Karen Slack to Headline Film Adaptation of ‘dwb (driving while black)’

By Logan Martell

The creators behind the opera “dwb (driving while black)” have announced that on April 23, they will premiere a film adaptation of the work, presented by UrbanArias.

This production of the opera by Susan Kander and Roberta Gumbel will showcase a cast featuring soprano Karen Slack, directed by Du’Bois and Camry A’Keen of A’KEEN Brand. The film will blend elements of art, hip hop music video, and dance to create a new experience.

This latest project follows the release of the world premiere recording on March 15, 2021, by Albany Records.

Scored for soprano, cello, and percussion, the world premiere cast is comprised of soprano Roberta Gumbel, and chamber duo New More Code, made up of cellist Hannah Collins and percussionist Michael Compitello.

“Roberta’s libretto comes from her experience raising her son,” said Kander in a press release. “This story of a Black youngster growing up to be a teenager, about to get behind the wheel, brings up so many possibilities, each with the potential to end in tragedy.”

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. 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.”