University of Pittsburgh
January 27, 2012

Pitt Repertory Theatre Presents World-Premiere Production of The Gammage Project Feb. 9-19 and March 2-4

Original docudrama explores the 1995 case of Jonny Gammage, who died during a police traffic stop because of “pressure applied to the chest and neck”

Sharon Blake


Cell: 412-277-6926


PITTSBURGH—Pitt Repertory Theatre will present an original docudrama, The Gammage Project, written by Attilio “Buck” Favorini, 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. 

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. 

Produced in conjunction 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, Forbes Avenue and Bigelow Boulevard, Oakland. It also will be presented March 2-4 at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture, 980 Liberty Ave., Downtown. 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

“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 millennia-old 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. Of Favorini’s seven plays, Steel/City was on the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Ten Best Plays list in 1976 and named Best Production of the Year by Pittsburgh City Paper in 1992. His publications include several books, numerous articles, and many book chapters. 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 Theatre Company, including eight consecutive plays from August Wilson’s Pittsburgh cycle of dramas. A published poet, Southers was the recipient of the 2004 Theodore Ward Prize at Columbia College, Chicago. His directed production of Wilson’s Jitney broke all house attendance records at the Pittsburgh Playwrights Theater and was on the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Ten Best Plays list for the 2010 season. In November 2010, Southers was named the August Wilson Center’s artistic director for theater initiatives.






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