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Welcome to Any Other Anythings?

Updated: Aug 29, 2021

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MOLLY: All right and hello all. Welcome to Any Other Anythings, a podcast that talks about all the creativity and randomness that happens in ensemble-based performance collective. I'm your host, Molly W. Schenck, and the founder of Grey Box Collective.

So this is our first episode, and it's very much a getting to know you episode where we cover the basics or who we are, what we are, and why we do it. Kinda like a first date and there will probably be some awkward moments while we're getting to know the equipment, and this platform, and learning as we go.

Let's talk about the structure of the podcast. So we will structure most of the podcast the way we structure rehearsal. We always start with a check-in, and then grounding work – if you're not familiar with grounding, you will become very familiar with it throughout this podcast – then once we're grounded, we'll get into the content of the day. Once content is done, we'll wrap up and seal it. All of this will be explained as we go but I wanted to give you the road map of what to expect.

So as you listen you get curious about how we structure the podcast like a rehearsal and perhaps that curiosity also leads to some reflection on your own creative processes. The content of this show is mostly overviews of the company and our work. I don't think anything will be too activating. Just a heads up, a lot of our work does talk about mental health and sexual violence so if you feel yourself activated at any point, feel free to hit pause, you can jump ahead to the grounding work or maybe go back to it, and give yourself permission to do what you need to do. Put yourself first and bring yourself back into the present moment.

All right. So checking-in. Every rehearsal we have starts with going around the room and asking, "how are you and what have you been up to?" So listener, if you're in a space where you can talk aloud to yourself, go ahead and ask yourself how you're doing and what you've been up to. I encourage you to go beyond the "I'm good" and "nothing much" responses. And if you're in a space where talking out loud to yourself would not be okay then go ahead and have that inner dialogue – tell yourself a little story about yourself. I'll wait.

Okay, so if you're still checking in with yourself, pause the podcast so I'm not rudely and unintentionally interrupting your check-in. My check-in, how am I and what have I been up to, also again my name is Molly, my preferred pronouns are she and her. I am doing well. I'm excited. I've been focused on this recording for most of the day. What have I been up to? Just kinda staying cool in Arizona this summer and quick story. I made a really great omelette this morning and I'm really proud of it. It had like fake bacon in it and sweet potatoes and pesto and it was delicious. Im' still kinda vibing off of that.

All right. Let's take a moment to ground. So in an effort to make sure that we are taking care of ourselves in the collective, we always have grounding practices near the top of rehearsal. This started because so much of our work is centered on tough topics and has continued through the adaptation of a trauma-informed approach to creativity, it's evolved a little bit. So I don't believe we as human beings can be creative when we're in a stress response. We don't know what could activate or trigger someone. So I'll get more into this in an episode about trauma-informed creative practices.

So for now, let's ground down. This is a 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 coping skill that you may have noticed being posted around social media. I like this one because it brings our awareness to the five senses and gives us focal points from both an internal and an external perspective. So where ever you are, look around and find five things that you can see and you can name them out loud for yourself. If you're driving while you're listening, ideally these are things that don't cause you to go off the road. And then once you have located five things that you can see, name four things that you can feel. So maybe this is the clothes on your back, your feet on the floor, maybe it's a breeze if you're outside. Next, looking for...listening for three things. What are three sounds you can hear right now? Could be traffic, could be your own breathing, your heartbeat. And then second to last, what are two things you can smell? So if you can't smell anything, maybe it's moving to...I don't know, if you have flowers in your space, you can smell that; or if there isn't really any distinct smells, you can also think about your two favorite smells like freshly baked chocolate chip cookies and lavender. Probably not at the same time. Then lastly, say one thing you can taste. It can be toothpaste or maybe it's your coffee and if you can't taste anything right now, you can also think about one of your favorite tastes. So, hopefully, listener you're feeling a bit more centered and present and grounded from this activity; and I think we are ready to jump into today's content of getting to know Grey Box Collective and what this podcast will be about.

All right. Who is Grey Box Collective? Great question. I'll answer it in two ways because I think it's important to be able to talk about things in multiple ways. So the standard response is that Grey Box Collective is a dance-theatre performance group that makes original shows about social and emotional wellbeing that's rooted in social issues. So we see social and emotional wellbeing as embodying high levels of self-awareness, understanding the body-mind connection, and being able to connect with our community. Most of our work over the past few years, as I've said before, has been focused on mental health and sexual violence. So another way, kind of a jargon-y way that I'll unpack..side note I love talking about unpacking things, you'll hear it a lot. I'll go over what the kinda jargon-y parts of this description is. So, Grey Box Collective is an interdisciplinary, experimental, and post-dramatic performance group that devises new work on socially relevant topics. Here we go. Let's unpack it. So "interdisciplinary" meaning that we're integrating knowledge and methods from various disciplines within our performances. So we work at the intersection of performing arts, visual arts, psychology, educational theories, and feminist theory. I don't think that's a comprehensive list of all the disciplines we pull from but those are at least the dominant ones. And then "experimental" meaning we're doing something brand new. It's kinda inherent in any kind of devised work since we are creating from scratch. There's also a little bit of a rebel aspect to experimental work that I enjoy. That we're choosing to reject the norms of making a performance. The last one, "post-dramatic", not "traumatic", not like PTSD, "post-dramatic performance" which comes from the theatre world; that one is prioritizing investigating broad ideas and typically steps away from the traditions of plot lines or characters. I like to think of post-dramatic performance as what happens when dancers make theatre.

