An Invitation to Stop Suffering (FAQs)

This week we’re discussing the first workshop performance of FLOCK’s newest piece, The Stop Suffering Project (and other inquiries). It’s being presented as part of the Dancing Grounds‘ eDGe Contemporary Dance Festival and Faux/real New Orleans Festival of Arts.

The Stop Suffering Project is an existential dance performance that views suffering and healing through the communal lens of New Orleans and the art and science behind eastern healing methods. This piece is created in collaboration with the performers, and FLOCK will be continuing to develop the material in 2016.

In this week’s posts, two of the performers discuss the process of The Stop Suffering Project. First up is Ann Glaviano, a writer, editor, and DJ. In the next post we’ll hear from Monica Mata Gilliam, a Master of Eastern Healing and an acupuncturist at daMata Acupuncture. Both have brought their strengths in their respective fields into the process as well as their skills as dancers and their striking personalities.

Performances are November 20-22 at Dancing Grounds. Come prepared to play, bring your cell phone, and buy tickets ahead of time here.


Welcome to the Suffering Center. Where mythology and modern technology collide through unconventional acts of intimacy and isolation, brutality and self-care, pain and pleasure. A staff of young professionals well versed in the art of self-torture will be on site to guide you through a roller coaster ride of interactions with people on the brink, bored to death, longing for love, and determined to self-destruct. Please bring your Apple ID and show up fifteen minutes early to fill out paperwork at the pity party out back. (Trombone therapy not covered by most insurers. Tips appreciated.)

The Stop Suffering FAQ by Ann Glaviano

Ann Glaviano

Ann Glaviano tries to stop suffering.

What is The Stop Suffering Project about?

The premise of Stop Suffering is that you, audience member, are visiting a clinic run by seven expert sufferers whose ostensible purpose it is to help you stop suffering – but it’s kind of a doomed endeavor from the start.

I didn’t ask you for the premise – I want to know what the piece is really about.

Stop Suffering is a consideration of the source and the endgame of human suffering – why we suffer, what we gain from suffering, why we enjoy suffering, whether we must suffer. One of Meryl’s questions to us, early in the process, was “Do you think it’s possible to stop suffering?” It was not a pop quiz – that is to say, she did not have an answer in mind when she asked us. We were all piled in her living room, eating dinner and drinking wine together. Some of us said yes; some of us said no. We’ve investigated this question and others throughout the devising process, and as we wrap up rehearsals and enter into performance mode I would say this piece is about the extent to which the experience of suffering seems to be a raw fact of being a human.

Yanina in sheet

Yanina Orellana in The Examination Room.

Sounds like a downer. Is your show totally depressing to watch?

Actually, no. There’s a lot of comedy and straight-up clowning.

When you say “the devising process,” what are you talking about? What is devised theater?

Devising is an alternative to handing down a script, sheet music, and choreography that the performers learn in preparation for the performance. With devised theater (e.g., The Stop Suffering Project) the director (if you have one, which we do) guides the performers through a lot of different exercises to improvise movement and language and music, and then the director culls the most interesting parts and shapes them into what ultimately becomes the performance piece. The performers might end up memorizing lines and music and choreography, just as they would in a more traditional rehearsal process, but they are the ones who wrote the lines and chose the notes and invented the movement. So, very little of what we’re performing in Stop Suffering existed before we began rehearsals, with the exception of a bit of music and literature that has been sort of collaged into the show.

That sounds exciting, but also pretty weird.

Yeah! Do you have a question about it?

Ann and Sam

Ann Glaviano and Sam Ernst in The Waiting Room.

I mean, how weird is this show? What can I expect if I come see it?

Typically performances at Dancing Grounds happen blackbox-style in the larger studio, but we’re using the entire Dancing Grounds property, including the backyard, the alley, the front porch, the lobby, the hallway, both studios, one of the bathrooms, and the attic, as performance space. So you’ll be moving through space with us as the show unfolds. Because of this, we’re only bringing in audiences of 25 people for each performance, which means you get a really intimate performance experience. (This also means you should buy your tickets in advance if you want to make sure you get to see the show.) The audience will be divided up at the start of each performance and led through separate rooms, so half the audience will have an entirely different experience of the show than the other half. There’s a lot of audience engagement in this piece but none of it asks the audience to stand and deliver – that’s our job – so if you’re shy or you hate talking in front of people, don’t sweat. (I have some really shy friends so this is mostly directed to them.) Come check it out!

Performances are November 20-22 at Dancing Grounds. Seating is extremely limited, so buy tickets ahead of time here.

All photos by Christian Hardy.

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Meryl Murman is the Artistic Director of FLOCK, New Orleans' newest dance company. FLOCK is a constellation of individuals who come together to stretch the boundaries of contemporary dance through a shared sense of curiosity, play, and physical and emotional abandon.