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Interview with Sarah


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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.


[BOTH LAUGH]


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.


[BOTH LAUGH]


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.


MOLLY: Yep!


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.


[BOTH LAUGH]


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...


MOLLY: Yes.


Sarah: ...so those helped me a lot um and then I didn't get into like difficult content with the young people, but the idea of a form before content is something that I still think a lot about um, especially if I do um, like, necessary but challenging content with with my undergrads. When I was teaching right like, how do I instead of scaring them away from the conversation? How do I give them the skills that they need to feel like they can trust the other peers in the room? Especially, when I was online and it's like you know you can't...you can't feel the energy of the room and the ones who want to speak may dominate, right?


MOLLY: Um, yeah.


SARAH: How do I set up this space um modeling the need for an ensemble focus rehearsal structure to allow for those conversations to happen um in a way where people will listen even if they feel quite fired up about the topic.


MOLLY: Mm-hmm.


SARAH: It can be very vague. The example I'm thinking about in mind is like when I teach a critical race theory or feminism and a lot of the and there are students who know every theories that has written anything about it, and then other students who don't. And, it's like how do I set up this space in the ensemble way, where um the ones who don't know as much but want to learn don't feel intimidated or attacked by those who are getting offended by the fact that their peers don't know anything about feminism or critical race theory?

MOLLY: Yeahh...yeah.


SARAH: So, it's been super useful being a performer moving to director um has like bled into other parts of my facilitation.


MOLLY: Wonderful! Um, thanks for sharing all that and I really appreciate hearing how you've applied it with like the itty bitty um and the conversations that can come up with that um, and I think that's one thing I find fascinating about like working with with young people when I say "itty bitty" as you know that's like that's under 18 um, versus college students. Which is the crowd I hang out with um and so like I'm used to how those conversations typically go in a more collegial setting, but to hear how they go with the younger um the younger. young people. Uh it's also it's informative as well, because I don't think those are conversations necessarily that would pop up in the same way so, I love hearing how it translates. Would you like to talk more about your work with with young people and, maybe a little bit about your thesis?


SARAH: Yeah, so I primarily worked with...so my like the age group I love..like I've worked with a lot of issues the age group, I love is like elementary school. Um, and I worked with my friend's daughter who was uh five at the time and she was the main kid that I knew, so it was the easiest to recruit for my thesis, but a lot of my work that I do as a director or like assistant collaborator with young people, especially, if um like they don't know how to write yet or they're always still learning about what a story structure is they want to write a story um or they like you know first exposure to theater and they don't know theater lingo. Um...I constantly hold on to the value in myself that I need to um take time and start to learn what each of their interests and strengths are and then use those to decide what my next activity is in order to reach the goal I want, right? So, if I wanted the young people to create or even to create um samples of sounds just so that I could see if any of those could be recorded whether it's vocal or whether it's instrumental. Um, I did stations, so I try to model what they have in their classroom, so there's something recognizable and also it, it models moment work, which is what you do. It's just there in the form of stations...


MOLLY: Yeah, nice.


SARAH: ...so they're easy different kinds of sound they could play with so one was like a live mic um and, then another one was chopsticks with glass and plastic cups. Um, and we did Chris and I, Chris was assisting me at that time as a stage manager. Um, he and I would be with each young person to like side coach them into figuring out what the different things they can do with these items, because sometimes they look at the tops and they go 'I don't know.' So, it's like playing with them, like getting that playfulness out, because once they get it they have so much fun. Um, and then observing them also what they're playing, so we did that. Had them share with each other their favorite moments or things they discovered from the item. Um, and then bringing them together when I saw what strengths they had. So, one of them was not comfortable with the mic but she loved love...love like creating rhythms with the glasses and the other young person um her dad's a musician so she knows...she knows a lot of music lingo it's just exposed to like what music creation is and means. Um, she was very comfortable at the mic but that also meant that it silenced the other young person. So, what I did instead of I put the both of them at one stage and this is like part three, right? It's like go explore, share, comment, let's try and do a duet and see if it's possible. Um they did do it so beautifully so the young person who um didn't have the dad as a musician she was just like going on, but the one who's that was a musician she will play for a bit and she goes. Oh I'm not going to use her name, I'm going to create a name now, she'll be like, hold on, and then she'll like stop this, she'll stop the music and let that let her do herself she goes and "Now hold for me."


