Baruch Performing Arts Center presents the New York Premiere of the chamber opera dwb (driving while black)
March 19, 2020
Baruch Performing Arts Center
55 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10010
Baruch Performing Arts Center presents the New York premiere of dwb (driving while black) from March 19-21, 2020 at 7:30 pm at Baruch Performing Arts Center, 55 Lexington Avenue (25th Street between Third and Lexington Avenues), NYC. Tickets are $16-$36 and can be purchased online at https://ci.ovationtix.com/1091/production/1014628.
dwb (driving while black) is a new chamber opera about racism, erasure, and the fear and love that black parents experience when they send their kids out into a world that too often sees them not as a child, but as a threat. This powerful music-drama documents the all-too-familiar story of an African-American parent whose beautiful brown boy approaches driving age. What should be a celebration of independence and maturity turns out to be fraught with the anxiety of “driving while black.” Running time: 50 minutes.
“Singers are storytellers,” says soprano/librettist Roberta Gumbel, “but rarely do we get the opportunity to help create the stories we are telling.” Gumbel, in collaboration with composer Susan Kander and the cutting-edge cello/percussion duo New Morse, created dwb (driving while black), which premiered in 2019 in Kansas City.
“One of the most singularly devastating theatrical moments of the last year.”
Best of Kansas City: Theater 2019
– The Pitch: Kansas City’s Arts and Culture Newspaper
Susan Kander, music
Roberta Gumbel, libretto
Chip Miller, director
Roberta Gumbel, soprano
New Morse Code – Hannah Collins, cello and Michael Compitello, percussion
Roberta Gumbel has performed internationally in opera, concert, chamber music and musical theater. After her operatic debut with Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Roberta performed with Opera Memphis, Opera Festival of New Jersey, Opera Philadelphia, Indianapolis Opera, Michigan Opera Theater, and Houston Grand Opera. Musical Theater credits include the Broadway runs of Showboat, Ragtime, La Boheme, and In My Life. Off Broadway she appeared in Running Man which USA Today ranked as one of the top tier productions of the year. Roberta has appeared in concert with the Boston Symphony, the Tanglewood Music Center and with the Scarborough Chamber Players of Boston. She has appeared as soloist with Wynton Marsalis and Jazz at Lincoln Center in their Holiday concerts.
The music of Susan Kander has been heard throughout the United States and in cities around the world, including London, Paris, Mexico City, Lima, Birmingham, Vancouver, Cape Town, Melbourne, St. Petersburg and Guangzhou. Kander has received numerous commissions from notable ensembles and organizations, including the National Symphony Orchestra, Southampton Chamber Music Festival, the Copland Fund, the Kansas City Chorale, the Columbia Foundation, and a variety of instrumentalists and ensembles.In the opera world, she has received commissions from Opera Minnesota, Opera Theater of St. Louis, Lyric Opera of Kansas City, and Columbus Opera. Her chamber opera The News from Poems was given a concert reading in April 2016 at the National Opera Center featuring Keith Phares, Katherine Pracht, and John Taylor Ward. In 2012, Minnesota Opera and Lyric Opera of Kansas City co-commissioned an adaptation of the seminal dystopian novel The Giver by Lois Lowry; the 85-minute chamber opera received its third production in January 2015 at Tulsa Opera. Knight Arts, St. Paul, called it a “remarkable new work…. Her instrumental scoring is atmospheric and unobtrusive…but the vocals take priority… This adaptation is a sophisticated and subtle work, in terms of both music and story.” Miranda’s Waltz for narrator and orchestra, commissioned by National Symphony Orchestra in 2009, was subsequently performed and live streamed around the world by the Australian Discovery Orchestra. Kander received her B.A. in Music at Harvard in 1979 and was a playwright until “coming home to music” in the mid-1990’s. In 2015, after composing busily for twenty-years, she decided to blow things up by finally attending graduate school in composition. She studied with Du Yun and Huang Ruo at Purchase Conservatory, re-arranging the furniture in her mind and earning her M.M. in Composition in 2017. The aftermath of those two years produced a bouquet of new works for both orchestra and chamber forces. She is a Fellow of the MacDowell Colony.
