WELCOME! Witness Uganda is an exciting and unique production– not only is it a world premiere of a new American musical, but it is also based on the real lives of its creators, Griffin Matthews and Matt Gould. Both men are on-stage during the production; Griffin plays a character based on himself (also named Griffin, of course), and Matt leads the band. After each performance, we are holding a post-show discussion with the cast and creative team. We’ve called these discussions “Act III,” as the creators of Witness Uganda mean for the show to be the start of a conversation. The show’s themes of cultural responsibility, tolerance and the complexities of helping others are relatable to all of us, whether or not we’ve been in a situation like Griffin’s. In this Toolkit, you’ll find everything you need to prepare for a great experience at the theater, and to facilitate a meaningful conversation afterwards!
See you at the theater! The A.R.T. Education Staff
Witness Uganda Toolkit
Thank you for participating in the A.R.T. Education Experience!
Supervising Editor Brendan Shea Editor and Designer Georgia Young Contributors Marissa L. Friedman, Christian Ronald, Georgia Young
If you have questions about using this Toolkit in your class, or to schedule an A.R.T. teaching artist to help facilitate Toolkit materials in your classroom, email the A.R.T. Education and Community Programs department at: email@example.com
WITNESS UGANDA TOOLKIT TABLE OF CONTENTS WELCOME TO WITNESS UGANDA: SUMMARY
A MUSICAL INSPIRED BY REAL EVENTS 3 MEET THE DIRECTOR: DIANE PAULUS 4 MEET THE WRITERS: GRIFFIN MATTHEWS & MATT GOULD
UGANDA AT A GLANCE 8 SPOTLIGHT ON UGANDA: KONY 2012 10 SPOTLIGHT ON UGANDA: LGBT RIGHTS IN UGANDA
MEET THE CHOREOGRAPHER: DARRELL GRAND MOULTRIE
PREPARATORY ACTIVITIES 14 REFLECTION AND RESPONSE 15 HOW CAN A MUSICAL PORTRAY REAL LIFE?
WELCOME TO WITNESS UGANDA It’s 2005, and Griffin, a young African-American actor from New York City struggling to find his place in the world, volunteers to help build a school in a Ugandan vilage. But the project he traveled halfway around the world for isn’t what it seems, and the course of Griffin’s life changes forever when he bonds with a group of orphaned teenagers who invite him into their world. When Griffin returns to America, he starts his own nonprofit organization to help these Ugandan orphans gain access to education. But how will he make it work? In Uganda, education costs much more money than the average Ugandan teenager can afford. How can an American artist make a positive impact in an increasingly globalized, yet still deeply unequal world? Born out of the real-life experiences of co-creator Griffin Matthews, Witness Uganda exposes the challenges confronted by American aid workers and the complex realities of trying to change the world for the better. WHEN
near Kampala, Uganda New York City
Griffin - an American actor who volunteers for a project in Uganda that sets him on a mission to change the world Jacob - a young Ugandan who tells Griffin the truth about his aid work Joy - Jacob’s sister, distrustful of American aid workers Ryan - Griffin’s roommate, a musician on the verge of success Eden - Ugandan orphan, wants Griffin to marry her and take her to America Grace - Ugandan orphan, distrustful of those involved in the aid project Ibrahim - Ugandan orphan, wants an American wife Ronny - Ugandan orphan, a determined student
A MUSICAL BASED ON TRUE EVENTS... Witness Uganda is based on Griffin Matthewsâ€™ real life experience starting a nonprofit organization called UgandaProject that helps Ugandan teenagers gain access to education and other basic needs. To raise money for UgandaProject, Griffin and his partner, Matt Gould, wrote songs about his experience in Uganda and performed them all over the country. This collection A typical village in Uganda. of songs grew into Witness Uganda. Through the medium of musical theater, Griffin and Matt share the message that anyone can change the world, though it wonâ€™t necessarily be easy. Due to the widespread AIDS epidemic, poverty, and a 25-year-long war, Uganda has an estimated 2.5 million orphans. The nation is unable to provide free education, so the majority of students never make it past an elementary-level education. Run by volunteers, Uganda Project provides free education, housing, mentoring, and basic needs to a few students in Uganda. See the work Matt, Griffin, and UgandaProject are doing right now by visiting www.ugandaproject.com.