[BOTH LAUGH]


SARAH: And, she goes "and together." It didn't make sense to the other young person, but it was like that's a strength like her strength was knowing rhythm, knowing music, so then I built up that and recorded it recorded that and used it as background music for their show. So, like little things like that. Where I'm observing what their strengths are and what they're interested in. Um, because I believe you can hit the same goals that you want while building on someone's strengths and like not forcing them into a process, which is something that I also feel like I got a lot from the way in which you let um, It's Not That Simple and, that I never felt forced to have to move a certain way or have to speak a certain way um or understand a certain lingo to be able to participate. Yeah.


MOLLY: Thank you.


SARAH: You're welcome.


MOLLY: Um, uh I love like the stations partially, because like also my fitness brain, my fitness instructor brain kicks in and it's like that's exactly what we do in fitness classes. It's like okay one has your station and we all well pre-covered. We all you know go to our different stations and how that playfulness is still in us in some way that gets us through our exercises as adults or whatever. Um, but I also really appreciate how you're just talking about like building in building efficiency into the whole thing and like building their confidence up and the way that you scaffolded that creative process so that they had the little tools that eventually became bigger tools that they could use with each other. I had not heard that story about...about the back and forth so, that's also really fun to hear. Um, so I feel like you've kind of touched on it a little bit, but I'm curious to hear more about some of the values that have come up for you, uh with the work that you've done with Grey Box Collective?


SARAH: Yeah, so I think the few that I've talked spoken about is like um it's like recapping my brain. Also, as like, valuing and building on each performer's strengths, um creating ensemble uh through rituals. So, like, I think the formal terms like ritual we haven't talked about, but this um it would be not like the scary ritual way. [LAUGHS] Like, the teacher didn't play oh like we know a check is gonna happen, we know checkout's gonna happen, uh we know one was gonna start at the beginning and, then we know we're gonna go into content building and, then running it a few times, so the idea of predictability. So, that newness and content and form is not as overwhelming. Um, I think one thing that I also have held on to is...is allowing myself to as a director to be open to hearing things I may not understand. Um, because of the way in which I saw you value

multiple perspectives and the complexity of a topic, right? So, and allowing myself to be okay with the unexpected. Um, at a point in the rehearsal my professor told me that I needed to start keeping my journal um, like observing myself and writing down before each rehearsal expectations, like 'how I think the young people would react to the rehearsal?' And, then what actually happened to do a check-in in myself of like how am I perceiving young people? How am I perceiving their ability to do things and or like how perceiving their stories and what they're seeing? Because a lot of what um they shared I didn't expect...I didn't expect them. I didn't expect that, right? Like, I thought that they knew what social media was, I thought they knew about different apps and when I mentioned social media they were like, "I don't know what it is? It's kind of like emojis?" And, I was like they're on topic for this age group...[LAUGH]...like being okay with that and then figuring out how I'm going to still do the show of being honest about what they do know, instead of me suddenly feeling like I need to educate them to create the show that I wanted to be, because the point is that it needs to be their sharing and not mine. So, being I guess for me that's like the honesty part, like I need to be honest with myself, that I needed that I put them in this position. So that they can share their sign and not using them as a way to share my side.


MOLLY: Yeah that's great! Um, is that how like, where did that philosophy emerge for you? That feels really like succinct and powerful.


SARAH: What do you mean?


MOLLY: Of using I think so often directors use the bodies of the space to push for their own ideas versus using...using; no versus allowing the bodies in the space or collaborating. I guess is the way to go with that collaborating with the bodies in the space to be able to work together around a certain idea that might not settle well with you.


SARAH: [LAUGH] Yeah I think I needed to like do a lot. I did a lot of experimenting of just what device work is and what it means for me to devise a piece of work in undergrad. Um, but I think the how I keep doing this is probably twofold in that I think allowing the bodies to be as they are in the space I have held on to very deeply from my modern dance experience in undergrad. So, I didn't do modern days at all until I went to undergrad and I only knew about it because my two older sisters did it, and I was very much like 'I'm not going to do it, because that is their thing and I want to be different' but I took a modern dance class just for fun, the professors like, "You can just try to try this class and then if you want you can register for it otherwise it's okay." Because, I told her "I don't know if I can do it, I was like I haven't danced since I was nine." Um, and it's just a way that she taught like taught dance and that yes there was choreography, and yes there was techniques you needed to be able to use in order to perform the choreography, like knowing how to drop your weight, knowing how to release so that you don't hurt yourself um but at the same time especially in contact improv no one was ever forced to have to hold their body in a shape that hurt them, or that wasn't natural right everybody does the same stretches in the start of class.


