BWW Interview: Chicago Native Artis Olds Returns to Stomping Ground for Limited Engagement of STOMP
Stomp is coming to Chicago again! How exciting. Lots of people are familiar with this show--it has had such great successes internationally--but how do you describe this experience to people who haven't seen it yet?
We take household items and we use them to create music. This show is high-energy, fun, and it really does have something for everyone. If you're someone who believes theater may not be your thing, Stomp might just change your mind.
What type of music will we be hearing?
Our music is influenced from Brazil, Africa, and other different cultures. You'll be hearing these sounds through brooms, trash cans and dust pants, but if you close your eyes you wouldn't know it was coming from these items. You only hear music. (I wouldn't suggest closing your eyes though! You'll miss lots!)
Stomp is all about music and movement. How do you manage to tell a story in a way that's much different from many other theater shows?
The music tells the story. It's not a traditional show with a fluid plot, but you have the opportunity to witness characters and situations. I do this show seven times a week and find it hard to put into words. You really have to see it to understand. The music and movement comes together as a beautiful, unique story.
For me, the best part is interacting with audiences. As a performer, I love being on stage with my cast and sharing energy; but we share energy with the audience too. There are 12 people in our cast and we swap people around for each performance. Each show is different. Each crowd is different. If you go see it twice, you'll get two completely different experiences. We love that. It's really cool.
Do you guys have much room for improvisation?
Improvisation is so important. As a performer, it's the best thing in the world. You never want to be constricted. This show allows the freedom to try new things, challenge yourself, and give audiences a fresh look every time.
What does a typical day look like before a show? Any daily routines?
We actually do a rehearsal before each show to lock in with the day's cast, but everyone has their own personal thing they do too. I put my headphones on and listen to different tunes to get in the zone. Recently, I've been listening to a lot of Kayne and lots of jazz too.
You're a Chicago native which is really awesome. How did this whole journey begin for you?
There are a handful of people I have to give credit to...My parents and my sister supported me when I transitioned from working in a corporate job to being a full-time artist. Not everyone has that support. I'm eternally appreciative that they let me blaze my own trail. I blame them for it too: they named me "Artis".
My high school dance teacher, Angela Strater, and my high school dance director, Samuel Atcher, helped me understand who I am as a performer. I actually saw Stomp when I was in high school and immediately wanted to be part of that. At the time, it was an unrealistic dream, but when I performed full-time it became more attainable. Here I am. It's a dream come true. Especially to perform in my own city.
You've had some amazing experiences in your career, performing with artists like Kayne West and John Legend. Do you have any one moment that you look back and and think, "This is something I'll never forget."?
This past year, I performed for the Obamas at the White House. I'll never forget that.
Is there anything you're looking forward to seeing or doing while you're back in Chicago?
See my friends and family! I've been touring for quite a while now. I'm only a month into touring with Stomp, but I was touring in over 20 countries and 45 states with Step Afrika! for four years. We'll be in Chicago for the next six weeks or so, so it'll be great to be home.
Last but not least, any projects on the horizon?
Personally, I enjoy working with students. I'm in the process of getting things together to work with kids in the Chicago area. I believe in the arts, in having positive role models around, and that's what got me to this point. I want to do my part in helping the next generation be able to obtain the same opportunities.
Stomp plays Chicago at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place beginning November 16, 2016. For more information, visit www.broadwayinchicago.com.
Photo Credit: Steve McNicholas