Q&A: John Angeles on STOMP and Performing During a Ferguson Protest
“I was a little nervous before I got on,” says John Angeles, a New York-based performer who is bringing the international sensation STOMP to the Merriam Theatre right after Christmas. Angeles and his fellow cast mates were scheduled to perform at the City Hall Tree Lighting ceremony, but previous acts, including children’s choirs and gospel performers, were loudly booed by the hundreds of “Black Lives Matter” protestors who swarmed the scene.
“I remember thinking, ‘I don’t even know why I’m on the stage,'” he recalls. “But then I decided that I was gonna play as hard and as loud as I could. They stopped protesting for a minute. Someone actually told me that we were the only act that the protestors didn’t ‘boo.'”
Perhaps it’s because STOMP, which uses regular household objects to create a unique sound of it’s own, resonates so well with audiences around the world: The show, which has been playing for 20 years, still plays to sold-out crowds around the world. Angeles, who has been with the show for a number of years, sat down with us to chat about his own background and what STOMP means to him.
Ticket: STOMP has been around for 20 years. How long have you been with the show?
John Angeles: I’ve been in the show for eight years now: I was in touring production for four years, came to the New York City production for three and a half years, and was just asked to go back on the road.
Ticket: Did you ever see the show before you joined the cast?
JA: I first saw the show when I was 13 years old and knew from that moment that STOMP was what I was going to do for the rest of my life. I always did all sorts of STOMP projects and drove my parents crazy. I vowed to my mother that I would replace her whole collection of cookware, but I haven’t done that yet. Cooking stuff is a lot more expensive than I thought.
Ticket: For someone who has never seen STOMP before, how would you describe it?
JA: The show is a high-energy rhythm and dance show. There are eight of us on stage with everyday ordinary objects; there are crazy levels of music and rhythm. As they say, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. We literally get stuff from junkyards and we create this entire world. When people come see the show and they arrive to the theatre, the curtains are open. You can see our world, the whole set. The entire set is an instrument. The audience can recognize basic household stuff. It’s like you’re already a part of show before it even starts. It’s crazy. It’s STOMP! There’s always new things and new cast members. It’s different all the time.
Ticket: It has got to be physically exhausting to do this show. How do you keep yourself in shape?
JA: I do my best to eat well, but I eat a lot. I go to the gym. I try to keep myself in shape for the show, but especially on the road it’s hard because you don’t have the best eating options. That’s the tour struggle: Where can I eat well and where can I find a good gym? We’re lucky in Philly; we found some great eating options already.
Ticket: Your degree is in music, right? Tell me about how you apply that to this show?
JA: I was a music education major and I taught high schools right out of college. When I was in college, we built a project that modeled the STOMP act “Suspension,” where we swing on the set from climbing harnesses. I wanted to do that. I wanted to swing from a fence and play with pots and drums, so we build one: it was three tons and I played with it all over Texas.
Ticket: Talk to me more about your teaching and clinic work. What’s that experience like for you?
JA: When I’m here in NYC, I’ll do private lessons or teach in a group setting. A friend of mine, who used to be in STOMP, started a school called the Institute for the Rhythmic Arts, and I’ve worked with him on that project. He’s really successful with it. Whenever I can, I teach, but I’m still so crazy about performing!
STOMP starts a Philadelphia engagement on December 26. For tickets and more information, click here.