Episode 51: About theatre as activism, with Griffin Matthews

podcast Jul 16, 2020

The week after George Floyd was killed, Griffin Matthews posted a video on his instagram feed speaking up about his personal experience with Broadway being racist. The video went viral and the conversation about racism in the American theatre exploded.

Though you may recognize Griffin as D’Unte on the television show Dear White People, he’s also the creator of an auto-biographical documentary musical called Witness Uganda. And my friends, I can tell you that Witness Uganda is an astonishing piece of art. I know because, starting in 2010, I was Griffin’s assistant on the show. What’s been heartbreaking is that over its years of development, Witness Uganda got derailed due to what can only really be called white-washing.

In this episode, Griffin Matthews tells the story of his experience developing Witness Uganda and shares why art can be the most powerful form of activism. Plus listen to the end and you’ll get to hear a song from the show!... 🧡

Listen here on Apple Podcasts.

Listen here on Spotify

Listen here on Stitcher.

Want to practice raising your voice and speaking your truth beyond the podcast? Check out the Voice Body Connection Membership Community HERE.

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Show Notes:   

Recap

  • 0:00 - Welcome to Griffin
  • 2:15 - I met Griffin because I was his assistant director on an early iteration of Witness Uganda in 2010
  • 5:04 - Griffin tells the story of developing his musical, Witness Uganda
  • 15:48 - Elissa shares how her disappointment with watching the process of Witness Uganda’s derailing led her to take a break from working in theatre
  • 18:34 - Witness Uganda a show about the Black experience - in America and in Uganda. Griffin’s viral video talked about how there are “Amy Coopers” in the theatre. Since the release of his video, the We See You Wat (We See You White American Theatre) movement has begun. What is the state of addressing racism in the theatre and how do we proceed?
  • 26:01 - How to get involved with and support We See You Wat.
  • 29:04 - Why it’s so so important that shows made by BIPOC theatre-makers are celebrated, supported, and not white-washed. BIPOC theatre-makers and artists need to be given the same opportunities… it’s not just about diversity, it’s about equality.
  • 33:57 - Making more opportunities for BIPOC artists does not mean there are less opportunities for everyone else… it means there will be more amazing, relevant art for everyone! Choose abundance over scarcity.
  • 38:54 - The Voice Body Connection check-in. Elissa shares rage. Griffin shares about taking a beat.
  • 45:45 - The theme this month is action. How do we take action? It’s okay to be angry.
  • 46:49 - Also - can we talk about tone policing for a second?! (That’s when you tell the angry people they should be calmer.) Rage is okay, but rage without action is useless.
  • 50:04 - Griffin answers what it means to him to have a voice and speak his truth.
  • 52:03 - What are the most important actions to take? Vote. Study. Make art. And call your mother and talk about race.
  • 53:45 - When was the first time you got “raced”?
  • 58:02 - How to follow Griffin (links below)
  • 59:04 - Y’all are so lucky… this is the song “Beautiful” from Witness Uganda. Written by Griffin Matthews and Matt Gould.

Resources

Follow Griffin on instagram here. And here’s his viral video, Dear Amy Cooper: Broadway is racist.

Read about and support the We See You Wat movement at www.weseeyouwat.com. (Sign the petition here.)

Learn about Witness Uganda at www.witnessuganda.com and this is cool - there’s also a wikipedia page about Witness Uganda (under the name Invisible Thread).

Shout out to the Boston Court theatre in Pasadena, California and Artistic Director Jessica Kubzansky, who connected me to Griffin in the first place back in 2010!

Here are videos from my 30th Birthday Cabaret show... the ones where I’m in a sparkly brown dress are in Griffin’s living room (and that’s his partner Matt Gould playing the keyboard!)

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For information on how to join the Voice Body Connection Membership Community, visit www.voicebodyconnection.com/community.

As a member of the Voice Body Connection Membership Community, you get access to:

  • Live voice and movement warm-ups led by Elissa (twenty minutes each 4x/week),
  • A monthly live online group coaching session to practice using the Voice Body Connection process,
  • A monthly Community Concert, including sing-a-longs and opportunities to share your voice,
  • A monthly live recording of the coming month’s solo podcast episode,
  • And exclusive behind-the-scenes videos with every guest.

Learn more and sign up at www.voicebodyconnection.com/community.

 

Production Credits:

Our Editor is Sean Brennan

Our Photographer and Graphic Designer is Laura Sills

Our Videographer is Miguel Garzón Martínez

And our theme song is “Waters of Body” by Strange Weather

 

Please note that Amazon links in the show notes are connected to the Voice Body Connection Associates account. All other partner links are acknowledged. Thank you for supporting the podcast! 

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