Um, but really I...I felt like she was building on our strengths as movers and even in the choreography class in my school that was taught by a different professor she loved having athletes in the class and having them discover how their sport is movement and dance and she loved the choreography that they came up with um, because it was so different and it's like one set of one piece of choreography was like based on soccer, because that's what this um student played and, I think I've held onto that a lot. In that being a performer and learning a professional skill in the performing arts does not mean that you have to be cloned and mold and mold into a form that is supposedly...um...what categorizes that, right? Like, oh ballet it has to be like up straight everybody has to look the same, but then the way they taught modern dance I was like 'oh we don't have to look the same.' [LAUGH] I mean sometimes you do it when it's like choreography where you're supposed to be in-sync, but you just need to counter it.


[BOTH LAUGH]


SARAH: Um, and then devising the first time I devised I felt like it was hot mess, like I was trying to listen to everyone all the time and trying to put all the artists together and be agreeable, but then the show just didn't make sense, because I was trying to compromise on everything. Um, so I think it's a balance. I think in that one I very much said I'm the director, I have the, I'm...I've I've I've I figured out that my preference is that I will like put the jigsaw puzzle pieces together and then people build content and then i try to see from the outside and build it. Um, but at the same time still allowing space for them to share their stories honestly, because the first time I was exposed to avant-garde theater where actors perform this themselves on stage there's just something so, powerful about people performing as themselves of people performing personal stories, that just hits audiences in different in like, such a different way. Um, and that's something that I've continued to want to hold on to which, I-I mean I modified that for the young people, because I'm not gonna make them like start crying on stage. Um, but...


MOLLY: Right!


SARAH: Yeah...but they presented themselves in different ways. Um, by like how they welcomed the audience in. It was very much, because in their personalities and what they were comfortable with whether they were comfortable speaking to strangers or not. Um, or whether they just felt like coloring and they just wanted to to like waves um like, there's still honesty right? And, performance that still moves differently than I'm sitting here to be a forceful presence in a very deliberate manner, because the director told me to.


MOLLY: Right.


SARAH: Yeah.


MOLLY: Yeah. Um, I love that you brought up modern dance. I also like modern dancing and show up until undergrad for me, as well. And, like my the way I talk about devising work or devising theater is like it's what happens when a choreographer tries to make theater, like that's the same thing, and I think it's quite natural for people who are drawn to a choreography role to end up over in the experimental avant-garde devising world, because that's what we're kind of used to. Make something from nothing, cool done. That's all we do. We just walk into an empty studio by ourselves um, and make something.


SARAH: Right, and you create choreography without deciding what's up front yet.


MOLLY: Yes.


SARAH: You like creating like that, looks cool! Okay keep trying.


MOLLY: Yeah exactly, exactly. Um, do you find that with the young people that you've worked with you often pull in some of those like modern dance theoretical components or bring movement in? Um, in ways that maybe are not typical in a theater for youth study?


SARAH: Yeah. Um, I would say my lifestyle with young people that was very much an experiment that I had to keep, I needed to keep changing the way I gave instruction, because I realized that the way in which we talked about the different techniques or the way an exercise was supposed to be done. Um, it just didn't make sense and it got really frustrating for them so, like the two things was I tried was flocking and then negative space. Flocking was a nightmare.


MOLLY: Could you give us just a quick explanation of what flocking and what the, what those concepts are? Um for those listening that maybe are not familiar with them.


SARAH: Yeah, um it will be super general, because I...I've learned that there are many definitions and types of flocking depending on whether you're talking about dance or theater, like even different theater settings; but flocking is usually when it's like a pretty large group and you move as a club, so a club would be like...like...like people starting together, but not so much that you can't move. So, like a little bit of space between you and the idea is that whoever is in front will be the one moving and your job as a group is to move and sync as best as possible. So, you're really trying to listen to the energy of the space trying to be really sensitive and use peripheral vision to try and see when which limb is gonna move or if they're gonna turn. Um, and then when it gets more challenging you start playing with like how high you can go, how low you can go to the ground, um or how quickly you can move from one side of the room to the other um, instead of just being stationary. And, then negative space um, to give an example: it would be like if I create like a shape, so a shape maybe would be I made my arms in like a ball and I'm like squatting, so then negative space would be all the parts of the space that my body's not occupying. So, like the space between my arms um the goal then would be like maybe you, Molly, you would have to find performance of fitting into that space like being a jigsaw puzzle with my body...


