Last night Mihee and I attended STOMP! at the IU auditorium. It was a gift on many levels, but maybe most of all because we were able to get out on a Friday night and do something with culture, art and music. It beats listening to Barney, the Wiggles, and Bob the Builder sing on the Toddler Music Channel. We saved that for this morning.
Stomp! is great on so many levels. The creativity, the simplicity and the complexity, the non-verbal communication, the unexpected humor, and the playful interaction between the performers all combined for an enjoyable experience. At various points throughout the show the performers would use instruments such as brooms, trash cans, lids, cigarette packs, lighters, basketballs, newspapers, plastic bags, sawdust, water, foam tubes, and inflatable rafts. I was amazed by how they were able to use these simple and everyday objects–a lot of it we would consider trash–and transform them into something that was in its own way very beautiful. I was captivated by the way they would engage and instruct the audience simply by clapping. There were times when we (the crowd) could easily follow along and keep up with the clapping, snapping and stomping . There were times when we got lost and confused. It was fun. It also made us, in some ways, part of the performance. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I was struck by how elaborate it all was. The set, the instruments, the costumes, and the stage was very ordinary. “Industrial” or “urban” come to mind as words to describe it. And yet when it was all set in motion it was a sight and a sound to behold. All at once there would be cans flying around with drumming, clapping and dancing. There would be coordinated passing, throwing, catching, lifting, and lowering that made this industrial atmosphere almost seem organic – fluid and alive.
For some reason, as all of this was going on for the hour and 45 minutes, I was thinking about God’s work all around us. I was thinking about how God takes some things that seem very simple and ordinary and makes them produce something strangely beautiful. I was thinking about how God uses something seemingly small and simple and yet when they are set in motion they are complex and often connected to something else. I was thinking about how long ago God spoke, but that God still communicates with us, mostly now without words like the prophets heard, but in many other (and unexpected) ways. Most of all I was thinking about how God engages us and calls us to not simply be audience members or spectators but to be participants in what is going on around us. Like the audience last night, sometimes we get it exactly right and the place is rocking…and other times we get lost, confused and it is easy to want to just simply stop participating. When the latter would happen, when we’d mess up, the expression on the cast member’s face was never one of white hot rage or frustration. There was always a quirky grin, a slight smile, and a chance to do it right was quickly offered. Sometimes it was very clear that we were to just relax and be still, as if he/she was saying to us, “It’s okay. I’ve got this under control.” But even to the very end we were called and engaged…clapping, snapping, stomping, thankful to be involved and hoping it wouldn’t end.