The Spark

The Spark with Tift Merritt: Marcella Murray, David Neumann, and Tei Blow of Advanced Beginner Group

Virtual Event
March 24, 2022
7:30 PM

Registration for this event closes at 6:30 PM EDT on Thursday, March 24, 2022. Available on-demand for all ticketholders for 72 hours, beginning on March 24, 2022 at 7:30 PM EDT. Suggested ticket donation (per household) is $15. Tickets available starting at $0.

Join us for The Spark with Tift Merritt featuring Marcella Murray, David Neumann, and Tei Blow, artists-in-residence through the Southern Futures Initiative at CPA and co-creators of the new work, Primer for an Impossible Conversation, presented at CPA in Fall 2021.

How do you light a spark? How do you make something true? How does art happen? What is mumbled on the way in the studio and how can we hear it? 

Welcome to The Spark.

Tift Merritt

Accomplished artists and creators each in their own right, David Neumann (I Understand Everything Better), Marcella Murray and Tei Blow (I Understand Everything Better) have joined forces to create a vital new performance work, Primer for an Impossible Conversation. Based on Murray and Neumann’s Obie Award-winning theater work Distances Smaller Than This Are Not Confirmed, this new work is a conversation interwoven with imagery and dance that explores race, vulnerability and the distances between us. 

During their conversation on The Spark, Neumann, Murray, and Blow will share behind-the-scenes details of their Southern Futures at CPA artist residency, including upcoming work with Feedback: The Institute for Performance, the forthcoming presentation of Distances Smaller Than This Are Not Confirmed at CPA, and their development of a new work through this residency that will make its world premiere at CPA in a future season.

Runtime: approximately 60 minutes, including a live audience Q&A. If you have questions or concerns related to accessibility, please contact us. You can also check out our livestream events guide.

The Spark with Tift Merritt logo

About The Spark

Based on the series Merritt produced for the acclaimed Marfa, Texas Public Radio, The Spark peels back the polished performance to reveal the elbow grease, risk, fire, and courage behind the art—and artists—we think we know. Each month, Tift will welcome a new artist for a 45-minute livestreamed conversation that gets to the heart of their work, followed by a 15-minute audience Q&A. 

About the Artists

About Marcella Murray

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. 

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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; the work-in-progress I Don’t Want to Interrupt You Guys, 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, Murray 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. Murray is part of an artist collective called The Midwives. 

About 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.

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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.  

About Tei Blow

Tei Blow is a media designer and performer based in Brooklyn, NY. Tei’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. He has performed and designed for The Laboratory of Dmitry Krymov, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Jodi Melnick, Big Dance Theater, David Neumann/Advanced Beginner Group.

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Tei’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”. 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. Tei is currently a Baryshnikov Arts Center Cage/Cunningham Fellow. 

Artist Tift Merritt looks to the side with a slight smile.

About Tift Merritt

Tift Merritt wanted to be a writer until her father taught her guitar chords and Percy Sledge songs. In her 20-year career, she has toured around the world with her sonic short stories and garnered a reputation for making her own way and setting an interesting artistic table. The New Yorker calls her “the bearer of a proud tradition of distaff country soul that reaches back to artists like Dusty Springfield and Bobbie Gentry.” Emmylou Harris calls her “a diamond in a coal mine.”

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Taking time off the road to raise her daughter, Merritt began work on forthcoming site-specific projects by way of collecting objects at an old motel and an abandoned asylum as forgotten, essential language.  Merritt collects artist interviews about process and integrity on The Spark for Carolina Performing Arts. She lives in North Carolina with her daughter, Jean.

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