Griffin Matthews and Matt Gould talk with Lowell High students after a Witness Uganda tour performance in 2013.
MEET THE DIRECTOR A.R.T. Institute dramaturgy student Christian Ronald interviews Witness Uganda director and A.R.T. Artistic Director Diane Paulus.
CHRISTIAN RONALD: What first drew you to this musical? DIANE PAULUS: Witness Uganda first landed on my desk when it was awarded the prestigious 2012 Richard Rodgers Award for Musical Theater. I listened to the music, and I was knocked out by the score. It sounded like nothing I had ever heard before. Then I read the script, and it was like nothing I had ever read before— especially as far as musicals go. So it was really a combination of the power of the music and the subject of the story that hooked me. Then I remembered that when I had met with Stephen Schwartz to discuss Pippin he told me there was a musical about Uganda on the horizon that he thought would really interest me. Needless to say, it felt like fate. CR: The mission of the A.R.T. is to expand the boundaries of theater. How do you see Witness Uganda embodying that vision? DP: Working on Witness Uganda is about incubating a new American musical. Stretching the form and pushing the envelope of what we consider a musical to be is very much part of what it means to take on a show like Witness Uganda. It is about broaching new subject matter and telling a story that you wouldn’t normally see told on the stage. The show serves as a catalyst for a larger conversation about the American impulse to help in the world—how complicated that is, but ultimately how important that is. When I program shows for the A.R.T., I am always thinking about how the work will reach beyond the stage. I knew that this show had enormous potential to inspire dialogue and debate on crucial subjects that need to be discussed. CR: Harvard is home to many departments and organizations related to international development and work in Africa. What has it been like creating Witness Uganda here? DP: Having an intellectual hotbed like Harvard at our fingertips allows the A.R.T. to collaborate with some of the world’s leading scholars. With Witness Uganda in particular, we’ve been able to draw upon a huge range of the University’s resources. Throughout the development process we have been privileged to collaborate with the Divinity School, Memorial Church, the Committee on African Studies, and the Kennedy School. We have also had the opportunity to engage with Harvard undergraduates and student groups who have taken trips to Uganda and continue to do aid work there.
CR: It is unusual for a musical to tackle such contemporary issues as Witness Uganda. What has it been like to work with material inspired by real events, and why do you think that audiences need to see Witness Uganda today? DP: It is so exciting to be working on a project that deals with the issues that we are facing in our increasingly complex global community. When we did our first workshop of this piece last year, there were so many young people who came up to me and said, “This is my story,” and they told me about similar experiences. There were also many people from the notfor-profit community who identified with the story. They understood how hard it is to run a non-profit and the challenges these organizations face on a daily basis all around the globe. I’m always interested in theater that feels like it’s speaking directly to the audience. Witness Uganda directly addresses the challenges that individuals face today as they seek to make a real change in our increasingly complex and interconnected world. CR: You are known for assembling outstanding creative teams. Could you say a little bit about your process of collaboration on Witness Uganda? DP: Making a musical is a huge collaborative effort—it takes a village. The work can only begin when I have the right team at the table. In this case, the team that I’ve pulled together is a particularly exciting one. I’m thrilled to have Peter Nigrini as our projection designer—I’ve been familiar with his work for years. He created the projections for Here Lies Love, the musical based on the David Byrne and Fatboy Slim concept album. I was so impressed by his work that I immediately reached out to see if he would join us. We have Tom Pye, an internationally renowned set designer who has worked with incredible artists such as Deborah Warner, Fiona Shaw, and Simon McBurney at Complicite. Maruti Evans, whom I’ve known for years through his work with the designer Riccardo Hernandez, is our brilliant lighting designer. And of course there’s Darrell Grand Moultrie, a choreographer whose body of work spans the genres of concert dance and American musical theater. Darrell has also been to Africa, and the subject of the show really resonated with him. Designing the physical life of the show is always at the center of any production I do. The entire creative team has helped me to understand the dramaturgy of the piece through the world we are building together on the stage. CR: As an Artistic Director, you have said that you want the theatrical experience to exist before, during, and after each performance. How will this happen with Witness Uganda? DP: What is so exciting about this production is that the creators are in the show: Matt Gould plays in the band and Griffin Matthews plays himself. There are two acts in the musical, and we’re calling the post-show “Act III.” Act III is an opportunity at the end of the performance for Matt and Griffin and other members of the cast to speak directly with the audience—this includes asking questions and wrestling with the issues that arise throughout the show. Act III will also include curated conversations with experts from across Harvard’s campus and the Greater Boston community. Witness Uganda doesn’t end when the curtain goes down—it is at this moment when the real dialogue begins.
