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Max Clayton and Matt Doyle on Quarantining Together and the Importance of Hope

May 12, 2020 by Suzy Evans
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Max Clayton and Matt Doyle

Not every quarantine is created equal, and being in lockdown in a one-bedroom apartment with your significant other can prove challenging no matter how strong your relationship is. But for Broadway performers Max Clayton and Matt Doyle, isolating together has shone a light on each other’s strengths. 

“Max makes me laugh so hard all the time that I think it’s actually been the saving grace of all of this that I live with a big clown that keeps me laughing and pulls me out of my darker moments in dealing with all of this,” says Doyle.

“And I have a personal chef now,” Clayton adds. 

Before Broadway shut down on March 12, both performers were in the swing of eight shows a week. Clayton is in the ensemble of the glamorous “Moulin Rouge,” while Doyle was gearing up to open the Broadway revival of “Company” as Jamie, a gender-swapped version of the original’s Amy. 

Then their shows shuttered (for the moment) and both weathered different cases of the coronavirus. Thankful to have their health back, now the couple are navigating workouts, dance classes, dogs, baking, and more.

We chatted with Clayton and Doyle about what they’re learning about each other in quarantine, what’s keeping them sane, and why the arts are so important. 

What has quarantine been like for both of you?
Max Clayton: It seems like some freaky scene from “Groundhog Day.” Every day, we wake up and we try and set up a plan of what we’ll do. As far as COVID-19 goes, we’re luckily better now. We had mild cases and we’re on the other side of it. But it hasn’t been that way for everyone. It’s very serious. I’m just happy to see that people are still taking it seriously.

Matt Doyle: I started going into this with this almost like “It’s fine” mentality. We’ll get through this, and in the end, it won’t be that big of a deal and we’ll all look back on it and it’ll be crazy. And I’ve slowly transitioning into: Okay this is probably the most profound moment of our generation and for generations to come. It’s not just serious; it’s world changing. That’s been heavy to digest at moments.

Katrina Lenk and Matt Doyle in “Company” (Photographed by Brinkhoff/Moegenburg)

How have you been spending your days and have you established a routine?
Matt: We’re trying desperately to create routine. That’s the biggest struggle — you know what’s healthy and it’s so hard to do those healthy things. Any therapist or psychiatrist during this time is like, “Create structure. Stay busy. Do things that make you feel like you’ve made small accomplishments.” And I tell it to myself every morning, but it’s a struggle to make that happen, to be completely candid. 

But that being said, we realized that we needed weights. So we were able to find adjustable dumbbells online that sold out within minutes when they restocked and we have been working out in the apartment and making sure that we keep our fitness up. I think we both would go insane if we didn’t try and maintain health on some level. Now that we’re on the other side of the virus and have been for a couple weeks now, we’re both taking long walks outside, still maintaining distance, just trying to get a little bit of fresh air. I know that I need to start writing. I have a great idea for a new comic and that’s my next goal.

Max: I’ve been adjusting to the whole Zoom aspect of life. Every day I take a pilates class that my friend runs at noon. That’s kind of been my little hour to myself. [Choreographer] Andy Blankenbuehler reached out to some of us just saying this is the craziest time we’ve all experienced, but he wanted to still keep in touch by teaching a class every day, so that’s been really really special. So it’s all live on Zoom and it’s in his house. He usually has his daughter Sophia is his assistant. It’s the cutest thing ever and she’s turning into a star right before our eyes.

What about you’re both in shows right now. What have you been doing to keep in touch with your cast? 
Matt: “Company” holds a weekly meeting. Thank you Katrina Link —she’s the one who started it…They’re always a theme put together by Katrina. This week is going to be a show and tell. We all present something fun from our lives or in our apartments or basements, as Patti’s been doing.

Patti LuPone has been giving you exclusive basement tours?
Matt: Oh absolutely. And she always holds a dance party every week. We dance to a couple songs on her jukebox. It’s just ways for us to lift each other up. It’s not just going to be a few weeks anymore. Instead, we just value connecting with each other and trying to lift each other’s spirits more than anything. And also venting. This is hard right now and getting on and pretending that everything is okay doesn’t work either. So if somebody is really feeling something, we listen to each other and try to talk through it. 

