Thursday, March 10, 2005
There are few touring performance groups that go through items like 30 brooms, 15 pounds of sand, 200 liters of water and eight bananas every week. But, then again, there are few shows like STOMP.
STOMP was created in 1991 by two English street performers, Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas, who developed a routine in which rhythmic music was made by everyday objects. After creating some percussive shorts for British television, the pair premiered STOMP at the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh.
Since then, STOMP has taken over the world with performances in 350 cities in 36 countries. Meanwhile, the New York City production—which has been performed at the Orpheum Theatre for a mindblowing 10 years—is one of the longest running off-Broadway shows ever, and the most financially successful of all time. In addition, the show has penetrated pop culture by appearing on Sesame Street and starring in commercials for Coca-Cola and Target.
Like most people, Shola Cole was blown away by STOMP when a touring troupe brought the show to the University of Connecticut in 1994. Working as a stagehand, the student had a big goal after seeing the performance. “I said, ‘the next time I see this play I’m going to be in it,’” Cole recalls.
For Cole, the uniqueness of the performance was a major draw. “First of all, it was unlike anything I had ever seen,” Cole says. “What impressed me was the musicality that came from everyday objects.”
About three years ago, while working as a lobbyist assistant for the Connecticut Citizen’s Action Group, Cole discovered from STOMP’s Website that there was an open position on the show’s United States touring troupe. Despite a lack of experience as a percussionist (Cole says she did a stint playing cymbals for a Connecticut drum and bugle outfit) and without a strong dance background either, Cole, who is a classically trained pianist, bought a bus ticket and traveled to STOMP’s casting call.
After doing well in the auditions, Cole was hired for the show and required to undergo eight weeks of extensive STOMP training. “It was basically like STOMP school,” she says of the experience.
When her first show rolled around at the Stuart Street Playhouse in Boston, Cole says, she started having severe second thoughts about performing under the bright lights. “I was so scared I almost didn’t come,” she says.
But, though she says she was literally shaking before her first performance, Cole survived the experience. Now, the seasoned STOMP veteran has a particular part of the show that she looks forward to each night. Cole says the section is titled “Bags,” and in it, she and two other performers find random objects in a bag that they use to create music.
For Cole, the pleasure of making music with everyday objects now extends beyond the confines of the show. But, Cole realizes that doing things like playing with silverware at a high-end restaurant is probably not the best idea. “I’ve learned how to pick and chose my moments,” she says. “I’ve learned the appropriate times.”