MEET THE WRITERS A.R.T. Institute dramaturgy student Marissa L. Friedman interviews Witness Uganda creators Matt Gould and Griffin Matthews. MARISSA L. FRIEDMAN: How did you start writing Witness Uganda? MATT GOULD: We were talking about needing money for our nonprofit, Uganda Project, and I said to Griffin, “Why don’t we write a musical about aid work?” And he said, “That’s the worst idea I’ve ever heard!” A couple days later, we were still talking about how frustrating it can be to raise money. I recorded Griffin ranting, “It starts because it’s hard,” and began weaving it through music. The next morning I played it for him and something about it just worked. We decided to write a few songs and turn it into a kind of staged infomercial for Uganda Project. We sold out two shows, but, after paying to rent the theater, we didn’t make any money. But people were crying. So we began to think about it as a more formal theater piece, and then we were invited to [perform at] Disney ASCAP [the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers]. The show was a mess at that time, but we knew what the heart of it was: that people want to help. But sometimes they’re not sure how to do it, and sometimes they screw up. GRIFFIN MATTHEWS: After [the Disney ASCAP] performance, the composer Stephen Schwartz said to us, “Boys, this is a musical. Just figure out what story you want to tell.” And that was the night we knew we should start looking at it as a musical and not just an infomercial. We were given [the 2012 Richard Rodgers Award for Musical Theater] for a workshop production, and that gave us the space to clarify the story and to work with Diane Paulus and her team. MF: What does a musical offer as a vehicle for this story that another form might not? MG: Singing is crying. And musical theater is one of the most powerful, underappreciated, and underutilized art forms that we have. I think that this is a story about our generation and the problems that plague our generation. Not just in this country, but also in other countries. And the themes are cry-worthy. Griffin and I always talk about how being in the theater is like going to church or to synagogue or
to mosque. It is meant to be a spiritual experience. Bringing a community together and hearing the cries of our generation in a common space is the experience we want to curate. The live form feels like the best way to do it. You have to get people in a room talking first. That’s what we hope this does. MF: This musical grapples with many issues, including sexuality, race, and religion; were they always represented in the text? GM: There are a lot of things in the script now that I didn’t want to talk about at first. Early drafts of the script did not include the character Griffin being gay. But marriage equality has pushed the gay agenda inside of the text. I felt a kind of responsibility because we see a lot of white actors coming out of the closet and not as many black ones. And as a writer, I also felt like I wasn’t ever seeing myself on stage. Create something that you want to see! Otherwise, stop complaining! MF: The music in Witness Uganda is unlike anything I’ve ever heard before. What were the musical influences, and how did you create this fusion of musical worlds? MG: When I first lived in Mauritania, West Africa, as part of the Peace Corps, I thought the music there sounded crazy. It’s loud and didn’t make sense to my ears. But after a while, I started to love it. And you realize that there is a whole other structure to it. I opened up to those ideas and to understanding that those weird-sounding patterns seemed strange because they have a different structure than I was used to. They became a part of my DNA. Most of the Africans I know listen to everything now; they listen to Beyoncé as much as they listen to Baaba Maal. And we wanted to create a sound that walked the line between those things. Griffin can tell you how I walk around the house all the time making percussive clicking sounds with my teeth. I’m constantly making that music. I think it’s just a matter of going and collecting all those little pieces everywhere and finding a way to put them together. MF: In October you toured schools and community spaces in Greater Boston. How did that enhance your experience of the show? GM: The idea of the tour was to connect with community, which is what this show is about. It was a really humbling experience. Every performance was completely different, and they were all worth it. I really appreciated that there were a lot of brown kids and adults that we were able to share with. My way in to musical theater was through The Music Man—so I didn’t even know that brown people could exist in musical theater! I loved when we went to the West End House Boys and Girls Club and they cheered. It’s part of the mission, to go beyond the theater itself. MG: I was thinking about this as we were sitting in St. Peter’s Church of Uganda in Waltham. We were living the dramaturgy of the piece right in that moment. This is the part of the show that is not about what happens on the stage. The performance itself has always been about the discussion that starts there and then gets taken out with the audience into the community. So, when a high school teacher is sending us Facebook messages saying, “You lit a fire under my students and they want to get involved,” and when we have local Ugandans saying to us, “I want to be a part of what you’re doing,” that is all part of the show.
