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Interview with Sarah

Updated: Dec 15, 2022

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MOLLY: Hello and Welcome to a 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.

Hey Sarah Tan, welcome to Any Other Any Thing's? would you like to start..

SARAH: Hi Molly.

MOLLY: .. hi, would you like to start with the check-in? Maybe, a quick introduction.

SARAH: Yeah um I'm doing good. I just came back from a long day of uh being with the families I'm with now, because today I stayed with them, to also play games after school so that it's not just school and then they have to leave, so that was really nice. Um I played tiny billiards with a five-year-old and I won the first time and then you know we couldn't finish the second game, but it was fun. It was like a baby version of billiard, it's like the board is like a small um that's fun.

MOLLY: I didn't know that existed.

SARAH: I know he got it for his birthday. Um, yeah, so I'm just calming down now. I feel good. For those who don't know me my name is Sarah Tan. I just graduated from Arizona State with the MFA in Theater for Youth and Community and I've been with Grey Box since the end of my first year, so that's like two and, two and a half-ish years, yeah.

MOLLY: Yeah, um, and we can hop into like the many roles that you've had within Grey Box Collective. Uh, in a moment but would you like to uh lead us through a grounding activity and a warm-up?

SARAH: Yeah. I think it is one of my favorite grounding activities that I have been using a lot when I'm alone now since we can't really be with people, which is sad. Um, it's the one that I learned from you, Molly. Where we um it's like be still um and wherever we are and um just looking around us and looking around our space, so looking at like our furniture what colors we notice. Taking a moment to hear any sounds, like I just heard my AC turn off. And, then slowly moving in and checking in with your breath, noticing how your breath may be changing as you are looking around the space and listening to the sounds and then maybe looking at the people who might be in the room with you.


SARAH: I noticed the people in this space um and it's starting to warm up. Um, one thing that I'm really liking now, especially since I'm finding myself sitting a lot, is just like doing like little movements that slowly grow, so we can start with like wiggling our toes, getting the blood flowing and then moving that up to our ankles and then our calves. You can get creative with how you're sitting and all that, and then you can start wiggling your legs to feel in your hip socket, and slowly let that wiggle move up to your belly, your ribcage, your shoulders, and then to your arms so you have noodle arms, and then all the way up to your head but be gentle with your neck and relax. I feel good now.


MOLLY: Good! I do too. I've been using the orienting to the space a lot more recently, which is I don't know. i find it like just-just interesting that, that's working a lot for me. Um, right now since we've been in our spaces or at least I've been in roughly this space for six months at this point but it's interesting how that same activity can really like evolve and and become more meaningful. So, thank you for for leading us through some orienting to our space, by like a solid round of wiggling.

SARAH: You're welcome! I've been using that a lot, because I'm in a new space, so...

MOLLY: Yeah.

SARAH:...finding that I haven't I feel like my body hasn't like nested in yet.

MOLLY: Yeah it may take awhile.

SARAH: It's slowly getting there it might just take a while, yeah.

MOLLY: Yeah, yeah lovely! Um, thank you. So, would you like to talk a little bit about the roles you have been in? Um, and maybe the shows that go with...

SARAH: Yeah...

MOLLY: ...with Grey Box Collective.

SARAH: ...I started with um, It's Not That Simple, um the 2018 version. Um, I honestly only start went to an edition because Ji Sun, who I think is one of the other people who will be a part of this podcast.


SARAH: Um, the someone who told me about Grey Box and told me to go audition even though I was nervous about whether I would be able to cope in my first year of Grad School, so I'm very grateful for that. Um, I don't think she knows that she's the main reason why I auditioned um, but...

MOLLY: I didn't know that either.

SARAH: ..but because I know so I was like a little nervous to like talk to anyone. Um, yeah but also a performer and It's Not That Simple. Would you like me to talk about the show or is that?

MOLLY: If you want to. Uh, up to you.

SARAH: Okay. So, like a quickie is that It's Not That Simple, is a show that's exploring the different aspects of rape culture and, well I wouldn't say I was going to say the U.U. but, as an international person I could tell Molly that you very much opened up the space for me to bring in other stories and perspectives as someone who is not from the U.S., in terms of understanding rape culture or how similar behaviors existed in other countries especially, youth like understanding physical boundaries or or relationships between different genders. Um, and I was very grateful for that and I feel like I-I am so blessed to have been a part of the process to be able to be a performer and not just be a grad student who just thinks, and also be able to move and devise and feel like my voice is being heard in that like my whole my my first year being in Arizona. Um, so then I stuck with Grey Box, I stuck with Grey Box and, um I continued in like a few other performances. I hope I don't forget any. Um, I did Tangled Mess, um with John. Um, which became well. It was like a trio and then it was a duet, so we had a few different versions but that one was super fun. Um, because we got to get tangled in tulle and um it was a very interesting topic for me to explore also in terms of like where does girls come out of um of trauma, right?

