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Bringing the Noise

Wielding everyday objects like brooms and garbage cans to create a wordless percussive explosion onstage, "Stomp" continues to prove that one man’s trash really can be another man’s treasure.

Article
Gina Conroy
Photos
Courtesy
Posted
February 28, 2020

Stomp: The name says it all. Or does it? If you think Stomp is a high-energy, innovative, grungy percussion troupe that utilizes ordinary and not so ordinary objects to create music in an explosive display of sights and sounds, you’d be right… and wrong. Described as having a tribal vibe, Stomp uses familiar, everyday “instruments” such as brooms, trashcans, cups, utensils, and even the kitchen sink to make rhythms and an unforgettable evening of entertainment.

One of the charms of the show is how people are pulled into this delightful musical frenzy because the instruments are part of everyday life. While most of us have used many of these objects, we haven’t created rhythms that make others want to move or tap their feet. So, where does the musical inspiration come from?

Jasmine Joyner, who has been with the show for three years, says the inspiration comes from the pitch or sound emitted from each “instrument.” A spoon or metal utensil has a high pitch, whereas plastic has a bass or dull sound. Drumming your hand on plastic gets a different sound, as does the scraping of a broom across the floor. Put them all together in a rhythm filled with explosive movement and silent comedy (there’s no talking in the show), and you’re starting to catch a glimpse of the phenomenon that is Stomp.

Stomp got its start in England 26 years ago before it moved off-Broadway to the Orpheum Theatre in New York City, where it’s been playing ever since. Back then, it was grungier, and the performers were more militant and focused on the music because they mostly hired musicians. With the newer generation, they started auditioning people with different backgrounds like acting and dance.

“They were willing to invite more people [to audition] who had different talents for a more well-rounded show,” says Joyner. They even had people audition who just drummed on the train for fun.

Joyner, who is from Queens, New York, joined the show right after graduation from SUNY Fredonia in upstate New York. She was a dance major, not a musician. “That was my first and only audition,” says Joyner. “Being a part of Stomp for three years, I’ve grown so much. Every year is something new, and that’s why I stay around.”

Over the years, Stomp has evolved into a multisensory experience that’s been described as “provocative, witty, and utterly unique.”

One of the added layers to the show is the comedy aspect. While Stomp has always had a comedic element in the show, it was more deadpan and sarcastic. “They would make a certain facial expression like ‘I am the comedy person, and everyone else is frustrated by what I’m doing because I’m not following the rules,’” says Joyner. “Now, we have more than one comedic role.”

Joyner plays one of the comedy roles, called Cornish. “She’s a quirky girl who is down with the seven other people,” says Joyner. “She follows up behind everyone.”

What Joyner enjoys about the flexibility of her roles is that there are times she can play Cornish differently. “The main way to play Cornish is to play her quirky. As you’re working, you’re doing things with the cast, but they move to the next thing, and you’re the last one. It’s almost like a little sister role,” says Joyner. But she can switch it up. “Because I’ve played Bin for so long and that character is stern and in charge, I can take my Cornish, and I can be sassy with it, but I don’t have to be as mean or grungy.”

Joyner never knows how she’ll play a part until she’s onstage. “It depends on how the audience reacts from the very beginning and how your day is going,” says Joyner, who admits that’s also the fun part. “Even though we end up playing the same numbers, it’s a new show every day.”

In contrast to Sarge, the one the crew looks up to and listens to, is Particle, the smooth operator of the group. “He plays too cool around everyone,” says Joyner. “While everyone is doing the number, Particle is adding his flavor and style. When we start up with the brooms, he’s doing tricks with the brooms. He draws the audience’s attention because of how cool he looks and the way he makes nice shapes and is still able to play the music, but then do other things with the objects.”

Potato Head plays more of a musical role and can play on anything. “With all the pieces we have in the show, he has more of the choppier numbers,” says Joyner. “He will play this amazing outstanding solo in almost all the numbers because he’s such a great drummer.”

Not only are the roles diverse in the group, so is the age range. Although you have to be 18 years old, the oldest person Joyner’s met who has played in Stomp has been 50. “There’s someone who’s been in the show for 23 years,” says Joyner. And being that the show is only 26 years old, that’s proof you don’t have to be any particular age to be in the show. Or enjoy the show.”

Joyner loves the diversity of the group, and they feel more like family than co-workers.

“We spend most of our time with each other at home in the city or on tour,” Joyner says. When on tour, they go out to eat after shows, and when they have a couple of days off, they take excursions together and wind down from doing the shows. “I love that we enjoy being around each other.”

In addition to the musicality and diversity in the characters and cast, Joyner believes Stomp’s success is due to the cast’s ability to connect with the audience. “They connect because we allow them to join us,” says Joyner.

The members of the cast don’t ignore the audience even though it’s easy to drown out the audience when they get on that stage. Joyner and the rest of the crew want people to come to the show and get what they asked for. “We try to get one-on-one with the audience and make sure we draw their attention to keep them uplifted and focused so that we won’t lose them,” she says.

If Stomp were a traditional Broadway show with a strict script, they wouldn’t be able to connect with the audience and draw them in as they do. Even though they have a script, it allows each character to do what they want.

Joyner appreciates the improv and that the three girls in the cast play the same roles, but play them differently and make the roles their own. “There’s no competition because everyone is doing their own thing,” says Joyner. “That’s what keeps it fresh because even though we play the same role, we play it differently, so we have a different dynamic to show.”

Not only does that make it fun and fresh for the performers, but since every show has a unique flavor, even if you saw the show last year or last week, you’re sure to have a new experience the next time around.

LOCATOR
Stomp
Tulsa Performing Arts Center
110 E. 2nd St. | Tulsa
March 6: 8 p.m.
March 7: 2 p.m., 8 p.m.
March 8: 1 p.m., 6:30 p.m.