UGANDA AT A GLANCE Full Name: Republic of Uganda Capital: Kampala Bordered by: Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and S. Sudan Population: 34.7 million Population of Ndejje (where Witness Uganda takes place): ~10,000
Government: Presidential Republic Legislature: Parliament President: Yoweri Museveni Primary Languages: Luganda (majority), English and Swahili (official languages), and other Bantu and Nilotic languages Major Religions: Christianity, Islam
LIFE AND CULTURE: Uganda has around 40 different traditional ethnic groups, each with its own language, and a variety of religious traditions. The largest ethnic group is the Baganda, who make up about 17% of the country’s population, and who live in the central region of Uganda (where Witness Uganda takes place) including Kampala. Luganda is the native language of the Baganda people and the most-spoken language in Uganda. But because England once controlled the region, English is the national language and is used in politics and business. Because it is the most popular language in East Africa, Swahili is also a national language, though few Ugandans actually speak it. Uganda is still an agrarian society, with 85% of Ugandans living in rural areas. Ugandans in major cities face overcrowding and poor employment opportunities. As a result, there is a vast discrepancy in living conditions even within a single community; the poorest families live in very small houses made from tin sheets and wood, while more prosperous people live in larger cement or concrete compounds surrounded by fences for security. Although the Ugandan government provides aid for primary education, education in Uganda—certainly at the secondary or college level—is not free. Primary and secondary school attendance has increased in the past decade, but only 67% of the Ugandan population is literate. There is a marked gender gap in schools due to cultural pressures and because boys come first if a family can only pay to send some of their children to school.
SPEAKING LUGANDA Luganda is an official language of Uganda, along with English and Swahili. It is spoken by over 16 million people, primarily in Kampala and the surrounding region, which is where Witness Uganda takes place. Luganda uses the same five vowels as English, and they are pronounced the same as in Spanish: A – ah (like the “a” in “father”) A dish of matooke and luwombo
Traditionally, Ugandan women do most domestic chores, and run the households. Particularly since British rule, there is a disparity between men and women. Men are considered the providers, and hold the most legal, economic, and political power. However, Rebecca Kadaga is currently the first female Speaker of the Parliament of Uganda, which includes 112 women out of 375 total seats. CUISINE: One very popular Ugandan dish is matooke, (ma-toh-kay) a mashed green banana or plantain meal often eaten with peanut sauce or luwombo (goat, chicken, or beef stew). Uganda’s many different ethnic groups have their own traditional dishes, but Ugandan cuisine is typically heavy in starches. As Uganda’s city centers become more Westernized, Western food (especially sodas and fast food) has become more popular. RELIGION: Religion is an integral part of Ugandan life. Most Ugandans attribute life events, good and bad, to some spiritual force. 85% of Ugandans identify as Christian (mostly Roman Catholic and Anglican), 12% as Muslim, and 3% practice traditional African religions or other. Roman Catholics dominate the Northern and West Nile regions, and eastern part Uganda has the most Muslims. In some areas, Islam and Christianity have mixed with indigenous religions. Christianity came to Uganda via colonial era missionaries. Today, religion factors prominently in public and private life, and religious leaders have a strong influence on political activities.
