Invisible Thread (formerly known as Witness Uganda) is a musical with a book, music, and lyrics by Matt Gould and Griffin Matthews. Based around the true story of Matthews' humanitarian trips to Uganda, and his work to fund his Uganda Project. The musical made its world premiere February 4 at Cambridge's American Repertory Theater. This production closed on March 16, 2014. The show later transferred to off-Broadway's Second Stage Theatre in a production which opened on December 2nd, 2015.
From the A.R.T. website, "When Griffin, a young man from New York City, volunteers for a project in Uganda, he finds himself on a journey that will change his life forever. Inspired by a true story, this rousing new musical, staged by Tony Award-winning director and A.R.T. Artistic Director Diane Paulus, exposes the challenges confronted by American aid workers and the complex realities of trying to change the world."
The creation of the musical started around 2008, when the economy was suffering, Gould and Matthews needed money for their nonprofit Ugandaproject. Gould asked, "Why don't we write a musical about aid work?", to which Matthews replied "That's the worst idea I've ever heard!". Unbeknownst to Matthews, a few days later Gould recorded Matthews ranting about how frustrating it can be to raise money. Gould set music to it and the project had officially begun.
Once they had a couple of songs, the pair rented out a theatre and sold out two shows. Sadly, after paying to rent the theatre and the lighting designer, they made no money. They did however make an impact: people came up to them emotionally telling them that was their story. They were invited to Disney ASCAP and did a twenty-five-minute show the first night and a fifty-minute show the second night (to which they both said they didn't have fifty minutes and had to write a lot to put up the next night). Gould said of the experience, "The show was a mess at that time, but we knew what the heart of it was".
This musical came to Diane Paulus' attention after it won the 2012 Richard Rodgers Award for Musical Theater (it also won the 2014 award as well). She was impressed and noted it was like nothing she ever heard or read before. While she was working on Pippin at the American Repertory Theater, Schwartz mentioned there was a musical about Uganda that would interest her. Paulus said, "Needless to say, it felt like fate".
The show is based on Matthews' experience in Uganda, as well as Gould's Peace Corps experience in Mauritania and other similar experiences. Other members of the creative team had foreign aid experiences as well. Choreographer Darrell Grand Moultrie taught dance in South Africa, and even the interns (mostly from Harvard University) had volunteered in Indonesia, Tanzania, and Uganda.
2015 off-Broadway (Second Stage Theatre)
|Role||Original A.R.T. Cast||Original Off-Broadway Cast|
|Griffin||Griffin Matthews||Griffin Matthews / Jeremy Pope*|
|Ryan||Emma Hunton||Corey Mach|
|Ronny||Tyrone Davis Jr.|
|Rain Lady||(did not exist)||Melody Betts|
|Ensemble||Melody Betts, Aisha Jackson, Latrisa Harper, Kevin Curtis, Jamard Richardson, Rodrick Covington||Jason Herbert, Aisha Jackson, Latrisa Harper, Kevin Curtis, Jamard Richardson, Rodrick Covington|
*Jeremy Pope played the role of Griffin at certain performances
Original Production and others
The show premiered on February 4, 2014 at the American Repertory Theater. The show was directed by Diane Paulus, choreography by Darrell Grand Moultrie, set design by Tom Pye, costume design by Esosa, lighting design by Maruti Evans, sound design by Jonathan Deans, projection design by Peter Nigrini, music supervision, orchestrations, and vocal arrangements by Matt Gould, music director Remy Kurs, electronic music design by Jeff Marder and Brian Li, and associate director Shira Milikowsky. The band consists of Matt Gould (Conductor/Keyboard 1), Brian Li (Keyboard 2), Andrew Griffin (Viola), Nathan V. Terry (Drums), Charlie Chronopoulos (Guitar), Jonny Morrow (Bass), and Senfuab Stoney (Percussion).
The show stars Griffin Matthews (Griffin), Michael Luwoye (Jacob), Adeola Role (Joy), Emma Hunton (Ryan), Nicolette Robinson (Eden), Kristolyn Lloyd (Grace), Jamar Williams (Ibrahim), Tyrone Davis, Jr. (Ronny), and the ensemble of Melody Betts, Rodrick Covington, Kevin Curtis, LaTrisa Harper, Aisha Jackson, and Jamard Richardson.
Under the direction of Paulus, the show is having a staged reading October 23 and 24, 2014. The cast includes Julius Thomas III, Adeola Role, Adam Kantor, Michael Luwoye, Kristolyn Lloyd, Nicolette Robinson, Jamar Williams, Tyrone Davis, Jr., Amber Iman, Aisha Jackson, LaTrisa Harper, Rodrick Covington, Kevin Curtis and Jamard Richardson.