"Shoes" is the final show in a trilogy, which has been
preceded by "The Purse Project" (2000) and "Windows" (2002). Where the last two
shows asked questions about containment and seeing, "Shoes" presents a collage of monologues, based on personal stories and
experiences, that asks about feet, protection, journey, and identity.
In preparation for
"Shoes," I asked interviewees of diverse cultural, and socio-economic backgrounds two questions: "Do you have a shoe story?" and "What do shoes mean to you?" The
answers were often hilarious, sometimes tragic, but all very revealing of the symbolic role shoes play in our personal sense
of who we are. I chose the most "performable" stories, and adapted them into a show
that includes, among others, a vagabond hippie, a college frat-boy, a struggling single mother, a fast-food worker, a recovering
addict, and a rural farmhand.
First I was
drawn to shoes as objects of practicality, self-expression, sexuality, and safety. For
men and women, I've learned shoes mean different things. A short view into the history of womens shoes tells us very quickly
how women's feet have been formed and deformed and treated as if ideas of sexuality for a desiring eye. Still, I know women will stop an intense conversation with each other if a shoe store filled with dangerous
looking shoes comes into view. Is it that we have inherited a shoe obsession through a reverse form of cultural osmosis? Do we desire the very shoes that hurt us? Why
do we want to stand around in shoes that we imagine heighten our sex appeal? Are
these ironic shoes?
Conversely, I spoke to men who are also obsessed with shoes. Some
want trendy shoes so that they can "stand out." Others want a shoe so comfortable
they forget they're wearing them - a shoe that doesn't make them self-conscious. And
then there are men who wear old tennis shoes but spoke about wanting a woman in a heel so spiked she can barely walk. What do these crossing desires say about what we want and how we see each other?
For me, shoes are many things. They
are symbols of status, class, style, sexuality, and necessity. A cheap, faux-leather shoe makes the foot sweat - an expensive,
real leather shoe lets the foot breathe. A shoe without a proper arch causes
pain, and yet, we insist on four-inch heels. Then again, heels worn by a man
can trip up our concept of sexuality, and so on.
In "Shoes," I want to reflect on the idiom, "Put yourself in my shoes"
- regardless of the cultural, geographic, and economic barriers that divide each character. The stories I quilt together in "Shoes" represent separate identities that have commonalities: they define
themselves by the shoes they wear, wore, or will wear. Like a well-worn pair
of old leather shoes, these characters have scars that ask us about where we have been or where we come from.