E - eh (like the “a” in “say”) I – ee (like the “ee” in “see”) O – oh (like the “o” in “cone”) U – oo (like the “oo” in “doom”) Unlike English, Luganda is a tonal language – changing the pitch of a syllable can change the meaning of a word. Imagine if making the first syllable of the word “happy” changed its meaning from happy to sad! Take the Luganda word kabaka. If all three syllables are given the same pitch, the word means “king.” But if the first syllable is high-pitched, the word means “the little one catches”. Tonal languages can be particularly difficult to learn, if your native language is non-tonal, like English. Some Lugandan words and phrases: oli otya
hello (said to one person)
muli mutya hello (to several people) ye
I love you
muzungu slang for European/ white person – this is what the students call Griffin when they first meet him
SPOTLIGHT ON UGANDA:
KONY 2012 One of the most notorious figures in recent Ugandan history is Joseph Kony, whose war crimes garnered international attention through the efforts of an NGO (nongovernmental organization) called Invisible Children. The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) was founded in 1987 to fight the Ugandan government (led by President Yoweri Museveni), attacking communities throughout northern Uganda. Headed by Joseph Kony, a former army commander, the LRA is a religious movement or cult supposedly designed to promote the Ten Commandments, although its ideological foundations remain difficult to understand. The LRA is perhaps most infamous for its recruitment of child soldiers: the LRA abducted thousands of children between 1986 and 2005. At its height, LRA raids and warfare in Northern Uganda displaced approximately two million civilians. There are believed to be only a few hundred LRA militia members today, diminished due to defections and military attacks on the group—they fled Uganda in 2006, relocating to the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, and the Republic of South Sudan. The nongovernmental organization Invisible Children, Inc., dedicates itself to bringing Joseph Kony to justice and diminishing the capacities of the LRA. One of the largest NGOs operating in Uganda, Invisible Children created the video Kony 2012, aimed at making Kony “famous” and hopefully capturing him and ending the LRA’s violence. The video got 76 million views on YouTube within a week, and Invisible Children subsequently faced criticism about a variety of issues, including their financial expenditures and arguments that Kony is no longer in Uganda and his power is weakened, and that the Ugandan military commits similar violence. Some critics of Invisible Children claim that the group—founded by white Americans—echoed the colonial period in African history, when Europeans believed that Africans could not take care of themselves. Despite pockets of criticism, the video galvanized many young people to take action and the organization’s revenue doubled, allowing them to establish a radio network that alerts Ugandan communities to impending attacks by the LRA. Discussion: Is it appropriate to intervene in another culture or country’s problems? How can an American, for instance, responsibly help people in Uganda or elsewhere? Following the Kony 2012 controversy, the African Studies Association—a U.S.-based group focused on sharing knowledge about Africa—prepared an educational packet that explains the history of the LRA and Joseph Kony and offers teaching guidelines, media literacy materials, and further resources in response to the Kony 2012 video, which you can read here: http://concernedafricascholars.org/wpcontent/uploads/2012/04/Kony-ReactRespond.pdf
SPOTLIGHT ON UGANDA:
LGBT RIGHTS IN UGANDA Uganda has made international headlines due to its anti-LGBT legislation. The action of Witness Uganda is heavily impacted by the anti-gay sentiments in the country, as the main character is an openly gay American who must hide his identity to keep his students safe from reprisal. Homosexual activity is illegal in Uganda, and has been so since the British colonial rule of the late-19th century, now carrying a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. In 2005, Uganda was the second nation in the world to pass a constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage—in contrast, in the United States, same-sex marriage became legal in Massachusetts in 2004, with another 15 states and Washington, D.C. following suit. But perhaps the biggest blow to LGBT rights in Uganda came from the Uganda AntiHomosexuality Bill, first proposed in 2009 by Member of Parliament David Bahati. The original bill called for life imprisonment for same-sex relations and the death penalty for “aggrevated homosexuality,” a category including homosexuals who are HIV-positive and those who have same-sex relations with people under 18. The