It's 1901. Lynch mobs swarm the South. Blacks flee north in hopes of opportunity. Immigrants struggle to find their place. And the Pan American Exposition, in the then-shining city of Buffalo, beckons all to glimpse a brighter future for America. AT BUFFALO: A New Musical, is an immersive and evocative musical journey through conflicting performances of race in post-Civil War America, tracking historical figures through the tumult of the exposition.
The AT BUFFALO writing team, Dr. Amma Y. Ghartey-Tagoe Kootin, Khalil Sullivan and Joshua Williams, are committed to creating a work that is archivally true and historically plausible. Using collections from over 20 archives located across the United States and in Ghana, they are composing a libretto that tells “a babel of stories” virtually verbatim from the fragmented archive of the 1901 Pan-American Exposition.
The goal of AT BUFFALO is to bring to life an experience of the past—an experience of a pivotal period in American history in which definitions of race were written, directed, choreographed and performed—and at the same time read it against the grain, in order to discover why this material still resonates with us today.
The AT BUFFALO creative team used their Fall 2017 Creative Arts Initiative residency to gain inspiration as well as information from historic locations and archives available only in the City of Good Neighbors, Buffalo, NY.
The residency culminated in two staged readings at the Katharine Cornell Theatre at the University at Buffalo. These developmental readings tested the latest script revisions made by the creative team during their residency.
Scenes from both the first and second acts were read. Members of the audience who had attended open rehearsals earlier in the residency noticed changes based on archival research by the creative team.
Following the readings, audiences were invited to contribute to the creative process by providing feedback and reflections on what they had experienced. Director Tamilla Woodard led a process of reflection guided by questions from the writing team. This feedback will be used by the writing team as they further refine the libretto.