Chip Miller is a director and producer, currently in the role of associate producer at Portland Center Stage at The Armory. They were previously the artistic associate/resident director at Kansas City Repertory Theatre. Directing: Redwood [world premiere], Hedwig & The Angry Inch (Portland Center Stage at The Armory) School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play, Welcome to Fear City, Sex with Strangers, A Raisin in the Sun (Kansas City Repertory Theatre); Becoming Martin by Kevin Willmott (world premiere, The Coterie Theatre); dwb: driving while black (Lawrence Arts Center); 4:48 Psychosis (The Buffalo Room). Chip has developed work with playwrights including Kevin Willmott, Kara Lee Corthron, Brittany K. Allen, Catherine Trieschmann, Darren Canady, Andrew Rosendorf, Michelle T. Johnson, and Michael Finke. They have developed work at The William Inge Theater Festival, NYU Steindhard’s New Plays for Young Audiences, Portland Center Stage at The Armory’s JAW: A Playwrights Festival, Orlando Shakes Playfest, Midwest Dramatists Center, and Kansas City Repertory Theatre’s OriginKC: New Works Festival. Education: B.F.A., NYU Tisch School of the Arts.
New Morse Code (Hannah Collins, cello; Michael Compitello, percussion) is the confluence of two magnetic personalities who have taken up the admirable task of creating a hub for the performance, commissioning, and promotion of new music. NMC is theoretically the alluring and uncommon combination of cello and percussion, but in practice is best described as two musicians of extraordinary depth and skill untethered by their instrumental constraints. This unrestricted approach has allowed them to create a body of work in which Hannah can be found crushing plastic bottles and Michael plucking the strings of the cello–all with the intention of expanding and facilitating the imaginations of their composer-collaborators–while ultimately creating a meaningful and lasting repertoire. The performances that arise from this playful and innovative methodology reveal Hannah and Michael’s passion for sharing the work of their friends and peers, and aside from their effortless ability to perform the most finger-twisting of contemporary repertoire, NMC’s ability to communicate the esoteric details and depth of these complex works is what makes them truly remarkable chamber musicians. As tireless advocates for new music, they constantly seek out diverse venues (wineries, outdoor parks, art museums, elementary school classrooms), and their ability to connect with disparate audiences by way of their disarming charm, accessible intellect, and dynamic musicality is exceptional. Hannah and Michael formed New Morse Code while they were students at Yale after returning to the United States from extended and informative study in Europe. Inspired by their similar yet different experiences abroad, they began performing together and planting the seeds that would blossom into their dedicated community of collaborators and followers. They currently teach at the University of Kansas and serve as assistant directors of Avaloch Farm Music Institute.
Baruch Performing Arts Center is an acclaimed performing arts presence. Located in the heart of Manhattan just east of Chelsea and the famed flatiron building, BPAC presents renowned classical music, opera, jazz, theater, dance, discussion, film, and innovative cross-genre programming. BPAC has presented over 1,000 cultural programs in its 5 spaces since 2003. Its curated season of 30 programs annually emphasizes new work experienced in intimate settings, the diversity of American culture as exemplified by Baruch students (who come from 130 different countries) and work that lives at the confluence of art and social justice.
Past presentations have included theatre companies such as the National Asian American Theatre Company, Folksbiene, Blessed Unrest, and The Acting Company. Dance companies such as Caleb Teicher & Co, Dusan Tynek, Heidi Latsky Dance, José Limón, and Urban Bush Women. BPAC is the New York home of the Alexander String Quartet and presents a rich chamber music season including artists such as the Israeli Chamber Project, Cantata Profana, violinist Tessa Lark, cellist Joshua Roman, and pianist Sara Davis Buechner. BPAC offers a jazz series named for bassist and faculty member Milt Hinton, which has featured artists such as Grammy-Award winner Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks, and the Aaron Diehl Trio. Discussion program have included writers Teju Cole, Colum McCann and Amitav Ghosh, actress Linda Lavin, and thought leaders such as Gloria Steinem and U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan. Visit www.baruch.cuny.edu/bpac for complete and up-to-date information on the 2019-2020 Season.