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'Grimey Is Me Not Waiting': Studio Sessions from a Distance with Nick Rulon and Ansley Lynn

Story by Sonnet Moore

We spoke with Nick Rulon and Ansley Lynn about Nick's climate conscious clown friend, Grimey The Custodian. Grimey has become a character that most Columbus natives have seen and interacted with, whether at No Shame Theatre or even on the streets of Uptown Columbus advocating for another cause. Nick Rulon, a CSU Theatre Department graduate and former Springer Theatre Academy student, is an innovative and creative artist here in Columbus. Grimey is just one of his many creations that gives him the chance to perform on his own terms while fighting for what he believes in. Ansley Lynn is a senior theatre student at CSU and is also a former Springer Theatre Academy student. She is an actor, a teaching artist, and an advocate for our community. Ansley has spent a lot of time supporting the endeavors of Grimey, helping Nick develop meaning behind the character, and created Grimey's best friend Mops. Together, Nick and Ansley have worked to make Columbus' community more inclusive and empathetic. They're a duo that we can't help but feel inspired by. In the spirit of social distancing, we sent Nick and Ansley some questions about Grimey.

Image by Sonnet Moore

Q: What inspired you to create the character Grimey The Custodian?

A: There really isn’t some profound answer to this. Ansley actually started calling me “The grimy custodian” while I was literally a custodian and had a bunch of grimy facial hair. The name evolved from there when I had an idea about a “Hobo Clown” -- a traditional sad clown with facial hair -- that lived in a trashcan. After that, the name fed Grimey’s mission -- becoming “the world’s custodian” cleaning up after the Earth’s inhabitants.

What does Grimey stand for in your opinion?

That’s one of the best parts of Grimey. Grimey doesn’t have to stand for anything at all. To some, Grimey might be an activist, environmentalist, and an embodiment of the pain we inflicted on our planet. To others, Grimey can absolutely just be a sad clown in a trashcan. Really, he’s probably somewhere in the middle -- bringing light to the sometimes daunting challenges our generation is facing.

Image by Ansley Lynn.

How do you think Grimey can encourage others throughout this pandemic?

This is exactly what Grimey was made for. He’s extremely resourceful - he makes ornaments out of cardboard and rings out of old coffee cans. He shows us how little we need to have to create what we imagine. We are all smart. We are all creative. If Grimey can make art out of trash, we can all make peace out of this uncertain time. I think we can all see a little bit of ourselves in Grimey, right now. He tries so desperately to figure these big problems out on his own, but he can’t. Thankfully, he turns to smart people. For him that’s sometimes his best friend, Mops.

What makes clowning such a special art form, especially now?

I think there are two answers to this. One, as we look back on theatre and art history, when populations are experiencing great trauma, like we are in this pandemic, their art often turns to the comedic side of things. Art is sometimes an escape from great tragedy. Grimey doesn’t let us totally look away from our problems, but instead as a clown, he gives us a comedic lens in which to view them. Two, Grimey is a postmodern clown. A pillar of postmodernism is that art doesn’t inherently have meaning -- think Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Can. While clowning in different forms has existed for thousands of years, it fits perfectly in our time. We don’t have to be smart to get clowning, and we don’t have to “get it” to love Grimey.

Image by Nick Rulon.

I know Grimey has a friend, Mops, who we’ve seen in your performance ‘Glass Half Full’, by Muddy Water Theatre Project. Does Mops have her own social justice mission?

Mops is Grimey’s voice of reason. She’s the gentle hand reminding Grimey that he doesn’t have to figure all this out on his own. On a more macro level, Grimey listening to Mops is a lot like all of us trying to listen to experts. It can sometimes be hard for Grimey to trust Mops, but when he does he usually sees that Mops has a plan to fix things. If we all trusted the Mops’ in our lives a little more, we probably would be a lot better off.

Image by Stone Ray.

Where can we find and support Grimey?

You can keep up with Grimey on Facebook (Grimey The Custodian), Instagram (@GrimeyTheCustodian), and Twitter (@Sad4ThePlanet). He’s also on Patreon! Patreon is a website that allows Grimey’s friends to make monthly contributions to his work for as low as $3 a month. It takes a lot of time and energy being Grimey, and like many other artists, he's lost a lot of income and gigs due to the ongoing pandemic. Fortunately, he can work from home. He’s decided if he can get just 10 subscribers a month, he can start creating more content and projects monthly. PLUS, subscribers get gifts from Grimey in the mail! If you have $3, $5, $10 to give--your subscription would help Grimey keep yelling about SaViNg tHe PlAnEt in much bigger ways.

Last question, What does Grimey mean to you?

Grimey is how I do what I love without anyone telling me when or where I can do it. I have a degree in acting, and a lot of times, as actors, we’re told that waiting for the job is part of being an actor. Grimey is me not waiting.

Image by Sonnet Moore.

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