Pitt Repertory to Present World-Premiere Production of The Gammage Project

Issue Date: 
February 6, 2012

Pitt Repertory Theatre will present an original docudrama, The Gammage Project, written by Att i lio “Buck” Favor ini, professor and director of graduate studies in Pitt’s Department of Theatre Arts. The world-premiere production will be directed by Mark Clayton Southers, founding and producing director of the Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company.

Produced in conjunct ion with Pittsburgh Playwrights, The Gammage Project initially will run from Feb. 9 to Feb. 19 in the Henry Heymann Theatre in Pitt’s Stephen Foster Memorial. It also will be presented March 2-4 at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture, 980 Liberty Ave., Downtown.

The play is based on actual events from 1995 that drew national media attention. Jonny Gammage, a cousin of former Pittsburgh Steeler defensive end Ray Seals, was in town for a visit. Driving along State Route 51, Gammage was stopped by a Brentwood police lieutenant, because, according to court trial testimony, he had been repeatedly applying the car’s brakes. The Brentwood police lieutenant was assisted by four other officers, all of whom are White; Gammage was Black. Gammage died at the scene; the cause of death is listed as asphyxiation caused by pressure applied to the chest and neck.

A coroner’s jury recommended that homicide charges be brought against the five officers, but only two were charged with involuntary manslaughter. After two mistrials, the charges against the two were dropped. A third officer was tried separately and found not guilty.

Following every performance, Favorini or a guest will moderate talkback sessions between the audience, one or two of the cast members, and individuals who have a connection to the Gammage case. Performances are at 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays, except for the Sunday, March 4, matinee, which begins at 1 p.m. For tickets or for more information, call 412-624-PLAY (7529) or visit www.play. pitt.edu/content/gammage-project.

“Our hope is that The Gammage Project will bring to light the suppressed facts and feelings that continue to affect race relations today,” said Favorini. “No less important, we look to position our play in the millenniaold tradition of deploying drama to address issues of civic consequence. We want to create a play that invites all to think deeply and to feel honestly.”

Favorini, who served as founding chair of Pitt’s Department of Theatre Arts, was also founder and producing director of this region’s Three Rivers Shakespeare Festival (1980-92). He wrote the grant that helped establish the City Theatre at Pitt, and he served as its executive producer from 1979 to 1988. A PhD graduate of Yale University, he is the former editor of Theatre Survey, the American journal of theater history.

Southers is an award-winning playwright, photographer, set designer, producer, and stage director. His roots in theater go back to 1980, when he was a photographer, actor, and playwright for Pitt’s Kuntu Repertory Theatre. He has produced more than 100 full-length and one-act plays for Pittsburgh Playwrights Theat re Company, including eight consecutive plays from August Wilson’s Pittsburgh cycle of dramas. In November 2010, Southers was named the August Wilson Center’s artistic director for theater initiatives.