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S2 E9 with Micah & Molly

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Micah: Awesome. All right, well we are back, uh, another day, another evening with Any Other Anythings with Grey Box Collective. We've come full circle. Uh, I am back with our amazing founder, Molly, um, whom I'm sure we all know by this point. Um, the beautiful mastermind behind, uh, this collective of great individuals that I've gotten to chat with over the last few weeks.

Um, and yeah, super happy to, to be chatting with you again. Um, I guess what I kind of wanna kick the conversation off with really is just. Where did the idea for Grey Box Collective come from?

Molly: What an excellent question. Um, yeah, so like, kind of, this is great. So kind of the origin story of Grey Box Collective.

Um, I think in many ways it started. At least a decade before I actually founded Grey Box Collective. Um, and so that comes out of my own experience. Um, my own, like Me Too experience before Me Too was a thing. And in 2007 I happened to get a job, uh, on campus in undergrad where I was asked to combine the mission of the organization with the Areas that I was studying.

And so it was a, um, victim's advocacy, for lack of a better way to say it, uh, department that I was working for. And I was studying dance and theater. And so I made a dance theater performance about sexual violence on college campuses. And that's really where like this whole journey started.

And that followed me into my Master's in Education program where I looked more deeply at the connection between. Performer experience or the creatives experience and the audience experience, and started to be able to, from a research standpoint, drop parallels. Uh, and then like cut to 2016 when I was finishing my MFA and dance at ASU, that's where I kind of formalized all of this work and created a, an umbrella of Grey Box Collective, uh, for it to exist under.

So, yeah. Um, Those are kinda like the clues that that led to it over about a decade.

Micah: Yeah. Yeah. That's wild. And I do love that. I feel like sometimes we have a experience that just kickstart something or you know, this, these seeds that are just kind of planted in our hearts or souls throughout the course of time.

And then, As things continue to develop and as people continue to pour into us, like more opportunities arise and then somethings actually established that, or something seen, I guess is what we should really be saying, right? Like, we can finally breach the surface and like we're like, we are able to share something, uh, with others, which is, uh, yeah.

Great. It's beautiful. What, what has been built here? Um, do you remember the first like Grey Box Collective project or? Yeah. What, what was that experience like for you?

Molly: Yeah, I mean, technically in many ways what kind of like pushed forward the formalization of an organization around this work was that ASU wanted to hire us for, um, sexual assault awareness this month, in April, 2016.

So it was like, Ooh, shenanigans, I gotta get, like, I gotta get a bank account, I gotta get like everything in order. Um, and so that was really, In many ways the first project, I call it like our half season Sure. Season. Cause it wasn't really like a season, it was like, hey, we were gonna get paid.

And I wanted to find a way to make sure that happened. Um, and like it was in the works already, but it definitely was. Accelerated because of the opportunity. And then our first real performance, uh, was at the Phoenix Center for the Arts with a new box residency summer 2016. The piece was called I Am Enough. And that actually grew out of the previous performance where one of the performers was writing, I Am Enough on a Mirror.

And it was like, oh, like that kind of feeds into it. Um, and that performance was focused on like shame culture, um, mostly around like being in a female body and what it is to be, um, in the US and, and live, live through all of that. Um, it eventually became, so this kind of circles back to what we were talking about prior to we're hitting record tonight.

I am enough, became fool me once, fool me twice, which we had as an iteration in 2017, and then in 2018 we took that to Boulder Fringe Festival. Um, so back to what we were talking about before. Yeah. Yeah. Happened to discover those, those photos that I, I don't think I've shared with anyone, so I should do that. Um, yeah.

Micah: I love that. I love that. It's, it's kind of funny that, you know, you mentioned the Fringe festival and just that experience at Boulder and now like, you know, maybe, uh, you know, looking Well, it's, it's interesting cuz obviously everything kind of really. Got established in Arizona, built through the community in Arizona, and now especially with Covid, that reach has been extended through these digital platforms kind of across the US and a little bit of an international reach now, which is amazing.

