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On My Mind: A career built from ‘Clay’

Matt Sax reprises his one-man show “Clay” at the Kansas City Repertory Theatre's Copaken Stage.

“I’m not necessarily confined by all the rules that a lot of composers are because I just don’t have that training. I don’t know the rules I have to play by, so I can play by any rules that I want to.”

MATT SAX

Playwright/composer/performer

Matt Sax simply isn’t as young as he used to be.

None of us is, of course, but in a recent interview Sax implied that he was increasingly aware of the inexorable passing of time. This from a guy who hasn’t hit 30 yet.

Sax is in town to work on “Venice,” the musical he co-wrote with Eric Rosen, Kansas City Repertory Theatre’s artistic director. They’re preparing the Shakespeare-inspired hip-hop/pop/rock tragedy for its New York debut in June.

But while he’s here, Sax will also perform a reprise of “Clay,” a solo show he wrote and Rosen helped develop about a suburban kid from a dysfunctional home who wants to be a rapper and falls under the influence of Sir John, a master of spoken-word performance.

The Kansas City Star

Clay, 2.0: “I don’t think it’ll be so different from the show we did once upon a time, although there were changes from Kansas City to New York which obviously will be part of the show.”

Working on his fitness: “I’ve been going through a training regimen over the last month to get myself ready, because I’m 28 years old now. I am no longer 22 years old. And when I was 22 it felt like, ‘Oh, I can do all these things!’ And now I’m 28 and I’m thinking, ‘Oh, my God, I’ve gotta do all these things.’”

He’s baaack: “It’s an awesome opportunity for me to come back to Kansas City because Kansas City is such a warm, wonderful environment for me. It’s kind of a second home for me and a place that’s been so supportive of all the things I’ve done artistically.”

Music lessons: “In terms of songwriting, the thing that’s grown the most over the period of time between ‘Clay’ and ‘Venice’ is really learning how to write a melodic song and song structure. I’ve learned a lot from certain hip-hop songs that have really inspired me. But I’m inspired by all sorts of things — by theater songs, country songs, classic rock songs.”

The fundamentals: “I don’t have the tool box of a traditional composer, meaning I don’t know how to read music, and I don’t have training, per se, in how to write songs. … I don’t have a prescribed way of doing anything, so each song is kind of like its own adventure, and I’m trying to figure out what the story is I want to tell.”

Under the influence: “I am brought up in an age where those distinctions between label and genres are constantly being challenged and changed. We are in an age where you can be online reading a Martha Stewart blog at the same time you’re listening to a 50 Cent song at the same time you’re checking your Facebook pages. We are able to marry multiple impulses now and hold them in our brains in a way that technology has allowed us to do.”

That’s a rap : “I think hip-hop music draws its influences from all kinds of music. I think the genre and the form actually can hold many, many different musical styles. And I think that’s especially true of ‘Venice.’”

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