New artistic director Eric Rosen kicks off his first season as the troupe's new guide with the Shakespeare-inspired project, written and performed by Matt Sax and developed in collaboration with and directed by Rosen. Opening is Sept. 12.
Missouri audiences are warned: The show contains loud music, adult language and strong content.
After seeing a performance of Clay in 2004 at Northwestern University, fresh from its debut at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Rosen began collaborating with Sax to further develop the musical. Clay had its American debut in 2006 in an About Face Theatre/Lookingglass Theatre co-production in Chicago. At that time, Rosen was artistic director of About Face Theatre.
"Even though hip-hop is a form of music about which many people have little understanding, I knew immediately that this story had potential for wide appeal," Rosen stated. "Audiences members of all ages have loved Matt's performance."
After its Kansas City premiere, Clay will move to New York as part of Lincoln Center Theater's new programming initiative LCT3, which is devoted to producing the work of emerging playwrights, directors and designers. Clay was created by the celebrated young writer-performer Matt Sax, whose solo tour-de-force performance was awarded Chicago's top theatre honor — the Joseph Jefferson Award. He received critical acclaim for Clay's recent run at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Los Angeles.
"Loosely based on Shakespeare's stories of Henry IV and Falstaff, Clay employs the humor, intensity and lyricism of contemporary hip-hop music to tell the coming-of-age story of a teenage boy named Clifford," according to Kansas City Rep. "Escaping the dysfunction of his family, Clifford flees the suburbs and seeks his future in the city where he falls under the tutelage of a rapper named Sir John. Together, they transform Clifford into Clay, a rising hip-hop star."
"Hip-hop is a powerful and emotional musical genre that has now become a global phenomenon," Rosen said. "Like listening to Shakespeare's verse, your ear has to tune to it. But, before you know it, you understand every word and every idea in Matt's beautiful rhyming form."
In addition to Sax and Rosen, the creative team for Clay includes Joshua Horvath (orchestration and sound designer), Meghan Raham (scenic designer), Emily Rebholz (costume designer) and Howell Binkley (lighting designer).
Performances play Kansas City Repertory Theatre's 2008-09 Copaken Stage. The season includes The Glass Menagerie and The Borderland.
Tickets for Clay are now on sale for $25; a limited number of back row seats cost $15. For more information about the show or to purchase tickets, call (816) 235-2700, or visit www.kcrep.org or visit Rep box offices at Copaken Stage at 13th and Main Streets, or Spencer Theatre in the lobby of the James C. Olson Performing Arts Center at 4949 Cherry Street.
Now in its 44th season, Kansas City Repertory Theatre is its region's only member of the League of Resident Theatres and serves as the professional theatre in residence at the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC).
The company produces plays and events at Spencer Theatre, its mainstage theatre on the UMKC campus, and at Copaken Stage which opened in downtown Kansas City in February 2007. The mission of Kansas City Rep "is to present productions of excellence that are diverse, literate and timely, and to provide educational and outreach services for students and our community."