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Fort Worth Opera takes ‘dwb (driving while black)’ to the stage at the Kimbell

Marsha Thompson performs the role of Mother in Fort Worth Opera’s production of “dwb (driving while black).”
Freddie Watkins
Fort Worth Opera
Marsha Thompson performs the role of Mother in Fort Worth Opera’s production of “dwb (driving while black).”

Fort Worth Opera’s general and artistic director Angela Turner Wilson has wanted to bring a production of the opera “dwb (driving while black)” to Fort Worth since she first saw it online during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I thought, ‘Wow, if I ever have an opportunity out of this pandemic and could put it on the stage, I will,’” she said in an interview with the Report.

On Saturday, the Fort Worth Opera will wrap its run of the contemporary opera and host a Q&A session afterward with librettist Roberta Gumbel, who played Mother in the original production, and Susan Kander, the composer.

If you go

What: Fort Worth Opera’s production of “dwb (driving while black)”
When: 2 p.m. Feb. 24
Where: Kimbell Art Museum
3333 Camp Bowie Blvd.
Admission: $55

“Not only was it an amazing piece of art … the collaboration between Roberta Gumbel and Susan Kander, I mean, it’s kind of one of those moments of kismet where … this couldn’t have been anybody else composing or writing,” Turner Wilson said. “It had to be these two friends, putting this together and discussing this topic.”

The production is based on Gumbel’s fears when her young Black son got his driver’s permit and her anxiety about what might happen if he got pulled over.

Gumbel and Kander see these postshow conversations as an integral part of staging the production; Turner Wilson said it’s something they requested.

“Everybody has just gone through this very emotional performance, so let’s talk about that,” Turner Wilson said. “Let’s talk about those feelings and what we’re all experiencing. And then … ushers will have microphones and if people would like to raise their hand … they can tell their story or a story of someone that they know.”

The show covers racial profiling and police violence as well as the power of a mother’s love.

“We also see … how she is protective of him, how she’s hopeful for him, and how she also says, ‘You are not who they see.’ And she repeats that several times in the show to let us know that her child is more than what other people see on the outside,” Marsha Thompson, the soprano who plays Mother in this production, said. “(That’s) every mother’s hope, right?”

While cellphone videos and police body-camera footage have changed the general population’s awareness of the dangers people of color face on the roads, Thompson noted that this is not a new phenomenon, citing the “The Negro Motorist Green Book,” first published in 1936.

“I really hope that people of all ages, from all racial and ethnic and cultural backgrounds, will attend … with an open mind,” she said. “We have to understand that the equity in mobility is not just a Black story. It’s an American story that needs to be told.”

Marcheta Fornoff covers the arts for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policyhere.

This article first appeared on Fort Worth Report and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.