Magazine article American Theatre

Matt Sax: Developed His Solo Show Clay, about a Troubled Kid Who Finds Refuge in Hip-Hop, at the Chicago Theatres about Face and Lookingglass. He Has Performed It at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Los Angeles's Center Theatre Group, and Missouri's Kansas City Repertory Theatre. It Inaugurates Lincoln Center's LCT3 Series in New York City through Nov. 8

Magazine article American Theatre

Matt Sax: Developed His Solo Show Clay, about a Troubled Kid Who Finds Refuge in Hip-Hop, at the Chicago Theatres about Face and Lookingglass. He Has Performed It at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Los Angeles's Center Theatre Group, and Missouri's Kansas City Repertory Theatre. It Inaugurates Lincoln Center's LCT3 Series in New York City through Nov. 8

Article excerpt

In Clay, the title character's mentor, the rapper Sir John, is modeled on Falstaff. How did that happen?

When I was 16, I saw both parts of Henry IV in London. I was so taken with it. As I began to craft Clay, I thought about how hip-hop is essentially about putting two disparate things together to create something new.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Would Shakespeare have liked hip-hop?

The ability to rhyme things inside-out of themselves is Shakespearean. What I gravitate to in hip-hop is its lyrical quality, the ability to be a wordsmith. You can listen to it four, five, six times and still hear something different.

Do you have a mentor in your own life?

I first got inspired to do theatre by a guy named Bertin Rowser when I was seven or eight. Frank Galati was a huge mentor [at Northwestern University]. And then Frank introduced me to Clay's director, Eric Rosen, who serves that role as well.

Growing up in Westchester, N.Y., did your friends share your musical interests?

Yeah, my core group of friends all listened to hip-hop. The first moment that I heard the music in theatrical form was at the end of Biggie's first album--he calls Puffy on the phone, and kills himself on the other end of the line. That gave me an opening to feel like I could take a place in that culture while marrying it to the thing I loved so much, the theatre.

What is your guilty-pleasure music?

Musical theatre--I don't listen to it very often, but something like Les Mis....I don't think it's something to be ashamed of, but it's not something many people know about me.

Have you noticed a difference in how Clay is received from city to city?

The response has been strikingly similar. People laugh in the same places; people feel in the same places.

Do you have any tricks for keeping up the energy to perform night after night?

I'm 24 years old. (Laughs.)

Has the show gone in any directions that surprised you?

That I'm still doing it is extraordinarily surprising! I wrote it in response to not getting cast in a production of The Seagull at Northwestern. I was like, "I'm gonna do something crazy! …

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