Um, and yeah, it is, it is really cool how, like you said, it was almost like you were kind of propelled into this rather suddenly, um, which is. Yeah, it's like both exciting but also like, like you said, it's kind of like a no shit moment. Like, yeah, alright, let's, this is real, this is happening now. Um, and sometimes that kickstart, that jumpstart is what we need as artists or individuals to just really take those next steps that we've maybe been sitting on. Just haven't quite indulged in yet. Um, yeah,

Molly: I feel Covid was very much that, um, in so many ways, I think we would've reached this point of reconnecting with those of you who had left Arizona at some point. But I don't think it would've happened, you know, by season seven. Like that would be, I don't, I don't know that, that feels like it would not have happened if it wasn't for a global pandemic.

Yeah. Um, and I. As we've kind of been emerging, I feel like more and more artists are talking about, like, I actually kind of needed like the world to shut down for a little bit and I, I'm getting more comfortable saying that as well. Like, yeah, I needed the world to shut down. Um, yeah, and I think in many ways it. Your, your word propelled us forward even, even more once again.

Micah: Yeah. Yeah. That's, that's amazing. I, I really do love that. Um, so I'm actually gonna back up a little bit here. I don't think I knew you had a background in dance. I don't think I personally knew that you had a background in theater. Is there like a show that you've done, like back in your theater days that like still.

Is close to your heart. Are you like, do you consider yourself a theater nerd? Are you more of a dance person? Like I am a little curious about that.

Molly: Okay. Um, so I definitely love musicals. Um, that was definitely a part of my life of, I think from probably like, what was it, sophomore year of high school to.

Through undergrad, like yes, musicals were my thing. I still have a key chain of like all the different musicals and that's was, yeah, no, I love that. Yeah. . Um, so musicals were definitely one of 'em. Um, I feel like. So I went to the University of Maine and uh, partially I studied theater in undergrad because I wanted to stay in Maine and I wanted to study dance and that actually was not possible.

I couldn't major in dance in the state of Maine. Um, and I was like, eh, theater's close. Um, so , that's how I chose my major. That's funny. , . And, um, I was always kind of, The theater kid that was like, oh, I'm just gonna have like a 20 minute dance break in the middle of the show. And that was how I kinda like ended up in dance theater was because I just kept sneaking in my dance studies into my theater work.

Um, and like that's where finger painting from grownups or for Growns came from. Um, and if, oh, a favorite show. Act. What I was thinking of recently, it was just like a 10 minute, we had the underdog shows, which is like your intro to directing. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Um. I was in one of those, it's actually in a few of 'em, but one was called, um, I think mental reservation.

And so it was basically about like lying without lying. It's like, oh, I'm just gonna say I did this with the mental reservation that I actually did this other thing. So like, um, kind of manipulative. Yeah. I was also one of those scripts. Uh, is like kind of your classic, like you just get the words, you really don't get a setting, you don't get characters.

So I don't know, I find those really kind of the exciting scripts where it's like, what if we put this in like, I don't know, a hair salon versus like, you know, in a park or like, where, how does that really change it by putting it into a new environment? So yeah, I think that it was a very, uh, ComEd. Piece, and I think it was probably the first real comedic piece I'd been a part of. Yeah.

Micah: Yeah. I love that. I love that. I, it's, it's, it's funny, it's interesting like hearing how, you know, Wanna explore in like Revel and dance. How do I do it? I guess. Theater, musical theater. Let's go . I love that. That's great. That's great. I, um, my story. Coming into theater myself was actually, uh, a little sad.

I loved basketball. I still love basketball. Um, I like ran track growing up. I played a little basketball growing up, played a little volleyball growing up. Um, and I remember trying out for the basketball team when I was a freshman. Was the only kid that didn't make the freshman basketball team. And, and my mom so sweet was friends with the theater teacher from like our church community and like, uh, was like, oh, go try out for a show.

I think you'll really like it, blah, blah, blah. And, uh, you know, I move over and auditioned and did the thing and then fell in love and, uh, yeah. And then just like, just kept going with it for some reason.

I think art is a, is an interesting, I feel like you kind of alluded to it and just the way that you were talking about like your favorite show and um, just some of the experiences of how, you know, Grey Box was kind of built.

Um, art is a very like, Interestingly, vulnerable sector of like humanity. Um, I think that's why like we're so drawn to it. I think I was talking to someone else about just the idea of like how the most human thing a human could be is emotional. Um, which is, uh, so funny and so interesting because Sometimes we are like encouraged or, you know, discouraged, I should say, from feeling or showing emotion or being vulnerable or being expressive in that way.

