Baruch Performing Arts Center & Opera Omaha Co-Production of ‘dwb (driving while black)’ to Have Virtual New York Premiere

By Chris Ruel

The Baruch Performing Arts Center and Opera Omaha’s co-production of “dwb (driving while black)” will get its virtual New York premiere on October 23-29.

The work was originally set to have its New York premiere in March 2020, just as the pandemic ground the performing arts to an abrupt halt.

The directed-for-video production will run from October 23 at 9:00 a.m. through October 29 at 9:00 p.m. ET. Tickets are pay-what-you-can and are available for purchase via the BPAC portal. A previously recorded excerpt is available for viewing on YouTube.

“dwb (driving while black)” explores racism, erasure, and the fear and love that Black parents feel sending their children out into a world that perceives them as a threat, rather than as kids. The opera depicts the anxiety of an African American parent whose child will soon have a driver’s license and face the danger of “driving while back.”

In 2019, concert performances of the work were presented in Kansas City, with “dwb” fostering community discussions and gaining media coverage that heightened the knowledge of racial disparity in traffic stops.

Librettist Gumbel had her operatic debut with Lyric Opera of Kansas City before performing with Opera Philadelphia, Michigan Opera Theatre, and Houston Grand Opera, among other houses in the United States and abroad. Broadway credits include runs of “Showboat” and “Ragtime.” Gumbel has also appeared in concert with the Boston Symphony, the Tanglewood Music Center, and as a soloist with Wynton Marsalis and Jazz at Lincoln Center Holiday concerts.

Composer Susan Kander’s music has been performed in cities around the world, from London to Guangzhou, China. She has composed commissioned works for the National Symphony Orchestra and other notable ensembles and organizations, including opera commissions from Opera Minnesota, Opera Theater of St. Louis, Lyric Opera of Kansas City, and Columbus Opera. In 2012, Kander wrote the score for a chamber opera adaptation of Lois Lowry’s dystopian novel, “The Giver.” The opera was co-commissioned by Minnesota Opera and Lyric Opera of Kansas City. The 85-minute work received its third production in January 2015.