Dr. Amma directs the 2011 Black Theater Workshop cast of AT BUFFALO (UC Berkeley). Photo by Anna-Marie Panlilio.
AT BUFFALO: A NEW MUSICAL
The 1901 Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York—the nation’s first world’s fair of the 20th century—
is the primary historical event through which Dr. Amma has developed her performing the archives methodology. Using collections from over 30 institutions, she has sought to recoup from the archive African and African-American performance in this world’s fair through verbatim embodiments that transform performers into proxies for the archive and the stage into a space for scholarly argumentation. She is in the process of (1) curating these experimentations into a professional musical production entitled AT BUFFALO: A New Musical and (2) using these investigations to advance original arguments in a book entitled Laughing after Slavery: The Performances and Times of Ben Ellington. A performed adaptation and expansion of her doctoral dissertation, AT BUFFALO is the first full treatment of black performance at the 1901 Pan-American Exposition, exposing the impact that such performances continue to have on everyday enactments of racial and national identity.
As the Lead Artist of AT BUFFALO who operates in multiple roles (Project Originator, Primary Investigator, Primary Conceiver, Executive Producer, Co-Writer, Co-Lyricist, Co-Archival Music Arranger/Adapter, and Co-Composer), Dr. Amma has founded and led a national, core collaborative team of artists consisting of playwright Joshua Williams, composer Khalil Sullivan, and development producer Deadria Harrington--with contributions by media entrepreneur Jim Augustine and six creative teams--to develop her research into an innovative, scholarly musical production. Dr. Amma has also taught or directed five different workshops/development processes of AT BUFFALO at NYU-Tisch (Spring 2003), UC Berkeley (Spring 2011), and CU-Boulder (Spring 2012, Spring 2013, and Fall 2013).
The musical has already received national recognition and has had public presentations at several points in its evolution including: selection in the 2014 New York Musical Theatre Festival's Development Reading Series, a 2016 Rhinebeck Writers Retreat residency, two residences at the University at Buffalo: a 2017 Creative Arts Initiative Artist Residency and a 2017-18 Visiting Professorship in the Arts, the 2019 TED Conference and TED Talk, and a 2019 Apples & Oranges THEAtre Accelerator selectee. In June 2017, Zuckerberg Media also selected AT BUFFALO from a competitive process to beta-test emerging technologies for innovative, new theatrical productions in development. (Beta-test pending.) Currently in the midst of a fifth full draft with 39 songs, Dr. Amma and her creative team are revising the libretto for another workshop production and then full production.