More about Witness Uganda

Witness Uganda is a documentary musical that, broadly speaking, explores the complications of being a Samaritan.The storyline follows the life-changing journey of co-writer Griffin Matthews, who in 2005, ousted from his New York church congregation for being gay and tired of pounding pavements in search of acting jobs, purchases a one-way ticket to Uganda to volunteer for a charity that turns out to be sham. Rather than give up, the resilient young Matthews befriends ten teenage orphans with no access to education. Seeing a need, Matthews and composer-partner and Peace Corps alum Matt Gould decide to create a non-profit, Uganda Project, a grassroots organization that provides free education, housing, mentoring, and basic needs to a small group of Ugandan students living in Kampala in order to empower, ignite, and impact global change.

Gould and Matthews have been performing Witness Uganda around the country and around the world since 2008. While initially it served as a fundraising venue for the Uganda Project aid organization, it soon became a musical theater sensation winning the Richard Rodgers Award for Musical Theater in 2012. Two years later it had its world premiere at the American Repertory Theater at Harvard University under the direction of Diane Paulus, who, that same year, was selected as one of the TIME 100Time magazine’s annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world. Witness Uganda then premiered Off-Broadway at New York City’s 2econd Stage Theater under the name INVISIBLE THREAD. On Tuesday, February 4th, 2019, the show will have its West Coast Premier at Lovelace Studio Theater in Los Angeles.

In a story published in Boston-based The ARTery, Tony Award-winning director Diane Paulus recalls when she first received the CD of Gould and Matthews’s work: “What attracted me to this musical is exactly that it completely defies the traditions of what you would expect from a piece of musical theater…Witness Uganda asks tough questions…” Indeed, lyrics to one of the songs in the play invite reflection on the blind spots of the savior complex and humanitarian aid: “Sometimes you think you’re making things better when you’re actually making them worse.” This pressing concern and others are raised to generate urgently needed dialogue about how to care well in a complex world: “We believe artists are activists, and it’s our responsibility to let the world know what’s going on in Uganda and how that affects us,…. Religion, sexuality, cultural questions — we felt the need to talk about it, and we want to get other people talking about it,” Gould states.