Griffin Matthews is a Black artist who first came to prominence in New York with the run of a musical he co-wrote with his now-husband, Matt Gould. The musical, originally titled Witness Uganda, was re-titled Invisible Thread for its Off-Broadway run at Second Stage in 2015. The musical is based on Matthews’ experience volunteering in Uganda.
On June 1, Matthews posted a video on his Facebook page to share his pain from that development experience. “This has been an extraordinarily difficult week for me. It’s been emotional. It’s been isolation. It's been anxiety-inducing. And I decided to go silent on social media because I didn't know how to contribute to the conversation and I woke up this morning and thought, ‘OK I should put down my thoughts and say why I am so triggered and say why we want people to listen to us.’ So this is my experience detailing making a musical that some of you know, Witness Uganda, also known as Invisible Thread, back when we were making it for Off-Broadway in New York City.”
He goes on, referencing Amy Cooper, the woman who called the police on a Black man bird watching in Central Park:
“I have been in the room where it happens and Amy Coopers are alive and well in the American Theatre. Also, white men can be Amy Coopers too.
“Here are just a few things that happened to me along the way: Strong-arming a Black writer after you've already purchased the rights to my work by saying, 'I will not produce your show if you do not change the title, exit your role as lead actor, and exit your role as lead writer’ is a direct threat and that is Amy Cooper.
“A director saying in a casting session that an actress doesn’t look Black enough to be in Witness Uganda is what Black people call the paper bag test and that is Amy Cooper.
“Second Stage wanting to honor the work of Matt and I for their annual gala with the promise of a hefty donation to our charity, asking our entire cast to perform for free, and then parading us around their gala to talk about the importance of their risky endeavors, yet the donation never came, that is Amy Cooper,” he says.
Matthews continues to illuminate the injustices perpetrated against him by critics and other stalwarts of the American theatrical institution in the full video, which you can watch below.
As of press time, Second Stage, Invisible Thread director Diane Paulus, and developing producer Kevin McCollum had not returned requests for comments. This story is developing.