Five grounding techniques to cultivate resilient ensembles

When creating work that addresses our tumultuous social and political climate, it's important to have processes in place which protect actors from vicarious trauma.
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In 2008, I began creating performances about sexual violence. Following the final dress of the first performance in 2008, a member of the ensemble raised his hand and exclaimed, “I feel like shit.” He went on to discuss how the show was starting to influence his life outside of the rehearsal space. Other performers shared they had nightmares about being raped or reaching out to help someone in trouble only to see their hands turn to dust. I came to find out later, they were exhibiting signs of secondary trauma stress or vicarious trauma—something that happens when people take on others’ traumatic experiences. As a young twenty-something, I could not believe what I was being told and that I had created a space for such harm to occur. I thought it was a positive process for the performers because they told me about conversations with their partners, family, and friends full of vulnerability and compassion toward the subject of sexual assault. It was not until we were ready to open that I realized the process for creating work like this had to be unlike any other rehearsal process I had been through before.

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Molly W. Schenck
About the Author
Molly W. Schenck is an independent dance-theatre artist and the founding artistic director of Grey Box Collective (GBC). As an independent (and introverted) artist, she takes time to create solo-performances where she can investigate new forms of technologies, tools and expression. When directing for Grey Box Collective, she creates space for dialogue around difficult conversations utilizing a semi-devised approach to dance-theatre for social change. For the past ten years she has focused her creative efforts in staging sexual assault prevention. Additionally, she has performed with Orange Theatre Group, Conder/Dance Breaking Ground Series, Mesa Arts Center, and nue[BOX]. She has earned an MFA in Dance from Arizona State University, and a M. Ed. in Higher Education and a BA in Theatre from the University of Maine. Outside of the arts, she is a yoga instructor, personal trainer, and health and wellness educator. Learn more at
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