Between the Feet and the Stage

by on November 22, 2011 » Add more comments.

You would not believe how much angst I had in my first year as a member of The Christmas Revels chorus. The culprit: shoes. It was 2004 and the show was set in medieval England, so we had to have very simple flat shoes. At one point I thought I’d had a pair of old shoes approved, but it turned out the person who said she thought they were ok wasn’t actually allowed to approve shoes, and their thick soles made them look too modern.

That meant, 12 days before the 2004 show opened, I discovered I was shoeless. This may not sound so bad, but I was totally stressed out. I was going to be spending approximately three bazillion hours standing over the next few weeks and I have picky feet. I was also new and didn’t have a sense yet of how flexible things were; I just knew there were rules about shoes, and I am a rule-follower.

The next night, I drove around the suburbs collecting pairs of black shoes. I brought them all to the next rehearsal – our first night in Lisner Auditorium – and showed them to Mari Parkar, a veteran Reveler who’d been assigned to be my “chorus buddy,” a kind of mentor who can answer your newbie questions. I told her I was afraid the costume ladies would pick the men’s slippers with the rock-hard soles and I’d be in pain for the next two weeks.

Seven years later, I don’t remember Mari’s exact words, but it was along these lines: “Here’s what you do, Helen. Only show them those two pairs.”

So simple, and so brilliant! They chose the reasonably cute black flats with subtle white stitching, which will be appearing this December in their fourth Christmas Revels. For most other shows, I wear a pair of boots I bought on eBay in 2006 (which apparently look 19th-century enough to get by). And, one year, I got to wear my completely fabulous Norwegian dance shoes.

From left: Norwegian dance shoes - note moose on label; shoes that pass for 19th century; black flats. Photo: Helen Fields

It’s nice not to have to worry about things like this anymore. I feel like this was also a useful lesson. Follow the rules, yes–but also ask your community for help.

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