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Stomp If You Can Feel It

© 1999, by Lisa M. Roberts

This weekend some friends and I treated ourselves to a NYC performance that was a surprising delight. The show, located in Greenwich Village, was called "Stomp" and at first impression looked like it would pale in comparison to the sensational theatre productions on competitive Broadway. Imagine this. The stage of Stomp was littered with pieces of rubbish straight from a junkyard, the "costumes" were wripped jeans, overalls and tee's, and, as the title implies, the music was exceptionally LOUD.

Doesn't sound too delightful, does it? Yet using Resourcefulness with a capital "R," this 8-member cast won over their entire audience with their boundless energy, uncanny rhythm, self-efacing humour and corporeal dance. In short, they wiped from memory every Broadway play I've seen in the past five years!
 
Since Sunday afternoon I've been contemplating how this low-budget, off-the-beaten-track performance could pull off such an artful feat. But peel that layer of thoughts away and what I've really been wondering is what we -- as a collective community of low-budget, off-the-beaten-track home businesses (OK, I'll just speak for myself here!) -- could learn from these ingenious folks? What ideas could we borrow from their success and apply in our own EP world?
 
I'd say the first lesson is in the word that sums up the entire production -- Resourcefulness. What Stomp is all about literally is taking nothing (i.e. junk) and making something (i.e. music). With everyday objects such as brooms (sweep, sweep, clunk, clunk), match boxes (swish, swish, tap, tap), rubber tubes, toilet plungers and the like, the cast worked off each other's inventive beat and turned this small theatre into a rocking spectacle. Squeezing crowd-pleasing music from paper and plastic bags reminds me of the creative ways EPs can and have made use of their limited resources. And how EPs can re-invent a service or product by applying their special skill and talent -- turning the "same-ol'/same ol'" into something undeniably awesome.
 
But invention alone didn't deliver the performance of Stomp into the hearts of my friends and I Sunday afternoon. Added to the mix was the charming rapport among the members of the cast, and especially with the audience. Time and again they needled each other like siblings on a restless afternoon, pulling us in on the joke at each instance. But they won us over completely when they turned their full attention on us directly. Throughout the production they tapped into our desire to be part of the fun, inviting us to clap and stomp in rhythm to their beat. And just dare to stand up to go to the restroom -- the actors on stage would stop everything and wait...with a playful glare...until your untimely deed was done. (Talk about full attention!)
 
To me this indicates an exquisite understanding of "customer service": a highly personable approach; the welcome invitation to be part of the project at hand; and self-respect as a professional when a project endures untimely interruptions -- even if the interruptions come from the folks financing it all (!).
 
Finally, the producers of this show also seemed to understand the importance of offering a gift that keeps on giving. Instead of spending their encore in typical self-congratulatory mode, they used their encore to send us away with a small but memorable gift -- a bit of long-lasting rhythm of our own. Patiently (and playfully!) they taught us how to experiment with patterns of music, using raw materials such as the palms of our hands and the soles of our feet, and in doing so formed a bond between performer and audience that would outlast our brief direct contact. Never in the presence of any Broadway musical star have I ever felt I could even *scratch* the performer's talent and take a little home with me. Yet when my friends and I left this theatre, with the words "Do you feel it?" from the lead actor still echoing in our ears, this is precisely what each of us had done.
 
Like the cast, crew and concept of Stomp, EPs must take control of every resource we've got, turning challenges into opportunity, whistling while we work, and engaging our clients and customers in the process. In essence, we need to learn how to squeeze music from a plastic bag -- then invite the world to join in on our fun. If we can indeed pull this off, we may just wipe the memory of any corporate competitor from the minds of our patrons. How could we not?
 

Lisa Roberts is the mother of four, owner of The Entrepreneurial Parent, LLC and the author of How to Raise A Family & A Career Under One Roof: A Parent's Guide to Home Business (Bookhaven Press, 1997). Copies of her book are available for purchase at EP and through Amazon.

 
 
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