Post-traumatic growth and the fact that you invited us Molly to go through the Grey Box archives to try and find material for that and having only been at the company for two years at that point, I didn't know a lot of the archives and it was just really fun to see all the stuff that um other people have created in the past years. Um, and then in my final final year, my third year um directed with a new director series that you started um the Carmel Collection and I used that also as a platform to work on my thesis, which was devising a show with young people. So, it's a five and nine year old and then the second time I did it it was two six-year-olds and basically what i did was that you see at marco-polo to create a hybrid process of in-person and online um rehearsals and to have them think about creativity in the online space, especially as you are as users of um digital technology and filters and voice changes and turning that into a show and trying to give a young person's perspective on social media or even what it means for them to connect with people online. Um, and then I continue to work with Chris and Ji Sun, um primarily with Chris in the future but, in the future, but like after that um in the education side of Grey Box and created the works with you to create the trauma from creative practice, um workshops for high schoolers, which was supposed to get launched this year officially, you know.

MOLLY: Yeah.

SARAH: But, I'm really glad we got to do the first run um at the Disney Festival.

MOLLY: Yeah.

SARAH: That was a really meaningful experience for me. Yeah, and I've been working like little projects with you uh over the years, as we try and figure out what quarantine means for a Grey Box.

MOLLY: [LAUGH] Yes, yes, and I very much appreciate that that you've been on board and going with the flow as we've been figuring it out along the way, which is like I think I introduced that as like our motto about a year ago of like rediscover the 'way on the way' and I feel like now everyone's discovering the 'way all the way', so I feel like we got like a head start on how to do that. I, also, think it's how everyone moves through life, but we just don't admit it.

SARAH: Well someone told me that as you get older you don't know more you just get better at pretending that you know what you're doing and I, I very much appreciate.


MOLLY: I'd be an expert by the time, yeah. Mm-hmm. Wonderful. Um, I'm hearing you just recap all that I remember in Tangled Mess. I think it was one of the first rehearsals. It was like you and Preston were talking about like uh, what we get, how we get into these messes, but how do we get out? And, it was just like this brain went a completely blank moment of like, 'I don't, I don't know,' I think that's what we're all trying to figure out moving through life of like, how do we get out of the messes that we we've gotten in? Oh, would you like to talk more about that process or maybe how It's Not That Simple and formed it?

SARAH: [LAUGH] I was like my own process of like, is maybe not the best.

MOLLY: [LAUGH] No, that's a big question.

SARAH: Yeah, I-I don't feel like we came to like an agreement or answer on how you can come out of the mess. Um and I still think that you know like whatever happens to you, um you can heal from it, but I don't think but it becomes a part of you, right? And, like it like changes the way you think sometimes it's physical changes in your brain if it's long-term enough. Um, but your body adapts and I think that's the growth part. So, maybe the coming out of it is learning how learning more about your body and your own um ways of thinking and then knowing what works for you when you need to like regulate your systems. Uh yeah, I don't think there's any way for you to step up and say that mess happened and I am no longer a part of it. I think you can step away from the situation, but what you and your body experience I don't think everyone leaves you permanently. This sounds depressing, but then if you think about growth and adapting I feel like once you're able to find the ways you adapt to it, if you become and I feel like I have become a lot more aware of how other people may be experiencing things or at least a lot more forgiving and a better listener.

MOLLY: Yeah.

SARAH: Yeah.

MOLLY: Having gone through the process like kind of a Grey Box method with, It's Not That Simple, which was a pretty intensive process, pretty in-depth process and then going into Tangled Mess. Um, could you talk about from those two shows shifting from being a performer in the process, to stepping into this director role?

SARAH: Mm-hmm. Um, it was so helpful, it really was. And, I think especially the way in which you had like meetings with us beforehand to make sure that as this new director had the support we needed helped me reflect a lot on what parts of um, It's Not That Simple and Tangled Mess. I wanted to hold on to and keep as a director um, and then also be able to have the conversations with you about, like I really like this and I like the way this happened or I guess I was trying to read your steps and I guess that maybe you did 'abc', right? Like, introducing the content later. Um, yeah and then being able to have a conversation to you about the whys that usually that performers don't always get to hear, right? Because, too much information sometimes it's like not useful.

MOLLY: Mm-hmm, yeah.

SARAH: Those are the things that I really hold on to and I appreciate it like, I...I still hold on to the check-ins and checkouts even in non-performance facilitation, like it's just this useful and it really is a really lovely way of creating a sense of ensemble, because everybody's given a chance to speak but no one's pressured to have to say anything or open up to anything that they don't want to. Um, and one of the exercises that I remember the most is how you had us walk back and well not back and forth, but like back once and once back on the bridge at Tempe Town Lake and you're talking about how we were just going to listen like, no like not even like the 'mm-hmms' or the 'ohs' and the supposedly like empathetic responses.

MOLLY: Right.

SARAH: Um...

MOLLY: That I'm currently doing now.

SARAH: Yeah...yeah and that's what um really stuck with me and I've held on to that even when I wrote to the young people, you know, and it's coming up in conversations like if you don't like being interrupted then you know, you shouldn't interrupt them when they're talking. Also, or...or if they're listening, if you listen to them now then they have to listen to you later when you share, right? For adults, like these girls and they understood that um and it helps them also, like not get into the chaos and the arguments that happen and they feel like they're not being heard. Um, because...because the-the promise is that you will go around the circle and you will get a chance to speak. Um...