An intimate look at the hands that created ‘Invisible Thread’
Matt Gould and Griffin Matthews, co-creators of Broadway’s award-winning musical, "Invisible Thread," are looking forward to their return to Park City.
The two were last in town a year ago when they performed the production under its original name, "Witness Uganda."
"First of all, Park City is a gorgeous place and neither of us had been there before," Gould said during a joint interview with Matthews in a phone call to The Park Record from Harlem, New York. "In addition to doing the performance, we were able to visit the high school and perform for the drama students there."
The two, who are gay, also had the chance to meet many people from the local LGBT community.
"It was the warmest reception we’ve ever gotten," Gould said. "Park City has so many kind and wonderful people."
The Park City Institute will present Gould and Matthews in "An Evening with the Creators of ‘Invisible Thread’" at the Eccles Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday, Jan. 9.
As the evening suggests, the two will not run through the whole production, but perform excerpts in an intimate and casual atmosphere, according to Gould.
"What that means is that we’re going to give the behind-the-scenes look at how we put the show together and give an account of the show’s journey," he explained. "We’ll tell personal stories about creating the songs and about our students in Uganda."
They will also discuss how the musical became one of the Big Apple’s go-to production.
"Since we have the New York City run under our belts, we will share stories about that experience," Gould said. "We will also do some songs that were cut from the show."
"Invisible Thread" was inspired by Matthews’ plight as a gay African American to help with a Ugandan orphanage a few years before he established the nonprofit called Project Uganda.
Matthews said he discovered the Ugandan pastor who ran the program was corrupt and embezzling money. So, he took a walk and ran into a group of kids who wanted to go to school.
The musical, which features original, Afro-pop music, gives accounts of real people and examines the issues of education, homophobia, race, equality, HIV and AIDS.
Last year, Gould and Matthews changed the title from "Witness Uganda" to "Invisible Thread."
"I think we were looking for a title that felt more acceptable for a broader number of people," Gould said. "For better of for worse there are some specific connotations of the word Uganda, and we wanted to get people in the door so they could hear the story about Uganda, without them deciding what they already thought it was about before they came in."
The second reason for the change was because of the musical’s thematic elements.
"There were more ideas that had to do with the global connection and we wanted the title to have that broad idea built into it," Gould said.
Getting his experiences from the streets of Uganda to a stage was an unforgettable experience, Matthews said.
"I think that it’s always a very interesting process to bring documentary theatre to the audience," he said. "It requires a certain amount of truth, but also a certain amount of theatricality. So, putting together ‘Invisible Thread’ was amazing because we had to take the truth of what happened and mix in some theatricality and take a little dramatic license to make the most exciting evening of theater possible."
During their appearance in Park City, Matthews and Gould will talk about those theatrical elements that enhanced the story.
"This is exciting for us to share that because the story is bigger than myself and it’s bigger than [the two of us]," Matthews said. "It’s really the story of what’s happening in the world, and we’ll even talk about whether or not changing the world is possible."
The evening will also feature a discussion with the audience.
"This is really important because we want to hear and learn about what they think and give them an opportunity to join the conversation," Matthews said. "We wrote this musical not to end the conversation, but to start it."
Much has changed in the United States and the world since Gould and Matthews were last in town, and those developments will also be addressed during the upcoming visit.
"Where we were 365 days ago is not where we are now as artists, and also as a world," Matthews said. "So, the show has become very pointed about race and LGBT rights in America and abroad. It became pointed about travel and social media and technology and the connectivity that allows us to understand what is happening in the world.
"I’m really excited to talk with Park City community because New York is a different kind of town and there are people who literally live on top of each other," he said. "Matt and I love to travel to other places in the country where there is space and where people have different views about race and LGBT rights. That’s why I say we go not only to perform, but also learn."
The two implement what they learn into each performance.
"The thing that is different about theater than other medium is that theater is living," Gould said. "Just as the world changes, so must the performance change or the way that we receive the information changes. As artists, we try to embrace that idea."
Matt Gould and Griffin Matthews, co-creators of Broadway’s award-winning new musical, "Invisible Thread," formerly "Witness Uganda," will return to The Eccles Center on Saturday, Jan. 9. The performance, produced by the Park City Institute, starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets range from $25 to $75 and can be purchased by calling 435-655-3114 or visiting EcclesCenter.org.
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The film captures a transparent self-portrait of the American wilderness, emphasizing the importance of communication that goes beyond listening for the sake of responding.