MOLLY: Yes.


[BOTH LAUGH]


SARAH: [LAUGHS] I don't know with the people listening. ...without touching the other person. Um, the idea of not touching the other person is because then the person needs to unfreeze and then find a new position in your negative space. Um...


MOLLY: Yes, pre-COVID.


SARAH: Yeah, pre-COVID without the mask on.


MOLLY: Yeah the original physical distancing was negative space.


SARAH: And, listening and like the balancing-balancing the floor.


[BOTH LAUGH]


MOLLY: Yeah always being like equal distance apart, yeah definitely. Theater people are made for the pandemic.


SARAH: Mm-hmm. Um, uh flocking, so for flocking it was also hard because there's only two of them um, so it became more like follow the leader the issue that I noticed is that even when I was like okay, like Molly now you are going to lead and I'm going to follow you as best I can. What usually happened was um the person in front would turn around and go, "you're not doing it right, I'm not doing that." Or, you can move so fast that they don't understand why the person behind them couldn't follow because the idea was said, the slower you go the easier it is for someone to pick up on your movement. Um and as a six year olds moving slow is hard, unless you make it a game. Where you say lets see who can move the most slowly. So, I end up giving up a flocking. I just made it 'follow the leader.'


MOLLY: There we go!


SARAH: By negative space they actually um they picked up in it really well. They needed to be reminded of the rationale behind why you don't lean on someone you know because, you're like if you lean on someone is unsafe because, then if they try to come out of it you might fall, if you're using them for support and you don't want to fall and, because you have to freeze. And, you know they're going to freeze ,because they see it as a gang so they're going to fall in that frozen position and hurt themselves. Um, but I love, love, love how they do them on their own the two of them renamed it um, uh the puzzle game. Which makes so much sense in my head and made a lot more sense yeah negative space that not make sense, but if we sit like fit yourself in like a puzzle they did it perfectly. Um, and loved it and they could do it as a duet. Um even when Chris joined it and made it a trio it was really wonderful. It was just more difficult for him, because their negative spaces are very small.


MOLLY: Yeah I was going to say like the size difference of grown-ups to one of them.


SARAH: One of them climbed him like a mountain, but Chris could not unfreeze.


[BOTH LAUGH]


SARAH: Yeah, so it's interesting, it's interesting to see which um movement things worked really well like, I thought flocking was going to be something they could do that's what we struggled with the most and negative space they did really well. Um the only thing that they needed added on for them was that they needed a either visual or audio cue to save the freezer or unfreeze because they couldn't tell or they didn't know when to unfreeze, when the other person stops. Um, so during the show we turned it to 'red light, green light' so, one of them was red.


MOLLY: Great.


SARAH: Yeah and the other ones like was green, so, whenever their light came on they could unfreeze and move and then when it turned off they had to freeze.


MOLLY: Yeah that's great! Um, and it kind of became this game of like, 'red light, green light' um...


SARAH: Which is nice and like, like they could pick the red color...


MOLLY: Right.


SARAH: ...and so it happened, one pick red, one pick green.


MOLLY: Oh interesting.


SARAH: Yeah, I let them pick their own gel and they take it.


MOLLY: Interesting! I wonder why did they give a a rationale or just those are their favorite things?


SARAH: It was that day with you during tech and we were trying to give them time to do it.


MOLLY: Oh right.


[BOTH LAUGH]


SARAH: I think it was when the color hit their body...


MOLLY: Awesome.


SARAH: ...and they were like I like this one...


MOLLY: Yeah, I remember that now. I remember like the great debate of which color do you want. Yes, yep it worked well. So, then I guess like going through the life cycle of humans moving up to the work you did with the high school students in the thespian festival. Um, could you talk more about what was included in that workshop, um well I guess all three of them in some way, and-and what skills you brought into that?


SARAH: Yeah. Um, so it was broken up into a three-part workshop which really is like the three parts of the Grey Box rehearsal process so, um opens a little bit of modifications in case they only took one of the three, but the idea of like invisible work, um devising and, then editing. So, the editing when we reframe to directing students and then okay, now you have the content, how do we how do we put it together, how do we like fine tune it so that it can become an actual show, right?


