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AT BUFFALO began in 2002 as the research project of Dr. Amma Y. Ghartey-Tagoe Kootin (a.k.a. Dr. Amma) whilst she was pursuing her M.A./Ph.D. in the Department of Performance Studies at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. Based on the original research for her dissertation, “The Battle Before The Souls of Black Folk: Black Performance in the 1901 Pan-American Exposition” and created virtually verbatim from archival material found in over 20 archives located across the United States and in Ghana, the musical and its archival material were workshopped initially in university contexts: NYU-Tisch (Spring 2003), the University of California, Berkeley (Spring 2011), and the University of Colorado Boulder (Spring 2013 and December 2013).


The core writing team (Dr. Amma, Joshua Williams, and Khalil Sullivan) has been in professional collaboration since 2012, but met in 2010 at UC Berkeley where Dr. Amma was a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow and Williams and Sullivan were doctoral students in Theater and English, respectively. For her Spring 2011 course Black Theater Workshop, Dr. Amma contacted Williams and Sullivan to collaborate, respectively, as the Assistant Director/Creative Consultant and Musical Director of the first full-fledged devised version of AT BUFFALO. Innovative interpretations of archival material on stage, packed houses, standing ovations, and transformative life experiences made that collaboration a success; and Dr. Amma, Williams, and Sullivan officially formed the core writing team the following year in 2012. When AT BUFFALO was selected for the New York Musical Theatre Festival's (NYMF) Development Reading Series in 2014, a number of theatre colleagues immediately recommended that the writing team work with New York-based collaborators to do the developmental reading including development producer Deadria Harrington of the nationally recognized The Movement Theatre Company. This core team has been in collaboration since June 2014 and continues to work with actors and collaborators from various processes throughout AT BUFFALO's development.

Development History
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The AT BUFFALO team during the 2016 Rhinebeck Writers Retreat.

Still photo from 2013 CU Boulder Workshop Production to test archival material on stage. Costume design by Markas Henry. Choreography by Gesel Mason. Projection design by Jason Banks. Lighting Design by Kevin Crowe. Directed by Dr. Amma.

Spring 2013 New Theatre Workshop class taught by Dr. Amma with CU-Boulder students and choreographer Gesel Mason.

Dr. Amma and Joshua Williams during the first read-through rehearsal for the 2014 New York Musical Theatre Festival.

Khalil Sullivan composing during the 2016 Rhinebeck Writers Retreat.

Workshop/Development Opportunities

Still in development, AT BUFFALO has received national recognition at several points in its evolution. Since 2002, Dr. Amma’s research and development for AT BUFFALO have received more than $321,000 in support for the creative research on the 1901 Fair.


National and university development opportunities have occurred through:

  • 2022 Goodspeed Musicals Johnny Mercer Writers Grove Residency

  • 2021 Goodspeed Musicals Johnny Mercer Writers Grove Residency

  • 2019 MAP Fund Grant support for Writers Residency in Cambridge MA and NYC (July 2019); and Creative Research Development Trip to Togo and Benin (March 2020)

  • Apples & Oranges THEatre Accelerator (May 2019)

  • University at Buffalo Creative Arts Initiative Artists in Residence (November 2017)

    • Directed by Tamilla Woodard. Musical direction by Jason Bravo.

    • Click   here   to read media coverage of this development opportunity.

  • University at Buffalo College of Arts and Sciences Visiting Professorship in the Arts (August-December 2017)

  • Invited Staged Reading at ART/NY, Studio B (July 2016)

    • Produced by Deadria D. Harrington Productions.

    • Directed by David Mendizábal. Musical direction by Nehemiah Luckett.​

  • Rhinebeck Writers Retreat (June-July 2016)

  • University of Buffalo Keynote Performative Presentation and Guest Workshops (March-April 2016)

  • CAP 21 Writers Residency (January 2015)

  • New York Musical Theatre Festival's (NYMF) Developmental Reading Series (July 2014).

    • Produced by Deadria D. Harrington Productions at Studio Theatre at Theatre Row (New York, NY)

    • Directed by David Mendizábal. Musical direction by Jeremy Robin Lyons and assisted by Amy Osatinski.

  • University of Colorado Boulder Workshop Production (Fall 2013)

    • Produced by ATLAS and the Department of Theatre and Dance​

  • New Play Reading Series - UC Berkeley (Sept. 2013)

    • With Philip Kan Gotanda as the respondent.​

  • University of California, Berkeley - Black Theater Workshop (Spring 2011)

  • New York University - Tisch School of the Arts -M.A. Final Projects - The seed for AT BUFFALO was planted in a 10-minute short scene curated by Dr. Amma (Spring 2003). Eight years later, after finishing coursework, research, and writing the dissertation that is the original IP for the musical entitled "The Battle Be(for)e The Souls of Black Folk: Black Performance in the 1901 Pan-American Exposition", Dr. Amma would formally take the steps towards developing AT BUFFALO at UC Berkeley.

*AT BUFFALO was also a finalist for the 2017 Yale Institute for Music Theatre.

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