Co-Writer & Co-Creator with Amma Ghartey-Tagoe Kootin & Khalil Sullivan. At Buffalo.
U.C. Berkeley / Berkeley, CA / Apr. 2011
Race was on display at the 1901 World’s Fair at Buffalo, New York. In exhibits like Darkest Africa, Old Plantation, and The American Negro Exhibit, larger-than-life showmen presented unique, and often conflicting visions of blackness in America at the turn of the twentieth century, leaving behind a fragmented archive of descriptions, newspaper articles, photographs, and film clips that sheds new light on a critical moment in the construction of modern black and American identity. At Buffalo, a new musical I'm co-creating with Amma Ghartey-Tagoe Kootin and Khalil Sullivan, brings this archive to life, making present an experience of the past when definitions of race were literally written, directed, choreographed, and performed in order to reconstruct the American character in the wake of the Civil War. Performing verbatim text from the archive of actual historical events, the musical resurrects the interwoven storylines of the individuals who populated the fairgrounds and exposes the impact that such performances continue to have on our everyday enactments of racial and national identity.
At Buffalo is based on Amma Ghartey-Tagoe Kootin's pioneering dissertation research. I'm writing the book with Ghartey-Tagoe Kootin; the piece will also feature original music and archival music arrangement by Khalil Sullivan and original lyrics by Sullivan with Ghartey-Tagoe Kootin and myself. After its run at U.C. Berkeley, At Buffalo went on to another workshop production at the University of Colorado, Boulder, in December 2013. In July 2014, it received a developmental reading at the New York Musical Theatre Festival. See http://www.atbuffalomusical.com for more.
These photographs were taken at the 2011 Black Theater Workshop production of At Buffalo at U.C. Berkeley. This iteration of the project was directed by Amma Ghartey-Tagoe Kootin. I assistant-directed. It featured undergraduate and graduate student performers. All photographs courtesy of Joshua Hesslein at TDPS.