Who’s Next: Matt Gould and Griffin Matthews

Playbill Pride   Who’s Next: Matt Gould and Griffin Matthews As part of Playbill Pride 2016, we set our sights on the next generation of LGBTQ artists. Meet writing team and activists Matt Gould and Griffin Matthews.
Writers Matt Gould and Griffin Matthews
Matt Gould and Griffin Matthews

WHO:
Matt Gould, composer, director, activist
Griffin Matthews, actor, activist

WHY THEY MATTER:
Griffin Matthews, 32, and Matt Gould, 34, are, first and foremost, good writers—Griffin of complex characters caught up in nuanced situations and Matt of infectious melodies set to imaginative harmonies, muscular folk-inflected rhythms and some of the best vocal arranging you’ll ever hear.

They are gay writers too, life partners whose work has an integrity and honesty about gay characters and relationships without it being the dominant theme of their writing. They write human beings, some of whom happen to be gay.

As their first musical, Witness Uganda— with its knockout score—developed into the Second Stage-produced Invisible Thread, Matthews and Gould drew increasingly on their personal history and relationship to inform the story. But they also explored not just the dire Ugandan official attitude towards homosexuality, but also larger themes of cultural misunderstandings and the limits of altruism.

Their new musical-in-development, The Family Project, commissioned by the Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles, is a documentary which explores a modern, interracial, gay American family, once again drawing upon their own lives but going beyond. And Gould, as a composer with librettist Carson Kreitzer, is writing a musical biography of the bisexual Deco painter Tamara Lempicka, bringing her world and times to life with music that is totally different stylistically but equally vibrant and memorable.

Matthews and Gould push boundaries both outward and inward. It’s clear that these young theatre artists give promise of adventurous and insightful work we will be enjoying for years to come.

What is your earliest memory of theatre?
Matthews: My parents took me to see Sesame Street Live at the Pittsburgh Civic Arena. I couldn’t believe the characters I watched every morning were now in front of me! I went home [and] stood on top of the coffee table. The rest is history!
Gould: Mary’s puppet center in Southern California. You’d go there for your birthday and tap a wand on a magic castle, and the puppets handed you your presents. I didn’t want to talk to the puppets, I wanted to control the puppets.

LGBTQ theatrical moment that most impressed me:
Matthews: The work that Broadway Impact did in the fight for Marriage Equality was so extraordinary.
Gould: Fun Home is a beautiful, universal work. The fact that [it] has had such success is a sign that the world has changed.

Untapped talent ready to make it big:
Matthews: Aisha Jackson (the next Cynthia Erivo), Bobby Conte Thornton (the next Harry Connick, Jr.) Gabrielle Stravelli (the next Rachel Bay Jones), Melody Betts (the next Jennifer Holliday). Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

What’s one thing that surprises people about you?
Gould: I lived in the Sahara desert for two years as a volunteer in the Peace Corps.

I wish the theatre had more…
Matthews: Producers of color.
Gould: Diverse points of view. Mainstream theatre is still telling predominantly white, male stories. If we want the art form to be relevant to the next generation, we have to create and produce work that young people of all ages, colors and genders want to see.