Be adaptable. "The Crumble Collection" shifts space between five works in development.

The Scene:

Moving through the parking lot of a dark strip mall on the outskirts of a campus town. You know the kind: angular buildings of nearly identical business fronts, blinds drawn against being forgotten to a bygone era. Two people are unloading something out of a box truck into a barely-lit storage unit. Some of the parking spaces have chalk writing in them and are blocked off by orange cones. There are colorful strobe lights illuminating one entrance up ahead. The destination becomes clear, we join the subdued and curious crowd.

In her essay on bewilderment as, “a poetics and an ethics”, Franny Howe cites the Muslim prayer: Lord, increase my bewilderment. It is with this in mind that I entered the light strewn lobby stocked with stress balls, bottled water, and beads to wear in case you don’t desire to be photographed (I’m especially grateful for the beads). Past the makeshift greenroom/backstage, down a narrow hallway is the gathering space. Half the walls are fake. This place is made to shift its shape. Adaptable.

Grey Box Collective works at the intersection of performing/visual arts, psychology, educational theories, and feminist theory to produce work that is “interdisciplinary, experimental, and post-dramatic”. The collective endeavors to be OK living in grey (areas), spaces of contradiction, of questioning. This changeable, tucked away studio suits the ambiguous greys. I ascend into Bewilderment, what Franny defines as, “an enchantment that follows a complete collapse of reference and reconcilability. It cracks open the dialectic and sees myriads all at once”.

The Crumble Collection: an evening of five works in development is a conversation about navigating the impact of various media on social and emotional well-being. Each work begins with a live ensemble-created letter to the audience in lieu of the traditional director's note.

One: “Friend me, Follow me, Say hello”

Photo taken by Connor Child, courtesy of Grey Box Collective

Penelope and Alicia are tired, but committed to holding it down in their chalk squares. It’s likely past their bedtime when the screens around them flash on and the show begins.

What do kids think of social media? What does an emoji really mean?

What happens when you move into a chalk square that belongs to someone else?

Penelope and Alicia charmingly pantomime emojis cycling on a screen down front, then move into the audience making friends, inviting us into their game.

Director, Sarah Tan and stage manager, Chris Weise are as active in this work as the two six-year-old performers: moving lights, offering cues, and engaging in the flow of dialogue. They are also both present on screen behind the girls via pre-recorded social media blasts documenting their relationships with social media. This question stands out, “What if you never deleted that one post you made when you were feeling rafical? What then?” Rafical, I think, means radical. I don’t know what I would do.

What would Penelope or Alicia have to say about feeling radical posts? They didn’t seem to pay much attention to the scrolling monologues around them.

How do the recorded videos relate to the live action? I am in perpetual distraction: screens and children.

Two: “EMP_T_Y”

“Dear Audience, you might feel some things.”

Photo taken by Connor Child, courtesy of Grey Box Collective

Two bodies dressed in white begin buried beneath an epic pile of crumpled issues of the New York Times. A scattering sound winds its way in, they begin to move. Newspaper shifting. They spiral to sitting back to back, then begin to read,

“Bridge Teeters—”

“Shouldn’t Be Women’s Work”

“Accused of Sexual Assault and Harrassment”

An invitation: would I please read this headline over and over? “Don’t stop.”

“The Predator is in the Kitchen”

“Sexual Assault—”

“Sexual Harassment and Bad Behavior”

An armful of stories are handed to someone else, “—just hold these for me”.