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Interview With Thomas

MOLLY: All right. So welcome, Thomas.


THOMAS: Thank you.


MOLLY: Let’s...Do you want to do a quick check-in?


THOMAS: Sure


MOLLY: Okay. How are you doing and what have you been up to?


THOMAS: I'm Thomas. He/him/his and how am I feeling? I'm feeling very good. It's like... it's been a very good day. I’m hot off of coming back from Disney Land. Got like all of the Disney spirit and creative energy in me. I don’t know where it’s gonna go but it’s there. And what am I thinking about? I’m thinking about the beginning of the school year. And I’m thinking about like a lot of creative beginnings. There's a lot of... there's a lot of fun things starting that I'm excited about. How are you doing?


MOLLY: Doing well. Yeah. How am I doing? I'm good. I’m energized which is nice. I feel like this summer has been a very restorative summer, which makes me sometimes feel like kind of like slow and lazy for lack of another way to say that. And like energy is coming back in and kind of the creative beginnings, and school year beginnings, and the academic year beginnings, are definitely helping that energy. I’ll say it that way. What have I been up to, what am I thinking about? That’s what I’m thinking about. So what have I been up to? Well, I kinda answered all that in my first one. I’ve been chillin’. Restoring.


So, will you start with a little overview because you have been with Grey Box since the beginning. So could you tell us a little bit about what your journey with Grey Box has been.


THOMAS: Yeah I started off with designing and jumping in with It’s Not That Simple 2016, 2015 2016? And that was like our first time, I think, really working creatively with each other. And I designed costumes for that show, and then from there I've kind of stayed designing, and have designed a few things. I was in Understanding Otherness as a performer in 2018?


MOLLY: 2017


THOMAS: 2017. The great thing is like It’s Not That Simple feels like yesterday but it also is like forever away. And then I’ve done It’s Not That Simple in, where are we at? 2018, 2019


MOLLY: Yup


THOMAS: Yeah and I kind of... I’ve also directed. I’ve kind of bounced around a lot within Grey Box.


MOLLY: Yeah. Yeah you have. Including like a lot of the behind-the-scenes stuff beyond just designing. But also on the admin side which I appreciate very much.


THOMAS: It's been a lot of fun and it's been using skills that I actually haven’t been able to use anywhere else. .


Yeah I like the part of Grey Box that is actually like, you can cut... the fluidness that you talked about – going in and coming out and being able to determine how much you want to be involved with the process which I think I really enjoy.


MOLLY: Yeah. Wanna dig into that a little bit more? Like what’s the enjoyable part of that?


THOMAS: Yeah. I...Okay so speaking from like… so saying no. Just said no a lot. It was really exciting and fun. And the saying no happened because like creatively it was not a good situation. It did not feel right, and I was just going to do it because of money. And I feel like here, there's like...we handle so many different subjects that creatively I can jump in on a thing that I’m really passionate about. And then maybe something that I'm like, “Mm not necessarily that in.” I can step away. I also think it’s really nice that like the mission of Grey Box isn't like, “This is all that we do.” It’s a very open format of like, artists can come in, work within our method and then see what kind of comes from that which I really enjoy.


I’m trying to think about the times I haven't been involved in Grey Box which feels very far to few. There’s very few.


Yeah. I don't know, I don't know if there’s ever been a time when I had to like step away from Grey Box. I think after Understanding Otherness there was a little bit of like diving into that content, I definitely had to go back for a while. But I don't think he's ever been in a time when I was like, “I need to get away from Grey Box. It’s a little too much right now.”


MOLLY: So it’s more show-based necessarily. Content-based.


THOMAS: Yeah.


MOLLY: Than like company-based.


THOMAS: Yeah.


MOLLY: And the fluidity of being able to go behind-the-scenes in like designer world or admin world, allows you to take care of yourself. Wanna talk a little bit about Understanding Otherness?


THOMAS: Sure


MOLLY: Maybe? Want me to do the set up of it?


THOMAS: Sure.


MOLLY: So Understanding Otherness was a fairly direct response to the 2016 election. And the illumination of so much that has already existed in our society but letting like... it's like the dark corners were starting to have some light shed on them. And so with Understanding Otherness, that's how... that was the umbrella that we took on to essentially deal with the -isms and the phobias. Understanding why othering exists in our society as a whole.


THOMAS: Yes. The… I guess the exciting thing about jumping into this was that it was my first performing in a very long time. I typically don’t think of myself as a performer a lot. So it’s exciting jumping into that and finally actually being a part of the Grey Box process. Like I feel like there is definitely a difference between like, “I’m designing a Grey Box show” and “I’m performing in a Grey Box show.”


And I don't, I don't think that show hit me until I was done with it; because throughout the process we were very much, like, so immersed in diving into it that it was kind of reality, which I think is the like jarring part of it. That we were so involved with it creatively that like the creative process was helping figure it all out. And I think that as soon as it was done, like that vacuum, vortex of like, “Oh. It's all still here.” And we're not creatively doing something with it, was difficult.


