Steven Sapp

Doris Duke Artist Award, 2015

New York, NY & Ashland, OR

Steven Sapp is an actor, director, poet and playwright born and raised in the South Bronx, New York. In 1995, with his wife, Mildred Ruiz-Sapp, he co-founded UNIVERSES, a national/international poetic musical theatre ensemble. With UNIVERSES, he has developed and performed in Party People (2012-2014), about former Black Panther and Young Lords members untangling a traumatic past and unclear future; Spring Training (2013), using Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring to explore urban rites of passage; Ameriville (2009-2014), using Hurricane Katrina as an entry point to explore race, class, poverty, and immigration; and Slanguage (2001- 2009) tracking a unique mix of language and culture that is life on American streets; among other plays. He was a founding team member of THE POINT, a nonprofit, arts and economic development organization revitalizing the South Bronx. His honors include a NEFA National Theater Project grant (2011), an NPN Creation Fund grant (2009), and a Ford Foundation grant (2006). UNIVERSES is the current and first ever Ensemble in Residence at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

  • Credit: Arthur Cohen
    Steven Sapp
  • OMAR’s Rant,” Party People (2012)
  • Steven Sapp- “The Hostile Gospel,” AMERIVILLE (2009): /122074239
    “The Hostile Gospel,” AMERIVILLE (2009)
  • “Alliteration,” Slanguage (2001)
  • “New Orleans,” AMERIVILLE (2009)
  • Credit: Arthur Cohen
  • Credit: Kevin Berne

What fuels your impulse to make creative work?

Whenever I interact with the creative side of myself, I can still feel the same impulse that has burned inside me since I was very young, trying to corral all of the sights and sounds of my surroundings. How do I make sense out of all the noise, the music and the voices that I hear? How do I channel all of the joy and rage that lives inside me and make it breathe? How do I give voice to those who have no voice? How do I illuminate all of the rhythms and counter rhythms? How do I keep the one? How do I stay in between the beat? How do I continue to commune with community, keep my activism active and demand that my art be artistic? That my process be the journey and the places and spaces I’ve been, greet me and teach me.