Unattainable Excellence for Boston: WITNESS UGANDA

Photo: Gretjen Helene Photography; Adeola Role with Griffin Matthews and Emma Hunton.

Presented by American Repertory Theatre
By Matt Gould and Griffin Matthews
Directed by Diane Paulus
Music Directed by Remy Kurs
Choreography by Darrell Grand Moultrie

Based on true events.

February 4 – March 16, 2014
ASL Interpreted performances: Tues, March 4 at 7:30pm; Sun, March 9 at 2:00pm.
Audio Described performances: Wed, March 5 at 7:30pm; Sat, March 8 at 2:00pm.
Loeb Drama Center
64 Brattle St.
Cambridge, MA 02138
A.R.T. on Facebook
Witness Uganda on Facebook

Review by Kitty Drexel
(Cambridge)In Witness Uganda, Griffin (character inspired by co-creator Griffin Matthews) goes to Uganda on a mission to build a school for needy children. He hopes to make the world a better place and find life purpose. He discovers that American aid workers are not building schools for the community. The Ugandan children are not receiving an education. Together, Griffin, his best friend Ryan and a group of orphans fight to better the lives of Ugandans. Witness Uganda is about the complications of international giving in third world countries, the role community plays on a global scale, and Man’s eternal struggle for purpose.This production is excellent. The A.R.T. presents yet another exquisite example of theatre at its finest. Diane Paulus’ direction is superb. The book/score by Matt Gould and Griffin Matthews is a a stunning work of art that will surely shock and inspire its audience. The cast sings as if they are living the story. Choreography by Darrell Grand Moultrie is uncannily expressive: at times the choreo and the script delightfully clash to exhibit the culture shock experienced by the characters on stage. It catapults the audience into facing their own false expectations and assumptions. This is a production for the eyes and the mind.

In its mission statement, the A.R.T. says that it is “dedicated to making great theatre accessible.” Witness Uganda reaches out to the A.R.T.’s POC patrons in by sharing an experience a White person could never have. Good. The world needs to hear less from White people and more from POCs. The A.R.T. has scheduled ASL interpreted and Audio Described performances for its disabled patrons in March (detailed in credits above). These are excellent steps towards making performances more accessible.

The next step:
A large percentage of theatre attendees are other artists and/or their supporters. I mention this because only one cast member of Witness Uganda is of the Boston area community. Adeola Role (who played Joy in Witness Uganda with stunning vulnerability and pois) graduated from MXAT Institute for Advanced Theater Training at Harvard University. She is the only cast member who has worked in the Boston-area theatre scene. When an organization dedicates itself to making theatre accessible it is also dedicating itself to making theatre accessible to its community of artist patrons. By neglecting the artists who choose to spend their limited funds on attending A.R.T. productions (or attending the A.R.T. Institute*), the theatre is literally making their performances inaccessible to a greater part of their dedicated audience. Especially if these same artists must move to NYC in order to get cast in A.R.T. productions**.

“But Oberon!” the supporters cry. Club Oberon’s productions haven’t been nominated for Tony awards. Oberon productions haven’t won Tony awards. The two are not comparable.

Witness Uganda is excellent. Go see this show. If you do, please be aware of what you are seeing and how it affects the community around you. Otherwise the message of Witness Uganda has been lost.

*The A.R.T. runs an excellent theatre institute. What are it’s students supposed to think when they routinely aren’t cast in A.R.T. productions? They can give the Institute money but can’t hope to perform in the professional theater once they’ve graduated? Please.

**Occasionally, Boston-area actors will perform in A.R.T. productions. This is the exception not the rule. Many AEA artists live in New England. Not casting them is ridiculous.

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