Carry My Own Suitcase 2023, 95′

A chamber opera
Duration: 95 minutes

Susan Kander, music
Roberta Gumbel and Susan Kander, libretto

Roger, 25, has been cheerfully talking about moving into his own place for several years. He wants to be like his big brother, Billy, to see the world, be more independent. To watch Sponge Bob Square Pants and eat pizza with olives every night. But Roger has profound autism. Portrayed simultaneously by a speaking actor/singer and a dancer, together they inhabit Roger’s world of sound and motion in all its exorbitance, charm, and minutia. Like life with autism, we’re not always ready for the next thing. The boundaries of language are porous as instrumental musicians enter scenes to ‘play’ small roles. For Mom and Billy, the past–funny, sad, frightening, dear–won’t stay put. For Dad and Roger, it’s all about Now. One night the move toward that vague and longed-for Future begins, off schedule but crystal-clear, when a pleasant evening at home goes radically off the rails. Roger and his family must now step through the next door.


Acting Roger – speaking actor or singer (skilled music reading required), 25
Dancing Roger – need not look at all like Roger
Diana (Mom) – mezzo, 50s
Sam (Dad) – baritone, 50s
Billy (brother) – tenor, age 7 and 28
Laney (Billy’s girlfriend) – soprano, 20s
Neuro Specialist – soprano, 50s
Bass-baritone double cast as James – a social worker, 45-50, a slob with a golden heart, and Mr. Zingone – pizza place owner, 83

The ensemble of 11 is on stage, an organic part of the action. Additionally, five instrumentalists from the ensemble enter scenes and “play” small roles (from memory.)

2 Vln, Vc, Db, 2 Cl. (doubling Eb and bass clar), Bsn (doubling contra), Tpt, Tbn, Perc, Pno


Workshop production March 2023 at University of Kansas School of Music:

Linda Brand, director (Director of Opera, University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music)
Jacob Ashworth, music director (Artistic Director, Heartbeat Opera, New York)

This workshop production was supported by generous grants from National Endowment for the Arts, OPERA America’s Opera Grants for Women Composers: Discovery Grants program, supported by the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation., and the Dean’s Discretionary Fund of the University of Kansas School of Music.

For information:;;