BWW Interviews: STOMP's Andres Fernandez; Show Comes to New Orleans, 9/14
STOMP is a show unlike any other in the theatrical world. It features a cast of multi-talented performers from a variety of backgrounds, who use everyday objects such as brooms, paint cans, drumsticks, bins, and even tractor tire inner tubes to create music. I recently had the opportunity to speak with cast member Andrés Fernandez. Mr. Fernandez, originally from Hawaii, has backgrounds in music and dance. In high school he played trombone, and later went on tour throughout Hawaii singing and dancing with his brother. He has now been a part of the STOMP cast for 15 years.
HS: STOMP isn’t exactly a play or a musical, and it’s not a concert. The closest thing I’ve been able to compare it to is a step show, but it’s not exactly that either. What category would you put this show in? How would you classify it?
AF: STOMP is pretty much in its own classification. It’s an exploration of sound. It’s saying to the world there is music in everything and we don’t need words to express how we are feeling. We can express it through music and everything that is happening around us.
HS: Is there a story line to the show, or is it all about the music?
AF: There’s no real story line. There are characters to follow. You follow the characters and watch them develop. It’s sort of like high school. There’s the boss, the jock, the guy who gets picked on, you have your quirky girl, your tough girl, a few in-between guys. It starts off when we discover the music in our broom and through sweeping we discover there’s rhythm. It forms one sound as instruments get added.
HS: STOMP features some rather unconventional instruments. What are some of those instruments, and how are they used?
AF: Most of the time the creators [of the show] bring in whatever they want us to play and they teach us. We use huge tractor tire inner tubes, paint cans, brushes… You have to practice and see what kind of noise it makes. They incorporate new things all the time. Sometimes we find things on the side of the road or at Wal-Mart or Home Depot and pick out our own props that we want to play or put on the set.
HS: What sort of backgrounds do STOMP performers have?
AF: It helps to have a music background. I’m a singer, dancer, a little bit of a drummer. My instrument was trombone in high school. We have a lot of drummers. Most of the girls are dancers. We have a few drumming girls. We have an actor. When the creators have a rhythm, they believe they can teach anyone to use the instruments. They look at everything when you audition, your personality. They teach the drummers dance moves and the dancers learn from the drummers. There’s all backgrounds. Dancers, actors, singers, drummers, it's everything. It does help to have a drumming background though.
HS: STOMP had its beginnings in the early 90’s. How has the show changed since then?
AF: I’ve been in the show since 1997. I’ve seen a lot of the changes the show has gone through. It makes it fresh and we don’t have to be the same character every night. We try to make each other laugh and break character. I’ve done all 8 roles in the show… even the girls’ roles. All the roles can be interchanged.
HS: STOMP casts in the past have had some amazing opportunities. The most recent opportunity was to perform at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Were you able to participate in the Olympics performance?
AF: No, I wish! They took the cast in London and the European company and used all of them. It was too expensive to fly us there. A lot of my friends that I toured with performed so I was jealous, but it was great to see familiar faces performing.
HS: STOMP was perfect for the Olympics because there’s that old cliché “music is the universal language,” and this is an event where people from all over the globe gather together. No matter what language you speak, you are able to understand and enjoy that performance.
AF: That’s why STOMP has lasted so long, 21 years, it’s universal. It’s been to more countries than any other show. You don’t have to change the language or words, it’s all music and rhythm and everyone can understand it. I’ve been all over the globe because of this show.
The national tour of STOMP is set to open in New Orleans at the Mahalia Jackson Theater for the Performing Arts on Friday, September 14th for a three-night run. See the Mahalia Jackson Theater’s website for details and tickets.