Feb 23rd 2021

Continuing to unpack their years-long conversation around race, theater artists Marcella Murray and David Neumann, along with collaborator Tei Blow, weave imagery, short bursts of dance, and the act of being in dialogue itself to reveal the effort needed for two people to actually be in the same place at the same time. The performance event includes an in-depth conversation with Chicago’s own Mikki Kendall, author of Hood Feminism” and Amazons, Abolitionists, and Activists: A Graphic History of Women’s Fight for their Rights, to kick off the museum’s annual Dialogue Series, this year exploring the power of dialogue and dissent to bring us together in a fractured world.

When difference is an inextricable truth of our reality, how can the art of conversation become a strategy for survival? Is it possible to close the gaps between our perspectives through conversation, or is it more important to linger in the distances between us? Do we need to choose? How can we learn to be better listeners, to build stamina for uncomfortable conversations? How do we practice for moments when connection is of utmost importance but requires us to remain apart? How far away from someone else’s point of view are we, really?


David Neumann’s (co-creator, performer, and founder of Advanced Beginner Group) original work has been presented in New York at Performance Space New York, New York Live Arts, The Kitchen, Abrons Arts Center, Central Park SummerStage, BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn, Symphony Space, The Chocolate Factory, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. ABG has also performed at the Walker Art Center, Alverno College, MASS MoCA, Fusebox Festival, the Ringling International Arts Festival, and the American Dance Institute, among others. Neumann was a performer for many years working with, among others, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Big Dance Theater, Doug Elkins, Doug Varone, and Sally Silvers. Recent projects include: choreographer of Hadestown (Broadway, National Theater, New York Theatre Workshop); The Total Bent (Public Theater); War (LCT3); Futurity (Ars Nova and Soho Rep); An Octoroon (Soho Rep/Theater for a New Audience); directing Geoff Sobelle in The Object Lesson (Brooklyn Academy of Music and New York Theatre Workshop); and choreographing Hagoromo at BAM Harvey with Wendy Whelan and Jock Soto. Neumann is currently professor of theater at Sarah Lawrence College. Most recently, Neumann’s work, I Understand Everything Better, received two NY Dance and Performance Bessie Awards, one for Outstanding Production and one for Outstanding Music Composition/Sound Design.

Marcella Murray is a New York-based theater artist from Augusta, Georgia. She is a playwright, performer, collaborator, and puppeteer. Murray’s work is heavily inspired by the observed ways in which people tend to segregate and reconnect. Her work tends to focus on themes of identity within a community and (hopefully) forward momentum in the face of trauma. Performances include The Slow Room, a piece directed by Annie Dorsen at Performance Space New York; a workshop of Ocean Filibuster which was co-created by the team Pearl D’Amour (Lisa D’Amour and Katie Pearl) with composer Sxip Shirey at Abrons Arts Center; I Don’t Want to Interrupt You Guys which was created in collaboration with Leonie Bell and Hyung Seok Jeon during RAP at Mabou Mines; New Mony created by Maria Camia at Dixon Place; and Shoot Don’t Talk at St. Ann’s Warehouse/Puppet Lab created by Andrew Murdock. Along with David Neumann, she recently co-created Distances Smaller Than This Are Not Confirmed (Obie Special Citation for Creation and Performance) which opened at Abrons Arts Center in January of 2020.

Tei Blow is a media designer and performer based in Brooklyn, NY. Blow’s work incorporates photography, video, and sound culled from found materials and mass media alongside live instrumentation. He performs music as Frustrator on Enemies List Recordings and is one half of Royal Osiris Karaoke Ensemble, whose ongoing multipart series The Art of Luv is a recipient of the Creative Capital and Franklin Furnace Awards. He has performed and designed for The Laboratory of Dmitry Krymov, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Jodi Melnick, Big Dance Theater, David Neumann/Advanced Beginner Group. Blow’s work has been featured at Hartford Stage, Dance Theater Workshop, PS122/PSNY, Lincoln Center Festival, The Kitchen, BAM, The Public Theater, The Broad Stage, MCA Chicago, MFA Boston, Kate Werble Gallery, Baryshnikov Arts Center, The Roundabout, The Wadsworth Atheneum, and at theaters around the world. He is the recipient of a 2015 New York Dance and Performance “Bessie” Award for Outstanding Sound Design for David Neumann/Advanced Beginner Group’s I Understand Everything Better. Blow is currently a Baryshnikov Arts Center Cage/Cunningham Fellow.

Advanced Beginner Group (ABG) is a collection of artists across many disciplines and approaches that come together for specific projects such as Distances Smaller Than This Are Not Confirmed (Obie Award winning), I Understand Everything Better (Bessie Award winning), and Big Eater. Advanced Beginner Group makes work that is at its core an irrational response to our perceived place in the universe. Advanced Beginner Group makes pieces from scratch, bringing to word, action, and proximity a delighted embrace of our contradictory lives. Words and actions can only point to experience. The collection of artists actively attempts to create experiences that are difficult to describe. ABG’s most recent work Distances Smaller Than This Are Not Confirmed premiered in January 2020, co-created by David Neumann and Marcella Murray, co-commissioned and copresented by Abrons Arts Center and the Chocolate Factory Theater, and associate-produced by Mabou Mines.

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