Students have stepped up to revive a completely student-run production about footwear this December.
“Shoes,” which premieres on Sunday, Dec. 8, at 7 p.m., features an array of original pieces performed and directed by students in the theater department. Additional performances will take place on Monday, Dec. 9, at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. All performances are in Tomlinson Theater and cost $10 to attend. All proceeds go to the theater department.
This year will mark the third non-consecutive year that “Shoes” will be performed at Temple. The first productions were in 2009 and 2010 and were directed by the creator of the production, Steff Kryor, a theater major who graduated in 2010. After she left, the charitable performance ceased its annual production.
Participating students said they are happy to restart efforts to raise money for their department while providing students with an opportunity to get involved with writing and directing.
“It all ties in,” freshman theater major Kara Bowen said of the show’s benefits for students.
She is one of roughly 20 cast members in “Shoes,” which is Temple Theaters’ latest production. The show has many shoe-related puns, she said.
“After [Kryor] graduated, we didn’t have anything,” said Bridget Reynolds, a senior theater major and one of the two directors of the production. “Josh [Kachnycz, the other director] and I got together this year and we were like, ‘Why don’t we bring back ‘Shoes?’”
The cast members, all theater majors, were told to base their performances on a specific theme.
“‘Shoes’ is a Temple Theaters fundraiser that uses the talents of the students here to raise money,” Reynolds said. “It’s a variety show that we’ve created as an ensemble based around the idea of getting to know someone through walking in their shoes.”
“There’s a dance piece that tells a story,” Bowen said. “There’s a movement piece that relates back to the discovery of shoes, there’s a few original songs being performed.”
Because “Shoes” revolves around the concept of taking a walk in someone else’s shoes, the performers involve each other in the creative process of their pieces rather than focus on showcasing their individual talents.
Since “Shoes” has always been student-run, Reynolds and Kachnycz said they did not have much trouble propositioning this idea to the theater department.
“We got together over the summer and started talking about it,” Reynolds said. “Then we got back to school, we talked to the chair of the department and he said, ‘Yeah, that’s fine.’ It’s been pretty easy since then.”
Peter Reynolds, the head of musical theater at Temple, said he knows little about the details of “Shoes.” It is truly run by the students, for the students, he said.
“The entrepreneurship of the theater students truly impresses me,” he said. “With the use of departmental space and their own imaginations, they create powerful and fulfilling evenings of theater. The theater department greatly appreciates [the] benefit [of ‘Shoes’] and the commitment of our outstanding students.”
Bridget Reynolds said that rehearsals, which took place on Sundays for five-hour blocks throughout the semester, were less about perfecting the performance and more about creating a safe environment.
“Our first few rehearsals were getting to know each other,” Bowen said. “It was a lot of bonding and brainstorming without actually having guidelines. The main thing is we need to create a place where you feel safe to talk about yourself.”
One of the first rehearsals involved a discussion about the symbolic meaning of shoes, Bowen said.
“One of the performers mentioned that both [Kachnycz] and I had both taken off our shoes at the beginning of the rehearsal and why that was,” Reynolds said. “We both came to the consensus that when you feel at home in a place, that’s when you know you’re OK to take off your shoes. You feel comfortable.”
Creating this open environment ended up achieving results that many productions don’t even begin to touch on, students said.
“There are a lot of people in [‘Shoes’] who we’ve only seen one side of,” Reynolds said. “A lot of people are bringing out new sides of themselves that you don’t normally get to see.”
The piece Bowen directed deals with her personal vulnerability as a performer. She will perform an original song starting without any shoes on, but will put them on before the finale.
“By putting on my shoes, I’m putting on the things that make me stronger,” Bowen said. “It’s taking a walk in my shoes performance-wise.”
Although the pieces range from solo monologues to group movement performances, they all revolve around the same central idea. While the production raises money for the department, it also delivers a cohesive message.
“At first when everyone was giving their ideas, it wasn’t seeming like it would fit together,” Bowen said. “But the more that we’ve been working on it and the closer we get, it’s become like a storyline.”
Because of this collaboration effort, students said “Shoes” has become more than a benefit performance.
“It’s got some valuable lessons and some cool ideas and things to leave people thinking about,” Bowen said.
Grace Holleran can be reached at email@example.com