You have all these pieces laid out in front of you. There's no way you can use all of them. Um, how do we put it together? Um, and then the other two we split it up into one that was more focused on like writing and the other one a little bit more movement. So, how do you create content from writing? So, that was looking at like um word association into free writes and then how do you take the piece of text and pull up parts of it in a group setting and work with a small group to create like a one like 30 second performance based on the text you wrote, without needing to share anything you didn't want to share. Which is something that um I feel like has been a core part of Grey Box also, right. And, that even though we are using looking at difficult content, we shouldn't need to share anything that makes us uncomfortable or perform something that we feel might trigger us or feel unsafe.


And, with the movement one it was more like starting with the idea of like just you're like what is a gesture how do you go from something really small or how do you teach the idea of gesture to people who not who may not be comfortable with movement? Um, and still be able to create something as a group that that reads differently to um different audiences and it's like it's a really beautiful process. Um, so like a quickie on how that went our first workshop um had two people and it was a divisive one. So, what happened was Chris and I took turns to jump in so that they at least had one other person to work with. So, it became a duet between Chris and the student and then I would cycle another one so they could talk about how they would direct the piece and then we switched roles. Um, so that they actually had a chance to direct in the way that um they wanted to learn. And, then the next workshop, the other two workshops went really well. Our movement had the largest number of people, I think one of the reasons is that it was one of the last coaches of the day also and a huge group of friends just like flooded right in. Um, but I think one of the moments that stuck most with me is um the student I told you about Molly, who I don't think she was fully deaf but, I think she was losing her hearing. So, she came in during the second workshop, which it had seven people. So, it was a nice small group and we're doing our check-in and she was lost and she starts to sign and I remember in that moment, because I'm sitting right next to her I remember that moment I had; a moment of panic because, yeah I don't know sign language. I don't know like like International Sign Language or ASL. Um, I didn't think Chris knew it and he doesn't um, and I was like 'oh no' outside you feel so bad, that we create a workshop that is so inaccessible. Um, but then I like asked I like wrote: I was like what do you need? Right? And, she said that she could hear a little bit she just and then she could lip read Chris. So, they became a moment of me having to like, when Chris was in his possible facilitation like telling him what she needed, you know. She's like Chris just needed to face her um and maybe speak a little bit more slowly, because she was able to lip read um, because she didn't fully know the sign either.


Um, but I think what was so lovely and what really like filled my heart and um is that seeing that this process even though we didn't plan for it to be accessible to someone who wouldn't be able to hear. Um how it still touched her so much and that she stayed on for the third workshop and then was in tears when she had to leave early because, she said that this was the only couple of workshops during the festival where she felt included and felt like she wasn't lost. Which also breaks my heart, because I'm wondering how she if she feels that way, how theater at her school is for her. Um, but I can see how it is a really large group and the facilitator does not have time to speak to everyone but, not know that she's not able to hear them in that moment.


MOLLY: Mm-hmm.


SARAH: Um, so that just was really moving to me and I feel like the check in the small group stuff really allows people to move into the small group and know that they needed to slow down and check in with her before they jumped into the content ideas. Um, because I saw each person doing that even though it goes in none of the other students in the room. were students that she knew beforehand. And, it was just really it was really beautiful to see how they were supporting each other even though they didn't know each other.


MOLLY: Yeah, um, thank you for bringing that memory back up. Um, I-I really like it just like warm fuzzies all over of how the two of you were able to hold the space and work together in the space and clearly set up by role modeling I think for the other students in the space like this is this is like we're including people um and that's like non-negotiable and how others followed your lead, um in in that in that space. So, yeah that's a warm fuzzy moment.


SARAH: Yeah.


MOLLY: Yeah, um I'm curious as someone who works with youth uh, works with young people, who devises work in trauma-informed ways and really embodies that. What advice do you have for others who are in a similar kind of setup or career path as you?


SARAH: Yeah, um I think one big thing I have in my mind is I just have a conversation with someone about like what trauma informed means to you. Um and I, we've had this conversation a lot about how trauma a lot of the time is a big scary word um, and is often used in settings or situations where trauma is seen as a big event happen to your life. Um, and I think we were talking about how now people are understanding more about how trauma doesn't have to be a big event, like what we're going through now is not it's like and it's like an extended series of tiny events of high stress.