bill also penalized LGBTaffiliated organizations and authority figures who did not report known homosexuals in their communities. Supporters of the bill said it was necessary to combat the “homosexual campaign” to recruit Ugandan teenagers into homosexuality: an “act against God” many believed to be imported from the West. Since the introduction of the bill, many suspected LGBT people in Uganda have been outed and targeted by local newspapers. On January 26, 2011, David Kato, one of the first openly gay men in Uganda and leader of the Ugandan LGBT movement, was murdered. The Anti-Homosexuality Bill has caused a rift in Uganda’s international relations; many Western nations, especially the U.S. and the U.K., threatened to pull their financial aid, which accounts for about 1/3 of Uganda’s domestic income. Due to international pressures, the original Anti-Homosexuality Bill was pulled from debate in 2010, although it was reintroduced in 2011, 2012, and 2013. On December 20, 2013, Ugandan Parliament passed a new version of the bill. This revised bill does not include the death penalty, but it makes homosexuality punishable by life in prison in some cases. In order to become law, President Museveni must sign the bill—as of early 2014, he has refused. But in Uganda, homosexuality faces a major cultural barrier: polls from the last decade indicate that 89-96% of Ugandans disapprove of homosexuality—a reflection of widespread anti-gay attitudes in Africa. In contrast, though legislation regarding homosexuality in the United States is divided, recent opinion polls indicate that more than half of American support same-sex marriage, an increase from past years. HIV/AIDS IN UGANDA: Uganda was one of the first African countries to face the effects of HIV/AIDS in the 1980s and 90s but a government campaign resulted in a sharp decline in the virus, so Uganda has long been considered an HIV/AIDS success story. In the 1990s, HIV infection rates peaked at 30% of the population in some areas. In response, President Museveni launched a national awareness campaign with the help of community organizations, religious leaders, and NGOs. The campaign emphasized the “ABCs” of prevention: “abstinence,” then “being faithful” (monogamy), and “condom use.” HIV/AIDS has dropped dramatically; in 2012, approximately 7.2% of the population was infected (about 1.5 million people), still a massive percentage compared to other countries.
MEET THE CHOREOGRAPHER A profile of Darrell Grand Moultrie by Marissa L. Friedman
“The thing about being born in Harlem,” says choreographer Darrell Grand Moultrie, “is that you have to dance. It’s a rite of passage.” As a young man, dancing was always an integral part of Moultrie’s life, a feature of everything from family gatherings to school assignments. “Harlem is like its own village—dance is a huge part of the culture. Socially, you always had to be able to move. And no one was ever afraid to express that. Historically, this is one of the traditions passed down to African Americans from Africa.” It is impossible to pigeonhole Moultrie’s work. His eclectic influences range from musical theater and jazz, to opera, ballet, and modern dance. He takes inspiration from Alvin Ailey, Jerome Robbins, Sammy Davis, Jr., George Balanchine, and Gregory Hines—all artists who adapted traditional forms in order to create their own, unique modes of expression. “It’s people like Jerome Robbins,” Moultrie explains, “who crossed over and broke boundaries. He didn’t let people say, ‘Oh, you’re just a ballet choreographer.’ He said, ‘I’m going to do ballet, and I’m going to do Broadway, and I’m going to diversify.’” Moultrie’s amalgamation of dance techniques comes from a balance of intense study at New York’s LaGuardia High School for the Performing Arts and the Juilliard School, as well as from direct observation of and engagement in the movement of life. “The native New Yorker is a rare gem in the arts,” he reflects. “You’re born an open palette, instantly exposed to the differences of others. You’re ready for whatever comes your way.” This openness to experience and expression is evident in his choreography. Moultrie has choreographed for numerous companies and institutions and has had more than 65 commissioned works. He has also choreographed for commercials and Beyoncé’s “Mrs. Carter World Tour,” and collaborated with dancer Savion Glover. Coming from a world premiere at Juilliard, Moultrie is excited to be working on Witness Uganda and reconnecting with his musical theater roots. “When you work with Juilliard, you’re the boss. You choose the music and movement. The designers design to your vision. Working on a musical is really exciting because you get to collaborate and bring everyone’s visions to life.” In 2008, Moultrie went to South Africa to choreograph through a program at Stanford University founded by a South African ballerina. An important element of this program was exposing South African students to choreographers of color. Moultrie was the first black ballet choreographer the students had ever worked with. “They were some of the hardest working students,”
