"At Buffalo" Public Rehearsals & Work Hours (Nov. 11, 13 and 15, 2017)

Playing the Archive--authentic sounds to inspire and be incorporated into new work. Kenneth Kootin on bell, Dr. Amma Ghartey-Tagoe Kootin on dance belt, Khalil Sullivan on guitar, and Joshua Williams on percussion (rear). Artifacts from the "Darkest Africa" attraction of the Pan American Exhibition of 1901 curtesy of the Buffalo Science Museum.

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.

Members of the public were invited to join the creative team for site-specific public rehearsals and work hours in some of the historic sites that appear in the AT BUFFALO narrative.  

Public Rehearsals & Work Hours:

November 11, 2017: Michigan Street Baptist Church site

Select scenes from AT BUFFALO about Mary Talbert, Buffalo's historic black community, and their protest meeting to participate in the 1901 Pan-American Exposition were performed.

Described by her peers as "the best-known colored woman in the United States," Talbert used her education and prodigious energies to improve the status of Black people at home and abroad. Her efforts were instrumental in getting a Negro Exhibit featuring cultural and economic achievements of African Americans included in the Pan American Exposition. Talbert went on the co-found the Niagara Movement, which became the NAACP.

November 13, 2017: Buffalo Museum of Science - Main Gallery

Dr. Amma and the cast of AT BUFFALO examining archival artifacts from the "Darkest Africa" attraction of the1901  Pan American Exposition at the Buffalo Science Museum.

A public conversation between the AT BUFFALO writing team and UB Prof. Christian Flaugh's Exposing Race Archives class about the Museum's Darkest Africa artifacts collections from the Pan-Am. Brief examples from the musical were shared, including a new version of a song that had been revised that morning based on documents found in the Buffalo Museum of Science archives.

Members of the ensemble cast visited the Museum of Science archives, where they were able to view and handle—very carefully—artifacts from the Darkest Africa attraction from the exposition. The photographs, musical instruments, weapons, and ivory pieces carved by the inhabitants of the African village of Darkest Africa, formed the foundation of the museum’s collection.

November 15, 2017: The Buffalo History Museum

Dr. Amma and Khalil Sullivan giving cues to the cast as they learn a new song. Open Rehearsal at the Buffalo History Museum.

The creative team and ensemble cast gathered in the atrium of the Buffalo History Museum, the sole surviving permanent structure from the exposition, for an open rehearsal. Audience members were treated to the first performance of a newly composed opening number—and even got to participate.

One very emotional scene was rehearsed in the museum’s research room, among the historical documents. The atmosphere inspired the actors and made the entire experience feel more authentic and impactful.