound designer, it could be the director, a performer, anyone, you know? So how to make sure that there is some kind of honoring and respect around just like people showing up as they are; however that is, right? I think that is already a part of healing because I don't want to place demands on people's existence, you know, like to exist is enough. So, cool, how can people also find some like joy and pleasure in their existence as it is?

So, in INTS, for example, for me, as an ensemble member, it was a difficult time because I was also teaching a class about sexual violence, and then doing this show, right? As a person who has experienced far more sexual violence than I would like to admit. And then, in that process, people disclosing little things here and there outside of a classroom context, you know, where I'm not a mandated reporter. And their just being like, okay cool. The cool part of it being, here is an opportunity to just physically be with other people, and co-regulate with people. So like, doing movement. We did a lot of mirroring kinds of activities which, you know, physically moving around and literally mirroring someone. But in that too, I think the deeper kind of healing that you were having us do was, right, aligning our, kind of, nervous systems with one another, and literally co-regulting. So, that gave me a chance to also re-narrate things for myself to say, “Oh. I can make this beautiful art with people about this. And I don’t have to carry this pain alone.” Which is like, making me emotional right now but that’s great, and I like honor that in this moment. And I hadn’t so explicitly been able to take that idea of sexual assault, rape culture, sexual violence for myself and just look at it, and exist with it, in so many different ways. So we did mind mapping about it. We did, you know, movement-based things. We did partner, you know, exercises where we would generate material. We did solo work. We played with different technologies. And in that process, I realized, oh okay... This is what we do when we are trying to look at the grey areas of things, and not just present one narrative. So we can do that with all these different kinds of forms and technologies. So that’s what I’m gonna do in Hyphenated States because I got to experience something that was healing in that way. And I was able to latch on to different narratives and internalize different messages for myself. So when working on a show about foster care, so like, that can be a deeply traumatic experience for people. Even like, if they have no direct system involvement, constellation care and people involved in that system, is so vast and broad that, you know...One of the counsellors for EMPACT, for example, was there at the show, was also like, “Yeah. I’ve had ex