Marcella Murray and David Neumann in "Distance Smaller Than This Are Not Confirmed"
CPA Series

David Neumann and Marcella Murray for Advanced Beginner Group: Distances Smaller Than This Are Not Confirmed

November 18 & 19, 2022
8 PM

General admission tickets from $10-$15. See details below.  

Together on the set of a TV talk show, co-creators and Southern Futures at CPA Artists-in-Residence David Neumann and Marcella Murray perform a masterfully layered staged conversation by mixing parts of Charlie Rose’s 2000 interview with Octavia Butler with excerpts of their own years-long dialogue about race, alongside astronomical questions of scale and time, to make an unforgettable piece of devised theater. On a spaceship. With dances. 

“For over three years [now 5 years], Neumann, a veteran director, choreographer and performer, and Murray, a young playwright, performer and puppeteer, have had an ongoing dialogue about race and life that they have shaped into Distances Smaller Than This Are Not Confirmed.

Structured as a TV talk show, this theater piece features their raw conversation onstage, augmented by live video and bursts of dancing. They tackle their topics from a variety of perspectives and experiences in an effort to demonstrate the kind of frank and fearless, yet compassionate, interpersonal discourse that seems to be so elusive these days.”  

The New York Times


Tickets available for $15. $10 UNC-Chapel Hill student tickets available with valid UNC One Card. Additional discounts available. Visit our FAQ page for details. 

Save 20% on our four-performance, experimental dance series: 

  • Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company: What Problem? | October 28-29, 2022 
  • Bobbi Jene Smith: Broken Theater | November 11-12, 2022 
  • David Neumann and Marcella Murray for Advanced Beginner Group: Distances Smaller Than This Are Not Confirmed | November 18-19, 2022 
  • Emanuel Gat Dance: LOVETRAIN2020 | December 7, 2022 

Main Floor, Section A Package: $82 (plus taxes and fees; save $20)  
Premium Package: $94 (plus taxes and fees; save $23) 

Visit for details.  


  • Runtime: 60 minutes
  • Intermission: n/a
  • Additional information: Visit our FAQ page 


Co-Created by David Neumann and Marcella Murray 


  • Hyung Seok Jeon 
  • Marcella Murray 
  • David Neumann 
  • Julius Powell 

Sound Design and Lead Collaborator: Tei Blow 

Video Design: Hyung Seok Jeon 

Set and Prop Design: Chris Green 

Lighting design and Production Stage Management: Grace Gilmore 

Costume Design: Montana Blanco 

Associate Costume Design: Jessica Crawford 

Dramaturg: Melanie George 

Original Song: Stew 

Production Manager: Janet Clancy 

Producer: Boo Froebel 

ABG Administrative Director: Amanda Brandes  

The January 2020 premiere of Distances Smaller Than This Are Not Confirmed was co-commissioned by Abrons Arts Center and the Chocolate Factory Theater, produced by Advanced Beginner Group, and associate-produced by Mabou Mines. The creation of Distances Smaller Than This Are Not Confirmed was made possible, in part, with support from the Marta Heflin Foundation, Axe-Houghton Foundation, the David and Leni Moore Foundation, and Mabou Mines, and by developmental residencies at Baryshnikov Arts Center, the Rauschenberg Residency/Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, the SETI Institute (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence), MASS MoCA, multiple residencies at Abrons Arts Center, Mabou Mines, and MANCC / Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography at Florida State University.  

Advanced Beginner Group is also grateful to the many individuals who supported the work and whose names may be found on 


In Distances Smaller Than This Are Not Confirmed, co-collaborators Marcella Murray and David Neumann, along with the entire advanced beginner group team, attempt to climb part way out of a tangle in order to look back at the strings.  

In this theatrical conversation about conversations about race in America, it’s been crucial for us to allow as much nuance to exist as this event demands. We approach our work (and the work) with a series of questions, understanding that we are in a process that can be slow, difficult, sometimes enlightening, but always necessary. We approached one another as people inside a series of evolving processes: individual, familial, societal, etc. We walked into the brambles together, not knowing any better than anyone else what this path would ask of us, save for an essential level of attention and care.  

This conversation started with language, but quickly evolved into the larger aesthetic; the fabric of how it’s been envisioned, practiced and articulated. It is found in the language, the bodies, the process, the clothes, the images, the sounds and in the surrounding space itself.  

You will see a number of artists each somewhere along this path, whose shared desire to say the truth and hear the truth leads them to a more delicate space; one where words, thoughts, actions, and listening are equally valued. Can we maneuver towards healthier realms despite the ever-encroaching insistence of our white supremacist culture? Can we find truth together, despite where each person might be on this path? We hope so. And hope feels better when there’s some work already done. So here’s some work being done in front of us — incomplete for sure, but hopeful and resilient, like a fawn wobbling on new legs, like spring emerging from a dying planet, like the invention of a new language.  