he says. “These kids wanted to know everything about ballet. They wanted to soak up everything we knew. It was very inspiring.” With some help, he obtained full scholarships for two students to train at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York City. One student excelled, while the other had a more challenging time adapting to new training in a foreign country. It took Moultrie time to realize that this was part of the journey of helping someone. “I learned that everything’s not going to pan out the way you want it to, or go perfectly. Just because you’re doing something good doesn’t mean you’re not going to be challenged.” This experience has greatly inspired Moultrie while working on Witness Uganda, which addresses the complexities of helping others. In preparation for this project, Moultrie has also been learning about tribal dances from the Luweero District, where parts of Witness Uganda take place. “I’m watching how they perform some of their traditions,” he explains, “how the boys move versus how the girls move, what they wear, and what parts of the body they use. When you go to different regions, you see the use of different body parts.” As a means of expression, Moultrie says, “dance is a more immediate way of being able to feel something without being told what to feel. It’s very similar to music in how it connects people. Artistically, it’s the quickest way to find your own opinion. You can’t describe it.”
DANCE IN UGANDA With a population made up of more than 30 ethnic groups, Uganda boasts a rich dance tradition, often centered around ceremonies and other special occasions. Perhaps the best-known Ugandan dances come from Kiganda culture, involving a circular movement of the waist and tiptoeing feet, with arms held out and bent foward or up at the elbows.
The influence of hip-hop has brought about new dance forms as well. Troupes like Kampala-based Tabu-Flo combine traditional Ugandan dance styles with breakdancing. Dance is even found in modern-day myths: the abasezzi, or night dancers, are believed to be humans who become zombies after dark. They are said to strip naked and dance wildly in slums or at the edges of villages, with mouths full of fire, feasting on the flesh of the recently buried dead.
Although Moultrie has traveled abroad and throughout the United States, he says that much of his knowledge, research, and inspiration still come from his hometown. “When you get on the train going downtown, you see everyone. Every race, shape, color, and fashion.” Being an observer of the different rhythms of life, absorbing everything into a beautiful synthesis, is the backbone of his artistry.
before the show: PREPARATORY ACTIVITIES ART IMITATES LIFE 1. Break into groups of two. Ask each pair to take turns telling a one-minute story of a moment in which they felt like an outsider. 2. Ask each pair to come up with a rhetorical question inspired by the story they just heard; for example “How can language make someone feel like an outsider?” or “Why are good intentions sometimes not enough to be included?” 3. Write these questions on the board. 4. Break into larger groups of 4 or 5. Assign each group one of the rhetorical questions on the board, and ask each to come up with a scenario (a situation or short scene) that explores the question. 5. From here, you can dive into these scenarios in a few different ways: a. Create a tableau, or frozen and silent image, that expresses the scenario physically. a. Improvise each scenario, using members of each group as actors. a. Develop each scenario into a script, with dialogue and action.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS Use these questions to spark discussion before seeing Witness Uganda. Revisit these questions after seeing the show. Have your answers changed? • Is it the responsibility of those with power, freedom or resources to help those without? When is it appropriate to intervene in another culture or country’s problems? • Why did the creators of Witness Uganda decide to tell this story using art? How can the arts play a role in igniting social change? • What does the title Witness Uganda mean to you? • “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” - Margaret Mead Consider Mead’s words. Do you agree or disagree? What do you think it takes to change the world? • Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill was a major news item in early 2014. Why? • How is Griffin’s identity a source of conflict in the musical? Is intolerance based on religion, gender, sexuality or culture an issue in your community?
