Longtime 'Stomp' artist Sean Perham keeps the flame

A man with a beard plays large plastic drums in front of him as musical instruments, while a woman standing next to him plays along with her own drums.

By Cale Blakely

“When people see others clapping and banging on pots and pans, they go 'What is this 'Stomp' thing?” ensemble performer Sean Perham said. He posed the question that I'm sure is rattling around in the brain of anyone encountering the percussion sensation for the first time.

“Stomp” is a longtime Off-Broadway hit. Created by Steve McNicholas and Luke Cresswell in 1991, it went on tour in North America in 1995. The show demonstrates that anything can be an instrument if you try hard enough. The ensemble uses matchboxes, wooden poles, brooms, garbage cans and more to create its unique cacophony of sound.

The percussive ensemble returns to Penn State at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 15, in Eisenhower Auditorium. Visit “Stomp” online for information.

Perham has been with the group for a number of years, but his “Stomp” journey dates back to his youth, when he saw the show at the age of 10. The performance stuck with him after that, leading to a desire to audition and perform the show that inspired him so long ago.

“I auditioned three times over like a six-year period,” Perham said. “Through persistence and being the right guy at the right time, I've now been here for seven years.”

What has kept Perham's interest in the show for so long is just how engaging and singular the show is. He said he considers the experience to be completely unique, being nearly impossible to find any other show like it.

“It's not exactly a musical, it's not exactly a dance performance, it's not exactly a concert. It's kind of hard to nail down,” Perham said. “That's kind of why 'Stomp' is known as 'Stomp.' ”

He said his favorite part of the show is a number called “Newspapers.” The performers make a beat with newspapers and a cardboard box, and one person tries to get the audience to laugh through any means necessary. Perham started as this character. He said he enjoyed the number and that he gets to draw upon his experience in improv and comedy.

He added that it's always fun for him to see others play the character as well, as each person employs different tactics to accomplish their end goal of laughter, making each performance of it a unique experience.

It's been an honor for Perham to carry on this legacy of performers and add his own spin to the tradition of “Stomp.” He said he has been able to see generations of actors, dancers, percussionists, and comedians each express themselves through “Stomp” and shape it over time based on their own personalities.

“We try to uphold certain standards of what the show was, but we also make it modern with what we are now,” Perham said. “You hear about these legendary performers and watch videos of these guys and gals who did it five years ago, 10 years ago, 15 years ago. But we're the cast now, so we all bring what we can.”

Cale Blakely is a communications intern for the Center for the Performing Arts.

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