Driving While Black

Share
--

Composed by Susan Kander
Libretto by Roberta Gumbel

Starring Karen Slack

Directed by Du’Bois & Camry A’Keen of A’KEEN Brand

This new film production will premiere in April 2021

Synopsis:

Driving While Black is a solo performed work constructed out of two interwoven strands, one personal, one external. In the central narrative, we meet the Mother: a baby is born to happy parents; she frets at the father to put the all-important car seat in the back seat of the car properly. From here on, she relates to the child first in its seat facing backward in the back of the car, then facing forward, then eventually the child sits next to her in the front seat on the passenger side. This is how Time is marked; the car is ever the center of their lives. The Mother scenes move forward in time from the beginning to the end of the piece. Threaded between these scenes, punctuating them, are telegraphic vignettes of contemporary news bulletins or personal stories introduced in spoken words. The Singer performs many characters relating to specific but generic events. These all describe, without comment, the dangerous world beyond the Mother’s control, and the increasing anxiety building up in her mind as her “beautiful brown boy” approaches manhood and his much-desired independence.

Cast:

Soprano: Karen Slack
Hailed for possessing a voice of extraordinary beauty, a seamless legato and great dramatic depth, American soprano Karen Slack has appeared with the Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Washington National Opera and San Francisco Opera. In recent seasons she has appeared as Alice Ford in Falstaff, Leonora in Il trovatore and Tosca with Arizona Opera, as Aïda at Austin Opera, Emelda Griffith in Champion with New Orleans Opera, Donna Anna in Don Giovanni with Nashville Opera, Violetta in La Traviata with Sacramento Opera and Sister Rose in Dead Man Walking with both Minnesota Opera and Vancouver Opera and her Scottish Opera debut as Anna in Puccini’s Le villi.

The 2018-2019 season saw her as Tosca with Opera Birmingham, Addie Parker in Yardbird with Arizona Opera, Sister Rose in Dead Man Walking with Atlanta Opera, Serena in Porgy and Bess with Fort Worth Opera, and her debut with Opera Theatre of St. Louis as Billie in Fire Shut Up in My Bones. In concert, she was a soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra in the world premiere of Hannibal Lokumbe’s Healing Tones with conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Union Symphony Orchestra for Wagner’s Wesendonk Lieder. She made her Metropolitan Opera debut in the title role of Verdi’s Luisa Miller and this season returned as Serena in Porgy and Bess. The 2019-2020 season also included a series of recitals throughout the US including the Vilar Center for the Performing Arts in Vail, Colorado with pianist Joe Illick. Additionally, Ms. Slack portrayed a featured role as the Opera Diva in Tyler Perry’s movie and soundtrack For Colored Girls.

Equally at home on the concert stage, Ms. Slack has performed Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, Mahler’s 2nd Symphony and the Verdi Requiem with various orchestras throughout the US. Abroad she has appeared with the Melbourne Symphony, Sydney Symphony, the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestras, and most recently, with the St. Petersburg Philharmonic in celebration of the 80th birthday of Mo. Yuri Temirkanov. She made her Carnegie Hall debut as Agnes Sorel in Tchaikovsky’s Maid of Orleans with Orchestra St. Luke’s and will return in Spring 2021 with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra for Beethoven’s Egmont. Additional upcoming engagements for the 2020-2021 season include her debut with the Houston Grand Opera for the world premiere of Joel Thompson’s A Snowy Day, Poulenc’s La Voix Humaine with Madison and Austin Opera, Atlanta’s Spivey Hall recital with Alan Morrison in the world premiere of a work by American composer Adolphus Halistork, Verdi’s Requiem with Highlander Concert Series at the Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas and a concert of arias with Omaha Opera and Symphony.

A graduate of the Adler Fellowship and Merola Opera Program at the San Francisco Opera, the native Philadelphian is also a graduate of the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music. She is a winner of numerous competitions and awards: most notably the Montserrat Caballe International Competition, Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, George London Foundation Award, Marian Anderson ICON Award, Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation, Rosa Ponselle International Vocal Competition, Portland Opera Lieber Award, Liederkranz Foundation Award and the Jose Iturbi International Competition for Voice.