Interview: SO NOW YOU KNOW with Claybourne Elder

Nicholas Adler gets to know Claybourne Elder

By: Aug. 15, 2020

Interview: SO NOW YOU KNOW with Claybourne Elder

Claybourne Elder and the rest of the cast of COMPANY were all set to open the third revival production of the show on Broadway when COVID-19 hit and closed down NYC life as we knew it. Claybourne was set to appear in COMPANY, his fourth Broadway show, as the flight attendant, Andy, who you might know better as April in the original version.

I was first introduced to Claybourne's talent when we were lucky enough to see a friend of ours, actress Mimi Bessette in the Broadway show, Bonnie & Clyde. He was a standout on stage as the sidekick brother Buck Barrow. As you can imagine, there were a lot of gunshots and a whole lot of blood on stage during each performance as well as some really good music and an immense amount of talent. It is very interesting to hear from Claybourne that the show was in rehearsal and out of town tryouts for three years before coming to Broadway!

Claybourne is a great supporter of many causes and is a frequent performer on benefit concerts. He is just about to do a Sleep Out in New York City with the amazing Covenant House organization - his forth time. It is always impressive to me when talented people are also giving and supportive to others in need. You can tell that they were raised with good values: values it seems he and husband Eric are now instilling in their three year old son, Bo.

While we continue to have live indoor performances on pause, we all will have to wait patiently

Interview: SO NOW YOU KNOW with Claybourne Elder
Claybourne in Broadway's COMPANY

until Claybourne can rejoin the cast of COMPANY and open officially on Broadway. Here's to a continued great career and much more to come from Clay. "I'll drink to that!"

NA: Who is your mentor and what would you like to say to your mentor?

CE: My mentor is Sydney Cheek O'Donnell who was my dramaturgy professor at the University of Utah. I had a lot of great acting teachers, but I learned to be a great professional actor from Sydney. She taught me how to deeply process material and think past the character and into the play in a transformative way. I look up to her as a great mind in the American theatre and how she shaped my studies as an actor, but also as a kind, genuine person.

NA: What has this business given you and what has it taken away?

CE: I think that for a lot of people might assume that a life in the theatre takes away the chance of relationships and family, at least that's what a lot of parents think haha, but for me it brought both! I met my husband working on a project and we have a three year old son named Bo. Bo is growing up backstage at Broadway theatre with wonderful aunties and uncles like Patti LuPone,

Interview: SO NOW YOU KNOW with Claybourne Elder
Jonathan Groff, Sarah Uriarte Berry, Ruthie Ann Miles, Sollea Pfeiffer, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Vanessa Williams, Lewis Cleale, Carmen Cusack, Phillip Boykin, Sara lapine Sondheim on Sondheim at the Hollywood bowl rehearsal

Carolee Carmello and John Doyle.

NA: What is the hour like before you go on stage?

CE: I like to take a long time to get ready, so I go to the theatre really early. My mind needs the time to settle and focus. I also like to run lines from much of the show before I go on. When I was doing Passion a few years ago in DC I would run the whole show in my dressing room before going on.

NA: If you could experience one performance over again, which one would it be and why?

CE: Easily I would say Bonnie and Clyde. We ran on Broadway for such a short time but we had been working on the show for 3 years together! We had all gotten so close, and are still so close now. But I would gladly go back and do that show again.

Interview: SO NOW YOU KNOW with Claybourne Elder
Claybourne with Jeremy Jordan
Bonnie and Clyde

NA: What are you most proud of?

The current/returning production of COMPANY on Broadway is my 9th professional production of a Sondheim musical. I was Hollis in the original cast of Road Show, Soldier/George Standy in Sunday in the Park With George on Broadway, George in two other productions of Sunday in the Park With George, the Hollywood Bowl production of Sondheim on Sondheim, Georgio in Passion, Wolf/Prince in Into the Woods, Eddie in Do I Hear A Waltz, ensemble of Sweeney Todd. I always loved Sondheim and didn't exactly set out to make his work the majority of my career but I feel SO LUCKY to have been a part of so many meaningful shows.

NA: What was your first time performing in public?

CE: My first public performance was as the groundhog in my third grade "Holidays of the Year" play. I sang a song about groundhog day.

NA: You grew up in Utah. What was your path to NYC?

CE: My road to NYC was definitely full of twists and turns. I didn't move to the city until I was almost 26. During college I took off time to travel, studying in Moscow, Russia and then working Interview: SO NOW YOU KNOW with Claybourne Elder for a company like the Peace Corps in China and southeast Asia. I also spent a year backpacking from Singapore to Beijing and writing. Then finally I moved to New York to give acting a try for a year...that was a decade ago. haha.

NA: You made your Broadway debut in Bonnie & Clyde. What was that audition process like?

It's actually a pretty good story: I got an audition for a different character in the show, Ted. I prepared the songs and sides and went in and gave my audition. After, they asked me to wait outside for a minute then the casting director came out and said "So, there's another part in the show that has already been cast but the actor can't do a reading of the show next week so we're wondering if you want to read for that part and maybe just do the reading not the production." They gave me about 5 minutes to look over the material and I thought "oh, this is a character I would be good at playing." There are only a few times in my life that I can say I went in and really "nailed" it and that's one of the times. They laughed their butts off. And they ended up giving me a role. I will also add! That the other actor immediately got cast in a Broadway show and has had an incredible career haha, so I don't feel so bad about getting the job :)

NA: You have also performed in cabarets and concerts. What is it you enjoy about these venues that may be different from performing on a broadway stage?

CE: Performing in cabaret is truly one of my favorite things. I had a show that toured and played London a few years ago and getting the chance to be with an audience - to talk and laugh and joke with them live is so thrilling, scary and fulfilling. Don't get me wrong, I love Broadway and

Interview: SO NOW YOU KNOW with Claybourne Elder
Ashley Park, Claybourne and Jenni Barber
in Sunday in the Park with George on Broadway

performing on a big stage but it's so nice to have moments that are in contrast with those times. Smaller performances where you can connect on a much closer level.

NA: How has becoming a Dad changed your life? Has it affected your performing in any way?

CE: Becoming a dad has changed my life in every way! haha, but mostly for the better...except those 3 am feedings during those first few months phew. I had always hoped I would get to be a dad but because I'm gay I thought that might never be possible. It's almost strange to think that 10 years ago I wouldn't even have a legal marriage. There are so many ways to make a family, but as a gay man there are some unique challenges that are difficult and often times expensive. Eric and I decided that for our wedding we wouldn't register for gifts, we would register for a baby. We set up a fund where people could donate towards our surrogacy. It took that and some lucky residual checks, but now we have an amazing son. People say it a lot, but having a child really focuses your priorities.