Writer, Composer of Broadway-Bound Musical Coming to Campus

Sept. 2, 2015   

BLOOMINGTON, Ill.— The writer and composer of a Broadway-bound musical will present music from the show at 8 p.m. Sept. 10 at Illinois Wesleyan University’s Hansen Student Center. The performance is free and open to the public.

Witness Uganda creators Griffin Matthews and Matt Gould will present selections from their award-winning musical. Based on the true story of Matthews’ humanitarian trips to Uganda, the musical premiered at the American Repertory Theatre in 2014 under the direction of Tony Award winner Diane Paulus. Witness Uganda twice received the Richard Rogers Award for Musical Theater. The show is currently in rehearsals for its Broadway opening as Invisible Thread in spring 2016.

The story follows Griffin, an American volunteer from New York City who arrived in Uganda in 2005 to help build a village school and escape his church’s probing into his sexuality. But when he meets a group of destitute, orphaned teenagers, he becomes obsessed with a mission that will change his and their lives forever.

Matthews created the UgandaProject, a nonprofit to provide education, housing, mentoring and basic needs to Uganda youth. In the economic downturn of 2008, Matthews was fuming about his frustration in raising money for aid work. Without Matthews’ knowledge, Gould recorded the rants and later set the words to music, thus creating the origins of Witness Uganda.

Matthews’ acting credits include Best of Both Worlds Off-Broadway; and 1776 and Once on This Island, both at the Paper Mill Playhouse. Television credits include: The Mentalist, Suburgatory, Weeds, 90210, Law and Order: LA, Cashmere Mafia and Numb3rs.

Gould has composed and arranged music for Grammy winner Desmond Child, Terrence McNally, Vanessa Williams and Playwrights Horizons. He is working on new musical commissions including Lempicka for Yale Rep, The Family Project for Center Theatre Group, and A Cantata with Tony winner John Caird.

The Witness Uganda performance at Illinois Wesleyan is funded by a Mellon Foundation grant, and is part of the Queer Lives Speaker and Performer Series and a “Nation(s) Divided?” intellectual theme event. “Witness Uganda is the perfect addition to the Queer Lives Speaker and Performer series because it allows students to break down boundaries between identities and engage the complex intersections that bind us together and keep us apart,” said Matthew Damschroder, assistant dean of students. “When we see ourselves in others, and embrace the otherness in ourselves, we have a chance to grow, develop and become the people and community we are meant to be.”