When we get to the other side of this and we’re actually able to sing “Company” in a tiny box together and have Katrina Lenk sing “Being Alive” together, there’s really nothing more profound than that. We’re just trying to stay engaged and be ready for that. I can’t think of a better show to reopen Broadway than a show about New York and togetherness.

Max: It’s been crazy. We have a group thread. We have Zoom meetings coming up. It’s about keeping in touch and filling each other in and being open books with each other. It’s obviously a very sad, bizarre time, but as much as we were all looking forward to this whole spring season, we know that we’re going to be back and that’s a huge relief. Our producers have been very candid about that.

Matt: What ultimately is going to get everyone to the other side of this is hope. Somebody on the news the other day was saying, false hope and positivity won’t be helpful, and I was like, “That is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.” I don’t know one freaking person who in their lives has succeeded without hope. If I never had hope I would have left this business years and years ago. You have to believe there is a good outcome in the end. That we will be together in the end. That we will get to the other side of this. If you stop believing in that, then you’re defeated.

Max Clayton (Photographed by Morgan Marcell)

Have you learned anything new about each other during this time
Matt: We’ve never spent this much time together. I’m just shocked, like not to be the annoying couple, we have not really really fought during this, and I think that comes out of the fact is that we’re both — and the rest of the world — dealing with something very very heavy and very very profound. It’s kind of like watching Cuomo trying to deal with Trump on the news. Fighting right now just does not make any sense. We’ve been patient with each other. 

We’ve learned how to get through the worst together. I’m with someone during something which is this generation’s World War. We’ll have learned quite a bit about each other on the other side.

Max: I’m realizing that I do love alone time and I know Matt does too. When you actually can’t, you have to be creative. That’s when I’m like, “Okay I’m going for a walk or I’m going to jog.” I’ve created Studio A and Studio B in our apartment. So when I’m in Studio A, we have like a sliding wall door, Matt you’re in studio B, which is the smaller room in the hallway. I’ll see you in an hour.

Have you guys been watching anything?
Matt: We are loving “Ozark” on Netflix. We’re on the third season. We love “Nailed It” on Netflix.

Max: In fact we’re trying to get me on the show because it’s about terrible bakers who have to make these incredible gourmet cakes. I’m dying to go on it.

What were your experiences like with COVID-19?
Max: We had different cases. I definitely had a worse case. That’s just because I had tightness of my chest, which was the scariest for me. I know people were like that can be anxiety. When I first started getting symptoms, I was like, “I’m just nervous.” I did loose my taste and my smell, which was weird, but did last me for seven days which was miserable because I love food. For me the scariest part was my tightness of my chest and my cough. Those are things that most people have, but I think what’s scariest about this virus is there are so many strains and no one has the same case.

Matt: For me, the scariest part was that it was mild. I’ve probably had two worse colds this year so far. I had a bad cough for a few days and that was about it. Normally when I get a cold, I always get a sinus infection. I didn’t this time. If I did not know that there was a pandemic or that Max tested positive and I was exposed to it, I would never have even thought about remotely attempting to go to a doctor. That’s the scariest part is that It can range so much and that somebody like myself can be walking around thinking “I’m fine, I don’t even have a fever, there’s no way that I possibly have,” and I had it and I could pass it on to somebody like Danny Burstein or Nick Cordero who react so so differently to the virus.

What are some ways people can support the arts right now?
Matt:
it is so hard because none of us can even be there on the other side. My community theater teacher reached out to me the other day and she was talking about her local arts and talking about how they’re going to do the show she was working on in the fall. This is hurting community theater and regional theaters so much right now. We’re on Broadway, and we want Broadway to come back, but it all seeds from a smaller place. Broadway doesn’t exist without an interest in theater across the country and an interest in theater in communities. If you can get involved and volunteer for the arts and for community theater, that would probably be so immensely helpful for the other side of this as well because there has to be a need and an interest there. These theaters are going to need so so much help. Any way that you can volunteer for them will be incredibly helpful.

Max: Moulin Rouge is doing this art contest right now. You can create videos, create songs, create actual pictures and art, and they’re holding a contest to keep our fans engaged. It keeps them in the loop and it keeps them hopeful and excited. I know a lot of kids, especially in middle America, that live and thrive on Broadway shows. They’re trying to have us do takeovers. It’s a good way for them to stay engaged.