Most of the collective members, we are artists, we are creatives, and we are educators. None of us are doing this full-time, at least not yet #BusinessSchools. We are all living the side hustle gig-ing lifestyle and we'll talk about that balancing act in other episodes. We're also mostly Millennials and Generation Z with representation from Generation X and also from Generation Alpha. Gen Alpha are the itty bities, like they're six and under right now at the time of this recording.

So then, how do we come to be and why do we do this? So in 2015, I applied for a grant while I was in grad school because I needed money for a project, and long story short, it led to the formation of Grey Box Collective. I always thought I'd have my own studio, in high school, the dream was that I'd have a dance studio called "Miss Molly's School of Dance". Needless to say, the dream has evolved and throughout my education, from kindergarten through grad school, even in certificate programs I've gone through, I've always felt that there's been this gap in education, in these curriculums. And these gaps are mostly around how to be a human being that functions in an optimal way in our society. It's great to gain knowledge, skills, and abilities but if we don't bring our humanness into the conversation and talk about how our education becomes a part of our life, then what's the point?

So in 2015, I applied to a grant, independently produced my thesis performance. The performance is called It's Not that Simple, it has a 10-year history that I'll get in to at another time, but It's Not That Simple is a performance about sexual violence on college campuses. It was inspired by my own #MeToo moment when I was a freshman in college and feeling like I had no idea what to do with that experience. So I created a show, It's Not That Simple, to create spaces on college campuses where we could have those open conversations and fill the gaps that are missing in our education system.

I feel like I need a little disclaimer here.

So, and maybe, some context of like I am an educator, I know that there are a lot of schools out there trying to change this and right now, unfortunately, most of us are just like drops in the ocean. I'm sensing a bit of a shift in the tides, if you will. But it's going to take a lot of time. So, while the system slowly changes, I founded Grey Box Collective to help fill those gaps. The company was created around the idea that came from It's Not That Simple, of making spaces where we can have tough conversations that don't often exist in our education system.

So why a grey box? Whatever content we are digging into in a performance, we know that they are fairly complex topics; and when we're unpacking them, we understand that we cannot dig into every single aspect of it in each show. It would be a long show and it would be really overwhelming in many ways. So, some things that we talk about requires components of them to stay in the box.

Why grey box? So, grey because we do not live in a binary world, contrary to popular belief due to conditioning. We live in this messy area. All of the performances contain contradictions on purpose to drive home the idea that there are multiple truths in this world and we can embody them as well. And it's a collective because it's a fluid group of humans, and I guess that can be interpreted in a few ways. But there are lots of folks coming and going with the company; which is part of our model to allow for that fluidity of, as life changes, that people can come in and people can leave if they need to.

All right. So what do we do? Before answering what we do, I want to bring in a thought of the day. It's something that I've been holding on to lately; and the thought is that we discover the way on the way. So meaning we figure it all out as we're actually doing it. And since founding this company, there's been a lot of figuring it out as we go. So, as I talk about what we're doing, it's what we're currently doing, knowing that, I don't know, in another five, ten years and this podcast is still around and you stumble upon it, that things might have changed.

So currently, the majority of what we do is focused on producing new work. Our work is evolved over three phases and typically guided by some kind of creative leadership whether you want to be called a director, choreographer, there is always some point person on each team. The first phase is focused on developing movement and text around a topic of choice and it's a 10-minute-ish performance. The next phase is adding in production elements such as sound to media design while also doubling the length of the work. And then the final phase is adding in all those nuances and refining the work and that results in about a 45-minute performance. These three phases were in response to someone bringing up that you really had to dive into work for a long period of time in order to fully develop it. I don't think it's necessarily about being in the work for a long period of time, I think it's diving deeply into the work several times and that's where the depth of performance comes it. The quality of it over quantity, if you will.

So in addition to these performances, we have work-in-progress showings and discussions around the development of the show. And then last Spring we started adding in community art-making events around... focused on what the topic of the show is. And then over this summer, we've been developing an education residency program which will have a soft launch this fall.

So why is this podcast called, Any Other Anythings? So at the end of rehearsal, and at least this is my best guess as to where this phrase came from, I'm not totally sure. At the end of each rehearsal, I'll always hold the space and ask for questions, comments, concerns, sarcastic remarks etc. At some point, instead of listing all those things, I think instead I said, "any other anythings?" and it kinda stuck around. And I think of it as last call for people in a rehearsal space, or a production meeting, or any other kind of gathering to share what feels necessary without having to put a label of a concern or a question attached to it.

All right. That was a lot. Thank you for listening to our introduction episode of Any Other Anythings? At the end of every Grey Box Collective gathering, we check-out and we seal it. So a seal it comes from the idea of Vegas rules. So what happens in rehearsal, stays in rehearsal or it's a way to bring closure to what we're doing in a work period. Then our check-out mimics our check-in, we ask each other "how you are doing and what you are thinking about?" So, listener, thank you for making it to the end of the podcast, asking, "How are you? How you doin'? What are you thinking about?" And then I'll turn that back to myself and how I'm doing and what I'm thinking about. I'm doing okay. It is very warm because it's Arizona so that's what I'm currently thinking about, and looking forward to continuing this.

So to seal it, we always end with a clap, typically it's something that's done with everybody at once and we just kinda feel that vibe. We'll do our best via technology to feel that vibe to end it. So thank you again for listening to the very first episode of Any Other Anythings? Until next time.

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