One on One: Favorini drama recounts Gammage case

January 25, 2012
Written by: Peter Hart
Published by: The University Times

Just days after the murder trial acquittal of O.J. Simpson in October 1995 riveted a racially divided American public, the overwhelmingly white Pittsburgh suburb of Brentwood was the scene of another racially charged episode when Jonny Gammage, a 31-year-old unarmed African American, ended up dead of asphyxiation at the scene of a police-ordered traffic stop on Route 51. Gammage died within minutes of the “pull-over” in the presence of five white police officers.

Following the incident, a coroner’s inquest panel recommended that homicide charges be filed against the five officers who were at the scene: Brentwood Lt. Milton Mulholland, Baldwin Borough patrolman Michael G. Albert, Brentwood patrolman John Vojtas, and Sgt. Keith Henderson and patrolman Shawn Patterson, both of the Whitehall force.

Instead, then-District Attorney Robert Colville announced he would file charges against only Mulholland and Albert, who were tried together, and Vojtas, who was tried separately. The three were charged not with homicide but involuntary manslaughter. No charges ever were filed against Henderson or Patterson.

From the beginning, the incident and its legal aftermath have weighed heavily on Attilio “Buck” Favorini, Pitt theatre arts professor and playwright. Now, 16 years later — the last two years dedicated to writing a play about the Gammage incident — Favorini is presenting the world premiere of “The Gammage Project,” a docudrama that debuts Feb. 9 with a preview at the Henry Heymann Theatre in the Stephen Foster Memorial. The play runs through Feb. 19 at the Heymann then moves to the August Wilson Center for performances March 2-4. (For ticket information, call 412/624-7529.)

The production is a first-time collaboration between the Pitt Repertory Theatre and the Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company, whose founder and artistic director Mark Clayton Southers is directing the Gammage play.

Favorini sat down recently with University Times staff writer Peter Hart to reflect on the play’s composition and intent and what he learned  during the process of researching and writing it...


Read the full article on the University Times website