But then we're so drawn to art because that gives us the space or the room to express that, um, uh, freely. Um, and people want to engage with that. Um, I think it's especially important just the way that you've, uh, I'm a really big fan of when people, uh, have real intention and specificity behind the mission.

Um, and I, I do love the phrasing of, you know, great box collector's mission, which is, and, and just the concept itself, which is this creating trauma informed dance, like the, the awareness. Um, and also, Yeah, just spreading that awareness of what does it mean to experience trauma and what does it mean to process it?

What does it mean to deal with it? What does it mean to move through it? Um, and I think just that recurring theme and that specificity, um, is really important. Uh, when it comes to anyone like approaching any initiative. Mm-hmm. , um, do you feel. I wonder like when you are, you know, approaching a new project, I, I really do admire how you've kind of, you know, self-admittedly taken a step back and like really kind of let others, um, share their, their stories as well and kind of create even a further collaborative process Then, uh, and, and what I'm interested in is, uh, with the shows that you've helped curate over the years, um, do you feel as though.

Become less and less stories that you've personally resonated with, or are they, do they resonate in different ways? Like how do you feel it's evolved over time?

Molly: Yeah. Um, oh, there are so many ways I could take that question. I'll. I guess I'll start by just kind of tying it back into having listened to all the interviews that happened prior to us having this conversation tonight.

Uh, it's amazing to me, just like my own brain function, I guess, of like, like I think it was John, your, your talk with John. Where they were bringing up, like some of the, the processes, processes that they've been through. Um, and it was like, oh, I forgot we did that. Mm-hmm. . And it, it's interesting like how it has evolved, um, and like every step of the way, it, it, it has been very intentional of just like this subtle little shifting, uh, how to adapt.

Um, Subtle shifting. And like COVID definitely was a bigger shift. But, um, yeah, it, it's interesting looking back, like I got quite nostalgic listening to everyone's conversations. Um, and just thinking of all that we have done, like season seven to me is like, like, damn, that's like a solid amount of time.

Like we're closer to 10 than we are to anything else. And that's like, . And so in terms of like, how has it evolved? Um I think when. When it started, for me it was more about like semi devised dance theater. Uh, so starting with a bit more of a solid piece, um, like finger painting for grownups. And even, it's not that simple. Like there were preexisting scripts that existed like, that were collaborations of the ensembles that I worked with prior to, um, and.

So for me there is a lot of like carrying the stories of those who have been a part of these pieces prior to and kind of rolling it over. Yeah. And then that kind of went out the window around 2018, which like, I feel like looking back on. Just four years ago, that's kind of when like everything went out the window in my life,

And so, um, that's where it started to be like, we're gonna start from scratch. Uh, and, you know, 2018 and then we barely started season 2019 before COVID hit. So then it definitely all went out the window. Um, and I step back for, for my own reasons, just trying to kind of grapple with all that was going on.

I think we're kind of getting back to that though, um, as we've got like the crumbs nuggets and muffins structure, which I'll talk about just a little bit cuz that will make no sense to anyone listening to this other than those in season seven. Yeah, please. Yeah. So, um, kinda out of like thinking about what is your capacity for creativity at this point and thinking of how we've been going through this collective trauma and with trauma.

My lens.

Trauma informed creative practices like trauma and creativity do not inherently mix. Um, they can work really well together, but it's not like a match made in heaven by any means. And so one of the ways to kind of address that, like, and also meet the needs, I think of an arts community where, We all are doing the gigging lifestyle and there are times when certain gigs are taking more of our time and we don't have the capacity for real device work.

So crumbs, nuggets, and muffins as a structure is about tapping into that devising process at the point that makes the most sense for where you are at during this season. And so my parallel is to pumpkin muffins. Like are you roasting the pumpkin? Like are you really going to make this from scratch? Are you buying like the canned pureed pumpkin to make your pumpkin muffins or are you doing store bot and there's no judgment or shame on whichever part you are at.

It's about really being honest with yourself. What kind of capacity do you have for creativity? What kind of capacity do you have to engage with other humans? and where do you wanna plug into that process? And so I think that really does get back to kind of how it started of, at a certain point, like if you're coming in at that nuggets phase, there is already some kind of structure that has been developed.

Um, so that that is in many ways circling back. But I think with a. Intentionality around it. Um, more about meeting the needs, meeting the needs of a community as opposed to, I don't know, just like having a thing and working off of it.