MOLLY: Yeah.


SARAH: Which is that which is the more useful definition of trauma um now, but also just in life in general even pre-COVID. And, then thinking about what it means to be trauma-informed in a creative process and I know there's other terminology going around with trade-trauma responsive um, and also recognizing that um therapeutic therapy is still relevant in this scenario and that it's not trauma-informed does not mean therapy. Um, so having a conversation not asking anyone to do a year's worth of research um unless they want to I think it's interesting but I also like knowledge. Um, but have a conversation um about what trauma-informed means and I think the big things also stop reflection um, because my guess is that if people are going into this work they're probably someone who has had a taste of a performing arts experience and that's why they want to jump more into it. Whether it's being a um performer or or an audience member but like what about that experience um excites you, right? Because, that's the part you want to hold on to, right? You want to continue making the space feel enjoyable and safe for the people in this space the same way that you did when you experienced it.

I think that's probably the first step right it's not a big um as much as I think is important for people to get famous and like have their methodology and knowledge shared out, I don't believe that any of those are universal, they won't work 100% in every space because it depends on who's in the room. So, for me the self-reflection part is really important.


MOLLY: Mm-hmm, yeah, great thank you. Are you up for...


SARAH: You're welcome.


MOLLY: Yeah...Are you up for some rapid fire questions?


SARAH: Sure!


MOLLY: Okay, uh, so within Grey Box Collective what has been your favorite prop and why?


SARAH: Oh, in my head I had the tea from Tangled and I could drink tea on stage, but I also really love the fact that we had like rice paper but not even the correct kind of rice paper. Probably, the vermicelli one that cracked on our back as you were performing.


MOLLY: Yeah.


SARAH: It still was so funny, like I love the picture of like the rice paper with the words and it's like all like 'crack' because you're going to get stuck.


[BOTH LAUGH]


SARAH: Those were my favorite two, I think.


MOLLY: Yes. Um, so what is your favorite artistic risk that you have taken with Grey Box Collective?


SARAH: Um, I'm forgetting what the monologue is about, oh no! But, I'm thinking about the monologue I did with Preston at the end of It's Not That Simple. Oh, I think it was about how you forgive a rapist.


MOLLY: Yeah.


SARAH: That for me was like a it was maybe not risky in the sense I was like I know people are not gonna agree with this. Um, but it's also powerful in that moment. Oh I know another one.


MOLLY: Okay.


SARAH: But, this I felt like was my benefit from you, which I don't know which performance was it? I had to stare in an audience member's eyes until the monologue was done.


MOLLY: Oh that was It's Not That Simple.


SARAH: It was, It's Not That Simple?


MOLLY: Yeah.


SARAH: Um, yeah because I remember I would do that and watching the expression on the person's face and not knowing whether they were supposed to look at me or look away. Then I felt bad when I made them feel uncomfortable but, I remember one audience member like staring back at me and not in a tendency but, like and then like connecting with for the entire time that I started to feel uncomfortable. But that's something I remember.


MOLLY: Nice. I feel like that's on the like experimental artist BINGO card, like staring down an audience member like we've all done it at least once. Um, okay one more rapid fire question. What's the weirdest thing you've had to google for show research or like the most bizarre rabbit hole of the internet you've gone down like in the name of art?


SARAH: For Grey Box?


MOLLY: Or, if you need to go out of Grey Box that works too.


SARAH: I'm trying to think. I don't know like a weird rabbit hole it's just I-I know that I was cautious of what I would Google during It's Not That Simple,* because I'm really like an empathetic reader so, in like being conscious of and I know you spoke about this also and that you know we don't feel like we have to by having us not feel like we have to dive into stories that would give us nightmares or give us my curious trauma. Um, then maybe a strange rabbit hole that other than the show I probably would not go into looking up different like statistics on rape culture or trying to look up the side of the the perpetrator. Um...


MOLLY: Mmmm.


SARAH: Yeah that will probably be it, I think.


MOLLY: Yeah, yeah. Um, great thank you. And, finally to wrap it up, are there Any Other Anything's that you care to share?


SARAH: I'm just really excited! I'm really excited to hear what other people are going to say. I don't know where I am in this series of the podcast, which is interesting because...


MOLLY: I don't either.