Brotherhood and community explored on stage Wed., Feb. 6 – Sat., Feb. 23 at The Wallis in Beverly Hills
The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts presents the West Coast premiere of Witness Uganda, a documentary musical, by Matt Gould and Griffin Matthews, directed by Griffin Matthews with music direction by Matt Gould, on stage Wednesday, February 6 through Saturday, February 23.
The plot of the musical is as follows: “Based on a true story, Witness Uganda follows Griffin, a New York City-based American volunteer, as he arrives in Uganda to help build a village school and escape his church’s condemnation of his sexuality. When he falls into a complicated relationship with a group of destitute, orphaned teenagers, he finds himself driven by a mission that will change his and their lives forever.
From the rolling hills of the Ugandan countryside to a stifling apartment in New York City, from a joyous celebration of African youth to a terrifying abduction 8,000 miles away, Witness Uganda explores the question, is changing the world even possible?”
…is changing the world even possible?
This writer asked Gould about the origins of the project. He replied, “This show is about Uganda Project (UgandaProject.com). We wrote this piece as a fundraiser for our non-profit which supports the educations of 10 Ugandan students. We thought it would be a one-night only benefit. But over the years, it’s grown into a full theatrical experience that tackles the complexity of helping.”
On the issue of helping others, Gould explains, “All aid is mutual aid. There’s nothing that we do to serve others that doesn’t also serve us. And it’s important to remember that as a way to keep from the harmful mindset that we can ‘change’ people or ‘rescue those in need.’ Knowing that we all need help sometimes keeps us grounded and authentic when we’re serving someone else’s needs. The lessons I’ve learned from my friends and family in Africa have affected the choices and paths I’ve made in life. I’ve celebrated with them and they’ve mourned my losses with me. Our relationship isn’t about the helper and the helped. It’s about brotherhood, family and community.”
How did Matt Gould meet Griffin Matthews?
“I was a Peace Corps volunteer in The Islamic Republic of Mauritania at the same time he was working in Uganda,” Gould continues. “When we got back to New York, we had the shared Africa connection. Our mutual friend, Leslie Odom Jr, introduced us. He felt like two musical theatre dudes who’d spent time in Africa should know each other. He was right!”
Gould and Matthews are collaborating on another documentary musical, The Family Project, and are in the process of creating a podcast.
“Witness Uganda,” a documentary musical, is on stage February 6–February 23 at The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts located at 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd. in Beverly Hills. For tickets visit TheWallis.org/Witness or call (310) 746-4000.