Touring ‘STOMP’ cast features SUNY Fredonia performers
Performances set in Rochester’s Auditorium Theatre in May
There’s an outsized representation of SUNY Fredonia in the North American Broadway tour of “STOMP” that’s amid a multi-state tour that includes performances in May at the Rochester Broadway Theatre League’s Auditorium Theatre.
Queens native Jasmine Joyner, a professional dancer who majored in Dance, and Sean Perham, a comedian, drummer and actor from New York City, originally from Commack, who was a Music Education major, likely never crossed paths at Fredonia, but they’ve been together in “STOMP” – both in New York City and on national tours – going on five years.
A joyful, witty and wordless show seen around the world – “STOMP” features eight cast members who create beautiful music and sly humor with assorted found objects such as Zippo lighters, push brooms, hammer handles, garbage cans and even the kitchen sink.
Both performers are delighted to be a part of “STOMP,” which has been seen by over 24 million people in more than 50 countries.
The Fredonia duo simultaneously joined the production at New York City’s Orpheum Theatre in 2017 before joining the national tour two years later, but their roads leading to “STOMP” couldn’t have been more different.
Ms. Joyner performed in “Cabaret” and participated in Debbie Allen’s Academy Summer Intensive before joining “STOMP” soon after leaving Fredonia. “I just went to the audition as a practice, because I had always heard of ‘STOMP’ but had never seen it. I thought it would be cool, knowing that I love music and dance, and enjoyed rhythms,” she recalled.
“I just went to the audition as a practice, because I had always heard of ‘STOMP’ but had never seen it. I thought it would be cool, knowing that I love music and dance, and enjoyed rhythms.” – Jasmine Joyner
A dancer aspiring to work in that field – and not a musician – Joyner initially didn’t think “STOMP” would be a good fit, but was “super-surprised” to be chosen. “The show was more percussion than dancing, which was a little hard for me, but I was able to catch on because I understood rhythm through dance.”
Joining “STOMP” had been a goal of Mr. Perham since childhood, when his parents took him to the Orpheum to see the show as a birthday present.
“When I saw the show at the age of 10, I decided that I could do that, that I’d like to do that,” Perham said. “’STOMP’ was all the things that I liked and what I did as an artist, even at the age of 10-15 years. I played drums, liked to make people laugh, and despite my girth, liked to do athletic things,” he said. “I like running around and being physically active, and it was all those things at once.”
In fact, Perham remembers asking his parents if performers actually made a living in “STOMP,” and they said yes. “I couldn’t believe that this could be something that I could do, too.”
Perham played drums at every level of school, which led him to SUNY Fredonia as a Music Education major, with a Percussion concentration. He auditioned twice for “STOMP,” including once while at Fredonia, before 2017.
After graduating in 2012, Perham earned a M.M. in Music Performance at New York University while traveling the world as a musician and performing at renowned venues such as Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall. He was an elementary school music teacher for three years while pursuing an acting/comedy career.
Joyner has alternated between two characterizations in “STOMP” – one she describes as a more hard-core, down-with-the-guys who wields hammer handles like they were drumsticks, and another that’s more theatrical role that can be quirky or sassy.
A clarity of stage presence and articulation of physicality made Joyner compelling to watch, remembers Department of Theatre and Dance Associate Professor Paula Peters. She exhibited a strong understanding of rhythmic complexity and musicality in her dancing.
“She also understood how to engage artistically and present herself in ways that were specific to the task being asked of her, or ‘understand the gig’ as we call it in the professional dance world,” Ms. Peters, coordinator of Fredonia’s Dance Area, explained.
Joyner was very self-contained and focused, Peters said. “She knew what she wanted and worked quietly towards those goals.” It’s no surprise to Peters she was hired by “STOMP.”
As a high school senior, Joyner was quickly hooked on Fredonia’s Dance program and Department of Theatre and Dance Associate Professor Samantha Kenney. “When I auditioned for the school, I loved how the dance teacher pushed me to be the best that I can be; she pushed my limits as a dancer. That’s what caught my attention to become part of the Dance program, because I wanted to improve my dance technique, and having a professor that really cares drew my attention, and I knew that I would get my worth out of the dance experience,” Joyner said.
Through Professor Emeritus Helen Myers, then head of the Dance program, Joyner learned how to carry herself through auditions and how to get them. Adjunct Lecturer Angelika Summerton helped Joyner improve in ballet, her weakest technique.
Perham has been cast in four “STOMP” characterizations – two that are comedic parts with a theatrical flair, and two that are drumming-centric. In one of them, Perham is wild and crazy and likely to do unexpected things, but only after the audience gets to know him.
Perham, who’s proud to have played in every School of Music ensemble, indicates his Fredonia experience has enabled him to do the work that he loves to do. “It’s a rare occasion to do what you love, and that is a great privilege that I have,” he said. “I will always be grateful for the experience from Fredonia, and Fredonia in general.”
“There isn’t a day of the week that I don’t think of Dr. Karolyn Stonefelt and everything that she did for me as a musician and as a person...“she saw the potential that I didn’t even see in myself.” - Sean Perham
“There isn’t a day of the week that I don’t think of Dr. Karolyn Stonefelt and everything that she did for me as a musician and as a person,” Perham said. He arrived at Fredonia as a rock drummer, and “she saw the potential that I didn’t even see in myself.” He improved his skills in interpreting music as a member of ensembles led by Associate Professor David Rudge and Professor Paula Holcomb.
Though he graduated almost 10 years ago, SUNY Distinguished Professor Stonefelt still has a vivid memory of an early meeting with Perham during an accepted student visit.
“There was Sean, a rather tall fellow, kind of floating across the roadway from Steele Hall toward Mason,” Dr. Stonefelt recalled. “The wind was really blowing and he had on a longer black coat – looked like he could take off and fly away, but it was clear to me right there and then that he was grounded and going to do ‘something’ positive in life.”
Perham was an excellent percussion student, compassionate and outgoing, with a passion for comedy, added Stonefelt, who directs Fredonia’s Percussion Studies program.
Rochester’s performances on May 6 and 7 are presented by the Rochester Broadway Theatre League and NAC Entertainment, Ltd., which specializes in presenting national touring Broadway shows in New York and Pennsylvania.