As we reflect during Juneteenth 2021, Lyric Opera of Kansas City is honored to host a free stream of dwb (driving while black) June 19th – June 26th.
About dwb (driving while black):
Susan Kander wrote dwb especially for the performers in this video: Roberta Gumbel (who also wrote the libretto) and New Morse Code (cellist Hannah Collins and percussionist Michael Compitello). It documents the story of an African American parent of a teenage boy as he approaches driving age. What should be a celebration of independence and maturity turns out to be fraught with the anxiety of driving while black.
dwb takes us through 16 years of a Black mother’s interactions with her young son. The libretto weaves two strands – one internal, one external. The Mother relates to her child as a passenger in her car as the child grows older. Threaded between these scenes are a series of vignettes based on real incidents, introduced in narration by the instrumentalists with contrasting color and texture in the music. The Singer takes on a variety of characters in specific but familiar events, relating the dangerous world beyond the Mother’s control.
The cellist and percussionist are active parts of the drama as both narrators and witnesses. Composer Susan Kander explores the vast timbral and textural possibilities for the two – the percussionist plays vibraphone among 21 other instruments; the cellist also plays toy piano and tambourine; one scene is scored for the human body, a twenty-first century reference to juba or ham-boning.
Roberta Gumbel, soprano & librettist
New Morse Code
— Hannah Collins, cello, and Michael Compitello, percussion
Chip Miller, director
Susan Kander, composer