New York, February 3, 2014 – The winner of the 2014 Richard Rodgers Production Award for Musical Theater was announced today by the American Academy of Arts and Letters, which administers the Richard Rodgers Awards.
The winning musical, Witness Uganda, by Matt Gould and Griffin Matthews, opens at the American Repertory Theater, Cambridge, Massachusetts, on February 12 and will run through March 16, 2014.
Witness Uganda tells the story of Griffin, a young man from New York City, who volunteers for a project in Uganda, and finds himself on a journey that will change his life forever. Inspired by a true story, this rousing new musical, staged by Tony Award-winning director and A.R.T. Artistic Director Diane Paulus, exposes the challenges confronted by American aid workers and the complex realities of trying to change the world.
The intent of the Richard Rodgers Award is to nurture talented composers and playwrights by enabling their musicals to be produced in New York City. Witness Uganda received a Richard Rodgers Staged Reading Award in 2012 and was presented in 2013 by A.R.T. at Playwrights Horizons and Columbia University’s Miller Theater. Former Production Award recipients include Maury Yeston, Nine; Jonathan Larson, Rent; Julie Taymor and Elliot Goldenthal, Juan Darien; Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, Lucky Stiff; Jeanine Tesori and Brian Crawley, Violet; and Scott Frankel, Michael Korie, and Doug Wright, Grey Gardens. Since 1980 seventy-seven works have received Richard Rodgers Awards.
This year’s jury included Tania León (chair), Sheldon Harnick, Richard Maltby, Jr., Ted Sperling, and Jeanine Tesori.
Richard Rodgers, elected to the Academy in 1955, endowed these awards in 1978. The awards provide financial support for productions, studio productions, and staged readings of original musicals, by nonprofit theaters. The Richard Rodgers Awards are the Academy’s only awards for which applications are accepted. Application forms for the Richard Rodgers Awards may be downloaded from www.artsandletters.org.
Matt Gould is working on new musical commissions for Yale Rep (Lempicka), Center Theatre Group (The Family Project), and the Japanese non-profit, Ashinaga (A Cantata) with Tony Award-winning director, John Caird. Matt’s additional credits include Twilight in Manchego, the Jonathan Larson Award-winning musical directed by Tony Award-winner Billy Porter; writing and directing Free Style for LA’s Reprise Theatre Company; and translating, adapting and directing Romeo and Juliet in Pulaar in Mauritania, West Africa. He has also composed and arranged music for Grammy winner Desmond Child, Terrence McNally, Vanessa Williams, and for Playwrights Horizons, Denison University, and Boston University. Matt is the winner of the Richard Rodgers Award and ASCAP’s Dean Kay and Harold Adamson Awards. His music has been performed at venues around the world including Jazz at Lincoln Center, Summit Series, TEDx Wall Street, and at Highland Oaks Elementary School where he lived his dream as a music teacher for seven years. Matt holds a degree in acting from Boston University’s College of Fine Arts and is the co-director of UgandaProject.
Griffin Matthews graduated with a B.F.A. in musical theater from Carnegie Mellon University, in his hometown of Pittsburgh, PA. He is a writer, director, actor, and philanthropist. He splits his time between New York and Los Angeles. Griffin co-wrote and directed numerous staged readings of Witness Uganda (Richard Rodgers Award, Harold Adamson Award, and Dean Kay Award) and directed several readings of the new musical Lempicka for Yale Rep and New Dramatists. Griffin has been commissioned by Center Theatre Group to write a new musical (The Family Project) about the ever-changing face of the American family. Acting credits include Off-Broadway: Best of Both Worlds. New York/Regional: 1776, Paper Mill Playhouse; Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope, Ford’s Theatre; Once On This Island, Round House Theatre. Television: “Happy Valley” (NBC Pilot), “The Carrie Diaries,” “The Mentalist,” “Suburgatory,” “Weeds,” “90210,” “Law and Order: LA,” “Cashmere Mafia,” “Numb3rs.” He founded UgandaProject in 2005.
The American Academy of Arts and Letters was established in 1898 to “foster, assist, and sustain an interest in literature, music, and the fine arts.” Election to the Academy is considered the highest formal recognition of artistic merit in this country. The Academy is comprised of 250 of America’s leading voices in the fields of Art, Architecture, Literature, and Music. The Academy presents exhibitions of art, architecture, and manuscripts; and readings and performances of new musicals throughout the year, and is located in three landmark buildings designed by McKim, Mead & White, Cass Gilbert, and Charles Pratt Huntington on Audubon Terrace at 155 Street and Broadway, New York City.