A street performer from South Africa by way of Beale Street, Nashville, and the Chicago subway system is the primary musician for Auntie Mame, now running at Stages Repertory Theatre.
The 23-year-old, guitar-playing Martin Saville was spotted by Stages artistic director Kenn McLaughlin a few months ago when McLaughlin was visiting Chicago.
"So many people come past you when you're street performing in a Chicago subway," Saville said. He put McLaughlin's card in his pocket - along with a lot of other ones - and as McLaughlin got on the train, Saville yelled out his e-mail address to him. But there was a lot of noise.
Then, even though Saville and his girlfriend, a singer, were doing fairly well in Chicago, they decided to try to move their gig to Santa Monica. They got on a Greyhound to California and trusted that things would work out.
Meanwhile, McLaughlin was trying to reach Saville without success. He posted a lengthy appeal on MySpace, and a friend of Saville's finally told him he should check it out. He did and found that McLaughlin was asking him to come to Houston. After some negotiations, Saville, who was living in a motel room with his girlfriend, agreed.
"For Auntie Mame the basic concept for Martin Saville is just to be me," Saville said. "I almost feel like I'm this guy that's bringing this music out to the new generation."
Saville says he was born in Cape Town, South Africa, and started working when he was just 14 so that he could save money to study in the United Kingdom. He went to London for college and got his associate's degree in business management.
But when he was in London he also started to follow bands and says he rediscovered his love of music. So he started playing guitar there, but found a city crowded with fellow Brits and South Africans who all, as he said, sort of have the same accent.
"There were too many Martins," he said. So he called an aunt who lived in Tennessee and began his move to the United States.
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The idea of street performing first came to him during a walk down Beale Street in Memphis. "I did play. But I still felt intimidated." So he decided he needed to move on, to either New York, Los Angeles or Chicago and Chicago won out.
Saville attracted so much attention that several people took videos of him, and some are posted on YouTube.
Asked what he plans to do next after Auntie Mame ends its run, Saville said: "It's as the wind takes me. The plan is to head back to California, but again, I believe in going where the universe takes you. I'm going to continue to follow this dream."
Auntie Mame runs through October 10 in Stages' Yeager Theater. For tickets call 713-527-0123 or buy them online at www.stagestheatre.com.