after the show: REFLECTION AND RESPONSE BECOME AN AGENT OF ARTISTIC CHANGE Most of us recognize the need for positive change in our world. Whether we identify problems on the local or global scale, it can seem daunting to attempt to solve them ourselves. But in communities around the world, individuals of all ages are taking steps to enact meaningful change. These “agents of change” are driven by their vision of a better way of doing things and their determination for making that vision a reality. PROJECT: Formulate a plan to enact change in your community and develop a way of getting it done. Once you have thought of your strategy, design a creative way to share it with your class and the larger community using elements of art, like painting, graphic design, photography, sculpture, music, film, theatre, dance, spoken word, writing, multimedia, etc. Activate your imagination! Phase 1: Brainstorm/Research Phase 2: Strategize
ISSUE - Identify the social issue facing your community.
Complete the statement “I WITNESS _________”
OBJECTIVE - Identify ONE specific goal that will contribute to your solution.
TARGET - Identify the audience you will try to convince (individual, organization, etc.).
OBSTACLES - What might stand in the way of achieving your objective?
TACTICS - Brainstorm several strategies you will use to achieve your objective.
Phase 3: Create - Develop an artistic way of sharing your message with the class and community. It could be as simple as a story, a song, or a video about a meaningful event in your family, neighborhood, or school. Phase 4: Share - Your ideas are worth sharing! Spread your message and join your voice with Witness Uganda and the A.R.T.
HOW CAN A MUSICAL PORTRAY REAL LIFE? Musical theater might seem like an unlikely medium for sharing a true story—especially one as complicated as Witness Uganda—but quite a few musicals have been based on true stories, sometimes revisiting historical events that have implications for contemporary American culture, as well as autobiographical stories focusing on art and artists. Here are a few contemporary musicals that draw from real life. A New Brain and tick, tick... BOOM! are based on the lives of their creators, focusing on crises that tie closely to their art. Mining dark historical territory, Parade and The Scottsboro Boys retell the stories of two criminal cases that are now considered unjust.
tick, tick… BOOM! by Jonathan Larson & David Auburn (2001) A New Brain by William Finn & James Lapine (1998) Three days after composer and lyricist William Finn won Tony Awards for his 1992 musical Falsettos, he was diagnosed with arteriouvenous malformation (AVM) in his brain stem. Following surgery, he made a full recovery and began to write about his experience. Finn’s writing was always autobiographical, but A New Brain arises directly from his experience facing death. The musical follows a young songwriter named Gordon Schwinn who, when hospitalized with AVM, realizes his greatest fear is dying without bringing his best songs to life.
Parade by Alfred Uhry & Jason Robert Brown (1998) Parade retells the 1913 trial of a New York-born, Jewish factory manager, Leo Frank, who was convicted of the rape and murder of Mary Phagan, a 13-year-old girl who worked for him in Atlanta, Georgia. The trial was a media sensation, arousing the anti-Semitic tensions in the state. Condemned to death, Frank’s sentence was commuted by the outgoing Governor of Georgia, but he was hanged by a lynch mob following his transfer to a new prison. The Anti-Defamation League, now a major civil rights-focused NGO, formed in response to Frank’s trial and lynching.
In tick, tick… BOOM!, Jonathan Larson (known for his posthumous hit musical RENT) tells the story of an aspiring composer named Jon, who is living in New York City in the early 1990s and struggling with the possibility that going into the performing arts might have been the wrong career choice. Larson performed the piece as a solo work, and after his death in 1996, tick, tick… BOOM! was revised by playwright David Auburn as a piece for three actors, opening off-Broadway in 2001. The Scottsboro Boys by John Kander, Fred Ebb & David Thompson (2010) The Scottsboro Boys looks at the 1931 case of nine African-American boys convicted of raping two young white women in Alabama. The case was tried three times, with the guilty verdict upheld each time—but due to lack of evidence, poor legal representation for the defendants, and an all-white jury, the case is now widely considered a miscarriage of justice, and the parole board of Alabama granted posthumous pardons to the men last year. The musical is styled as a minstrel show, featuring a majority African-American cast and using the framework to critique both the trial and the contemporaneous use of minstrelsy as indicators of racial attitudes in America in the 1930s and today.