What can we do when our cultural contexts and familial histories bequeath us completely different vocabularies around race, gender, and power? How can we enter into this conversation in a way that actually serves both parties? I mean, really. What DO Black folks get out of this sort of thing besides teaching someone else something fundamental…again? 

— Marcella Murray and David Neumann

some of our sources

  • Octavia Butler  
  • Toni Morrison 
  • Dr. Jill Tarter 
  • Neil DeGrasse Tyson 
  • Richard Dawkins 
  • WNET 
  • Astronaut Accounts 
  • Marcella Murray 
  • David Neumann 
  • Julius Powell 
  • Tei Blow 
  • The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond 
  • R&B from the 1980s  
  • NASA 
  • Bill Bryson 

In Distances Smaller Than This Are Not Confirmed, David Neumann, a veteran white choreographer (responsible, most recently, for “Hadestown”), and Marcella Murray, a young black playwright, stage a conversation about race. The piece grew out of real-life talks initiated by Murray when she was a graduate student at Sarah Lawrence, where Neumann was teaching, and the resulting work reflects those personal origins. But it also folds in astrophysics, dance, and sly humor, and confronts the difficulty of such discussions by introducing more questions than answers.” 

The New Yorker


Photo of Marcella Murray

Marcella Murray is a recent Theater MFA graduate of Sarah Lawrence College. She 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.  

more about marcella murray

In 2018, Marcella performed in 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 Cente. 

Marcella was a participant in The Puppet Lab at St. Ann’s Warehouse in 2019, where she assistant directed and performed in Shoot, Don’t Talk as part of Labapalooza. Most recently, Marcella, along with Leonie Bell and Hyung Seok Jeon, has been developing a piece called I Don’t Want to Interrupt You Guys, which was granted a RAP residency at Mabou Mines and a Deep Space residency at NaCl. 


Photo of David Neumann

David Neumann’s 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, Celebrate Brooklyn, Symphony Space, The Chocolate Factory, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. 

more about david neumann

ABG has also performed at the Walker Art Center; Carolina Presents; Alverno College; MASS MoCA; The Fusebox Festival; The Ringling International Arts Festival, and the American Dance Institute/Lumberyard, among others. 

Neumann worked as a performer for many years alongside, Mikhail Baryshnikov; Big Dance Theater; Doug Elkins; Doug Varone; and Sally Silvers among many others. Recent non-ABG projects include: Tony-nominated Choreographer of Hadestown (Broadway / National Theater UK / New York Theatre Workshop); The Total Bent (Public Theater); War (Lincoln Center Theater III/LCT3); Futurity (Ars Nova / Soho Rep); An Octoroon (Soho Rep/Theater for a New Audience); directing Geoff Sobelle in The Object Lesson (BAM / New York Theatre Workshop); Hagoromo at BAM with Wendy Whelan and Jock Soto; and Movement Director for Noah Baumbach’s film Marriage Story. Neumann is currently professor of theater at Sarah Lawrence College.   



Tei Blow (co-creator, he/him) is a media designer and performer based in Brooklyn, New York. Tei works with sound, photography, video, and computers. His work has been featured at Hartford Stage, Dance Theater Workshop, PS122/PSNY, Lincoln Center Festival, The Roundabout, The Kitchen, BAM, The Public Theater, The Broad Stage, MCA Chicago, MFA Boston, Kate Werble Gallery, Baryshnikov Arts Center, The Roundabout, and The Wadsworth Atheneum. He is the recipient of a New York Dance and Performance “Bessie” Award for Outstanding Sound Design for David Neumann/Advanced Beginner Group’s I Understand Everything Better. Tei 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.


Advanced Beginner Group was formed as a not-for-profit, multidisciplinary collective in 2010 to support the work of Artistic Director David Neumann. Since that time, ABG has created three evening-length pieces performed in New York at The Kitchen, New York Live Arts, the Chocolate Factory and Abrons Arts Center, and on tour at the Walker Arts Center, MASS MoCA, MCA at Chapel hill, and Alverno College, to name a few. ABG has been awarded several grants and awards, including three NY Dance and Performance “Bessie” awards. ABG’s work is best described as an irrational response to our perceived place in the universe.  

“The talk-show structure of Distances Smaller Than This Are Not Confirmed allows for an exploration of power dynamics within the setup itself as well as within the topic under discussion.”

Albany Times Union

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