Understanding Otherness I think being such a specific response to a thing, which I’m trying to think about other Grey Box shows if they were that specific of a response but it quickly moved away from like, “This is a response to the election.”


MOLLY: Right


THOMAS: Which I think was a benefit for it. Because we weren’t looking at like, “Oh Trump Oh.”


MOLLY: Right


THOMAS: We were looking at like what created this situation, which I think was far more useful for like us and for a lot of our audiences as well.


MOLLY: Yeah. Totally. I think the media brought in the bigger picture component of: This was a response to the election. This was a response to the increase of hate and othering we’ve seen in society since 2016. But that being said, again it's more that it's just out in the open. And I think Understanding Otherness it’s almost kind of the same with like It’s Not That Simple. There are pieces of it in all the shows in some way, in some way.


THOMAS: Also, I think, with Understanding Otherness, it was like the… I see the process of that and how it’s informed everything else. I feel like It’s Not That Simple 2016 was a good like, there was a long rehearsal process, whereas Understanding Otherness was like a month.


MOLLY: Yeah it was.


THOMAS: And it was a very full month of just kind of like creatively going. And I see a lot of the kind of the process and how we...I don’t think we struggled during the process but like the...kind of how perfect storm-y it was, and how that’s kind of informed everything else that’s happened.


MOLLY: Totally. No, I feel that. So you went from that experience into directing Social/Antisocial. And you’re going to be bringing Social/Antisocial back in 2019.


BOTH: Yay!!!


MOLLY: Comes full circle! Or like phase two. Do you wanna talk a little bit about Social/Antisocial, maybe the first one and where you’re at with this next iteration?


THOMAS: Yeah. I think Social/Antisocial in its first iteration, I had like all of these ideas that we tried to filter into...Actually okay. I know. Unpacking, unpacking…


MOLLY: Unpacking, yes!


THOMAS: So I think the final performance of Social/Antisocial was like, ultimately, I’m not like, “That was great! That was awesome!” But I don't know if that's like more judgmental artist or if that's like whatever that was. Although the process I think of Social/Antisocial was like great. It... we like played so much. We just figured out a bunch of things and then like... I think the problem is the editing. We shoehorned it all in without really thinking about what each piece was. So I'm excited for it to come back. I guess I should describe what it’s about.


MOLLY: Yeah. We’re getting there.


THOMAS: It’s about social interactions. I think that’s the big idea of it. I think in the first iteration, it was about social interactions in club culture. And a lot of the way that we communicated that was through personal monologuing, and kind of improv activities, and then social dance, and play mechanics. I call them play mechanics but it’s basically pool noodles and we were hitting each other with pool noodles. Purposefully but we were hitting each other with pool noodles.


MOLLY: We normally do not encourage violence of any kind unless there’s a pool noodle and consent involved.


THOMAS: And I think that what I am going to take into this next big jump is still using all this play mechanics, but I think that there's a structure around it now that actually makes a lot more sense for me. As of right now, it's not going to be club culture. I kind of like the idea of it being a high school dance. Right? The idea of the person sitting across from each other. And why do they go to each other? When did they choose to go into each other? What happens when the pool noodle gets involved? So I think that's like the next big fun jump with it.


MOLLY: Nice. Nice. That’s exciting. And to give a little context because when you first did this, we didn't have the three phases. Which I’m thinking like maybe they should be called iterations. I kind of like that, I like saying it. Iterations because the first one was the New Director Series and that was a 20-30 minute piece. Yeah and that’s a lot for everything. That’s a lot for the first jumping off point. So in some ways, you’re almost having to shrink down because now phase two is like a roughly 25 minute piece.


THOMAS: Yeah


MOLLY: So that’s just a thing that came up for me.


THOMAS: Yeah, I really...I appreciate now the Crumbs, Nuggets…


MOLLY: Muffins


THOMAS: Muffin model, because I think if I would have had the 10 minutes, and I was more focused on like, “Oh I'm creating one thing and I need to think about what it's saying” more and less “pool noodles and ping pong balls!” I think there were bouncy balls too.


MOLLY: I forgot about all that.


THOMAS: Yeah, there’s a lot in that show and it’s all sitting in the trunk right now.


MOLLY: Nice, excellent.


THOMAS: Ready to go. I did have a bunch of streamers that I did not use for that iteration so maybe they’ll come out for this next big jump.


MOLLY: Cool.


THOMAS: Yeah I like the Crumbs into Nugget now ‘cuz it's more like, “Okay cool this is your topic.” Now you can think about like how you're going to structure it. And then our muffin being, all of it combined together.


MOLLY:. Yeah. Nice. All right. So ending with a few rapid fire, quote unquote, questions. Ready? I don't have them written down. This is a blank screen in front of me.


THOMAS: I’m ready for it.


MOLLY: So. What is your favorite prop and why?


THOMAS: Oh. I like the hanging light thing from Understanding Otherness. The light bulb on the cord.


MOLLY: Okay. Why?


THOMAS: Cuz I