Dear President Benton and Pepperdine University,
When my writing partner Griffin Matthews and I were invited to curate a master class at Pepperdine University regarding our musical work, Witness Uganda, we jumped at the chance to share what we’ve learned with the future trailblazers of the American Theatre. We’ve performed all over the world, spoken at commencements, school assemblies, business conferences, won awards from the Jonathan Larson Foundation and ASCAP, received commissions from Yale and Playwrights Horizons, and worked alongside some of the greatest theatre artists living. Sharing our work with young artists is always the most exciting, fulfilling and inspiring opportunities for us.
However, when we learned of Pepperdine’s policy of banning students from forming a Gay-Straight Alliance, we were appalled. How can a university reconcile prohibiting its gay community from organizing while simultaneously inviting a composing team to come to the school to talk about a musical with a gay protagonist who was kicked out of his church for choosing to live openly about his sexuality?
In the past year and a half we have watched countless young people tragically end their lives prematurely because they felt they had nowhere to turn. No place safe. They felt unseen. As educators and mentors, it is up to us to use our voices and our platform to recognize all people. They exist. Their stories matter. Their lives matter. Their right to organize and be supported matters.
Witness Uganda is about tolerance and exploring various points of view through a multitude of people. The show is about the complexity of trying to change the world.
The Pepperdine policy is an antiquated view and is in opposition to progress. LGBT people exist in your University and yet your policies continue to ignore them. School officials are not required to like gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender people. You are not even required to teach about them. But as an educational institution you have a responsibility to demonstrate tolerance. And as a religious institution you have been commanded to demonstrate love. “God is love.” (1 John 4:8.)
We are not willing to participate in a culture of intolerance, especially under the guise of education. Until Pepperdine learns how to demonstrate love to their LGBT and straight students, Griffin Matthews and Matt Gould will not be attending or teaching any master classes there.
Matt Gould and Griffin Matthews