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Fort Worth Opera is honored to present the regional premiere of a modern American one-act opera, dwb (driving while black). As a special bonus, each performance will be followed by a moderated talkback discussion between the audience, creators, cast and special guests.


With exquisite music, intense vocals and lyrics that range from the universal ("Don't make me stop this car!") to the painfully specific ("You are not what they see"), dwb (driving while black)presents 16 years of a Black mother’s hopes and fears for her son. As her child grows up and learns to drive, the Mother is haunted by visions of all the ways this simple ritual of adulthood could go wrong for her “beautiful brown boy” in a society plagued by racism and inequality.  Created by Susan Kander (composer) and Roberta Gumbel (librettist), dwb (driving while black) evolved as a dream collaboration between friends and colleagues. The collaborative project that would become dwb (driving while black) began after Kander mentioned her son’s driving lessons, and Gumbel revealed a crushing vulnerability — the reality of “the talk” that Black mothers give their sons as they approach manhood. As the project developed and took increasing inspiration from Gumbel’s life, it moved beyond a chamber music song cycle and took on fully operatic narrative sweep and importance.


In the Fort Worth Opera production, Ayvaunn Penn directs with Marsha Thompson (soprano) performing as the Mother. An award-winning playwright and director, Penn is an assistant professor in the Texas Christian University (TCU) Theatre Department. Soprano Thompson has been recognized in the New York Times for her “warm, agile soprano” and “stellar performance” as Violetta in the New York Grand Opera Company performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s, La Traviata.


As audience members consider this takeaway, the Fort Worth Opera invites them to join the creators, cast and guests — including composer Susan Kander and librettist (and original Mother) Roberta Gumbel — in talkback discussions after every performance. These sessions will be moderated by TCU faculty members Dr. Stacie McCormick (Associate Professor of English, Chair of Comparative Race and Ethnic Studies and a core faculty member of the Women and Gender Studies Department) and Dr. Brandon Manning (Associate Professor of Black Literature and Culture in the Department of English and a core faculty member in the Comparative Race and Ethnic Studies Department).


Art can speak to all audiences, and great work bridges all divides. dwb (driving while black) is more than an opera: it is a celebration of the human experience, an exploration of emotions, and a testament to the enduring power of art. Many of the works we now consider traditional brought deeply felt social commentary to their debuts. Verdi, Puccini, and even Mozart imbued their classics with narratives of class, race, and culture. We hope that you will join us for the regional debut of this new classic, and experience with us the transformative power of great art.

Tickets & Information

  • Malisa Yost
  • Jill Freer
  • Christiane May

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Can students attend with a tcu ID card? or do tickets need to be purchased by student?

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