WITNESS UGANDA Creators to Perform in Weston Playhouse Benefit Concert, 8/31

When Griffin Matthews, a young black American from New York City, ventured to Uganda in 2005 to help build a village school, he had no idea what a life-changing journey it would be. His six-week experience, in the company of a group of orphaned teenagers compelled the young writer/director/actor to want to do something to improve their quality of life. First he formed a non-profit aid organization, the Uganda Project, and later, after returning to the village year after year, Matthews, in a collaboration with Matt Gould, wrote the award-winning musical Witness Uganda which has brought new funding to the project. Having its world premiere at the American Repertory Theater earlier this year, the two men will perform a concert version of the musical at a Sunday, August 31st special Weston Playhouse event.

Through the lens of an American working with orphaned teenagers in Africa, the play explores challenging issues including the Uganda gay rights movement, the delicate balance between aid work and cultural interference, and the evolving perceived responsibility of Americans abroad. Witness Uganda documents the story of a man battling to find his place in a world full of injustice and inhumanity and explores the question "is changing the world even possible?"

Matthew's primary mission was to see to it that the children he met received good educations. Through Project Uganda he was able to advance the mission. But with the collapse of the American economy in 2008, Matthew needed to infuse the project.

The Carnegie Mellon Musical Theatre graduate shared his story with Matt Gould, a graduate of Boston University's College of Fine Arts. They spoke about the importance of making art that matters and about the desire for one's work and one's life to have meaning and purpose. Gould recorded Matthews as he shared his ambitions and experiences and set some of the conversation to music, and from that encounterWitness Uganda was born.

The musical, which premiered at A.R.T. under the direction of Tony Award Winner Diane Paulus, is the recipient of numerous awards, including the 2012 and 2014 Richard Rodgers Awards for Musical Theater. Matthew and Gould are honored to have been asked to perform selections from Witness Uganda at this year's TEDx conference in New York City.

Matt Gould's music has been performed at Jazz at Lincoln Center, The Saban Theatre (LA), Symphony Space (NYC), Huntington Theatre Company, and Rattlestick Theatre (NYC.) He was a composing fellow in New Dramatist's Composer/Librettist studio and has composed and arranged music for Grammy Winner Desmond Child, Terrence McNally, Vanessa Williams, and more.

Griffin Matthews is a writer, director, actor, and philanthropist who splits his time between New York and Los Angeles. As an actor, he has appeared on The Mentalist, Weeds, 90210, and Law & Order LA. He has appeared Off-Broadway and regionally. Still, his greatest accomplishment continues to be watching the students of Uganda Project rise above their circumstances and be the first members of their families to graduate high school and college.

The concert version of Witness Uganda will be held Sunday, August 31 at 8pm at the Weston Playhouse, 12 Park Street, Weston. All proceeds will benefit the non-profit Weston Playhouse Theatre Company and Project Uganda. The concert will be followed by a Q&A with the writer/performers. Tickets are $35 adults, $17.50 students, and are available by phone at 802-824-5288 (Tuesday - Sunday, 10am to 6pm), online 24/7 at westonplayhouse.org, or in person at the Playhouse box office (Tuesday - Sunday, 10am to 6pm.) Read and watch more on the project at www.witnessuganda.com.

Pictured: Matt Gould and Griffin Matthews performing Witness Uganda earlier this year. Photo by Gretjen Helene.

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