La Jolla Playhouse Premiers "Stomp 2", Featuring UCSD’s Custodial Staff

Written by: Dan Kaliblotzky

Several audience members paid for a premium package with “splash zone” seating and $80 “Stomp 2” ponchos.
Photo by Jack Yang

The La Jolla Playhouse recently announced that the rehearsal process of their new production “Stomp 2” is coming to a close. The sequel of “Stomp”, a musical theatrical show using everyday objects as percussive instruments, “Stomp 2” uses many of the same instruments as its predecessor, but has a cast consisting entirely of UCSD custodial workers.

“People always say ‘play what you know,’ and who knows plungers, brooms, and mops better than janitors?” explained producer Shelley Goldstein. “This show is the most authentic it’s ever been, and I think audiences will respond to that. They will see our performers on stage and think, ‘now that’s a man who’s cleaned a bathroom before. This is so real.’”

The first scene of the piece will reportedly feature buckets and sinks as the primary instruments. “We want to give people what they came for,” said cast member Kevin Young. “The original ‘Stomp’ is so powerful, and we need to pay homage to it. But this is a ‘Stomp’ for 2019. ‘Stomp’ has always told a story of resistance, breaking free, and justice in society. That’s why we needed to add the modern experience to the show.” After the first scene, the show begins to use instruments never before seen in a “Stomp” production. One scene will showcase the hitting of forks against knives in a mock sword fight, which will then lead to another dishwashing scene in which cast members will break dance around sinks as others throw ladles into pools of water.

“My favorite scene was the broom one. It’s just such a classic, but they put their own twist on it,” said reviewer Joann Ponkiss, who had watched a preview show. “They had such a connection to the material. It was so clear that they didn’t custode or janitoriate for the pay, but rather for the
pleasure in their art form. I mean, if they didn’t like their pay, they would ask nicely for better conditions and they would get them, right?” Ponkiss’ father is the Editor-in-Chief at the news organization.

Cast member Roy Ramirez offered a different motivation for his involvement in the show, commenting, “If this show tours, you bet I’m hopping on that opportunity! It’s not like my current job security or pay is getting any better. The next time I’ll be striking is when I get into a regional production of ‘Newsies.’”

Some of the updates to the show come from the cast’s positions as University of California workers. The final scene in the show reportedly features more characterized roles as the cast members arrange themselves in a classroom formation and rhythmically press their heads into desks and break pencils in response to a “Professor” character’s actions, which mostly involve kicking a projector until it works. Later in the scene, the cast members line up in order of height and spill water from hydroflasks onto the front row before dropping the hydroflasks on an inclined surface. Each cast member then holds a horrified expression as the Professor berates them until the curtain drops.

“Stomp 2” officially opens this coming Wednesday, after a ceremonial cutting of a metal ribbon with a set of rhythmically activated chainsaws.

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Dan Kaliblotzky is a fourth-year at UCSD. He aspires to find a career in soulful heavy metal Phineas and Ferb covers.

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