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Character Shoes

I’m wearing my favourite shoes today.

My mom took me to buy them to play Liesl in The Sound of Music nearly twenty years ago. They’re Nine West, plain black lace-up ankle boots with a 1 inch heel and squared toe. They are both delicate and sturdy, 1990s fashion forward and Victorian. The perfect character shoe. And they actually fit my abnormally tiny feet. In fact, these shoes feel like a second skin.

These shoes first danced in Austria with Rolf in ‘Sixteen Going on Seventeen’ and clipped along with the other von Trapp children in ‘Lonely Goatherd’. In a stage adaptation of Jane Eyre, they were somehow perfectly suited to play Helen Burns AND Adèle Varens AND Diana Rivers up in Yorkshire. They dutifully skittered around under a long gown in Much Ado About Nothing somewhere in Italy. And up in Scotland, they managed ballet in Brigadoon beneath Bonnie Jean’s petticoats. Then they carried Bianca all the way to the Wild West in The Taming of the Shrew. They found themselves back on the Yorkshire moors on the determined feet of Mary Lennox, conjuring spirits and consoling Colin in The Secret Garden. They hopped over to Ireland to be rather lovesick in Dancing in Lughnasa. And they hopped back over to Morse’s little feet in 17th Century London to fight the plague in One Flea Spare.  They even climbed the hills of Appalachia as Barbara Allen in Dark of the Moon… twice!

Later, they became my audition shoes, shuffling my nervous body into those white rooms of terror. In some spaces, their demonstrative ‘clack-clack’ on a wooden floor is amplified, and they rang out most appallingly as I fled an audition for Spring Awakening in New York. I overheard the moderators laughing at the commotion.

Besides my momentarily burning cheeks, I didn’t mind the laughter because these shoes make me feel confident. These shoes contain the best parts of me. They make me stand a little straighter. They hold within them the lives I’ve lived, the places I’ve traveled in the hearts of the character’s I have played. I love these shoes.

These days, my beloved shoes are a bit scuffed and laces are frayed. The leather is wrinkled and the heels are worn down. Some of the stitching is unraveling. But rather than notice the imperfections of age, I find myself simply astonished that they’ve held up as well as they have. When the saleslady brought out the box, I little imagined that I’d be wearing them 20 years hence on an ordinary day in London.

Today is an ordinary day, but there is an extraordinary little secret inside of me with these shoes on my feet. It’s the secret of potential and hope, of life lived and a life yet to live. It’s the secret of all the passions contained inside of me as I quietly sit at my desk, invisible to those around me, these people who can’t quite remember my name after 3 years at this office job.

Maybe they can’t remember my name because I am so many people in one person. A vast warehouse of characters waiting to be plucked off the shelf and learned and lived. And I love them all dearly, these characters in the wings, more than I love myself. Because they are my best self, myself, a self that could not endure without their support. A self that has a greater knowledge of the world and shares a pulse with the collective heart.

These favourite shoes. My self.

xWeekes

18 thoughts on “Character Shoes Leave a comment

  1. Ah Ali- I’m so impressed to read of all of your characters- better start wearing in a new pair of shoes though for all the new roles ahead! I’ll chip in!!

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  2. This is beautiful. I am filled with all sorts of emotions. Extreme nostalgia. Yes, a lot of life yet to live, Little One. Hope springs eternal for sure. XXX

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  3. I’m imagining you clicking the heels of those shoes together and saying, “There’s no place like the stage. There’s no place like the stage.” And POOF, they’ll take you there…well, okay, I suppose it’ll be your talent that takes you there, but you know, you can’t deny the power of a kick ass pair of shoes! Love this post!

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  4. These boots were made for… Acting? Apparently so – how great that they’ve seen you through so many different roles! And they’re still going strong – did they grace Lily’s feet for your most recent performances? I’m sure they’ll see you through many more successful auditions… And if you want to thank them for all their hard work, a decent cobbler can do a heel replacement for waaaaay less money and heartache than it would cost to get a new pair! Really enjoyed this 😀

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    • Alas, Lily was more of high-top Reebok kind of a gal. It was fun remembering which roles wore the shoes and which ones didn’t. I knew another pair of beloved shoes that were unfortunately the property of the UGA costume department (despite my begging) that I ended up wearing in 3 difference productions. They were these tiny vintage heels made in my size from back when more women had small freak feet. I miss them! I bet you have some precious relic boots of your own? Thank you for stopping by and reading! 🙂

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      • But of course! And yes, I still have my first pair of Doc Martens that I got for the school disco in 1995 – eeeeek! That’s a long time ago! They’ve picked up some paint splatters and scuffs along the way, but they’re the old-school shape with the rounder toe, so I’m glad I held on to them! They really don’t make ’em like that any more… These days a pair of Docs only lasts me about 4 years. I can’t believe UGA wouldn’t let you keep the vintage heels, by the way! It might be years before another dainty-footed actor capable of wearing them passes through their doors! 😂

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      • They don’t make anything like they used to… I hope you only bring your original Docs out on special occasions to stretch out their usage another 20 years! Haha and yes, that was my exact argument with the costume department–I was like, there is pretty much zero chance anyone else will ever fit into these shoes! Gimme! They also hand made an authentic, utilitarian Victorian corset specifically to my measurements for another show…. I guess that’s also packed up somewhere, wasting away! When I could be wearing it on a daily basis! Like any normal person would want to do!

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      • Yeah, you’re telling me! A few years back, I broke 2 pairs of work-appropriate “girl shoes” in the space of a month by walking to and from my job in them… So I suppose 4 years for Docs is actually quite passable! 😆 Maybe I’m the problem here?! So sad that you have custom-made stuff out there which is probably just sitting in a box… But hey, your first act as a celebrated alumnus can be to waltz on in there and liberate them! Because who wouldn’t want to be wearing a corset and heels in this weather? 😂

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      • Hahah B is like that with shoes–he wears them SO HARD. Except for this nasty pair of red (now brown) flipflops that he has managed to keep intact for about 5 years now, much to my dismay. Haha maybe I’ll be less of a diva when I’m big and famous and I’ll graciously allow them to auction off my undergarment for a charitable cause! 🙂

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      • Haha! Gosh, Future Weekes is so generous! 😀 I’m pretty sure the V&A will want to get their mitts on that corset for a future gala exhibition that also features your magic character boots! And speaking of shoes, I’m guessing B’s flipflops are getting a good workout this weather? On the bright side, this might be the summer that finally destroys them! 😂

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      • Hahaha that’s truly the dream, to be featured alongside Sarah Bernhardt in the V&A! And hahaha maybe B’s flipflops can feature there too in some ‘indestructible materials’ exhibit.

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  5. Gorgeous post, Weekes! 🙂 It truly is remarkable how many characters have stepped into those delicate and sturdy boots, and from the looks of it, the pair are still going very strong! Your post brings new meaning to the ‘walk a day in her shoes’ adage (What day? And which her? So many to choose from!). 🙂 I love the idea that all of the characters are a best self waiting to be plucked off the shelf – it’s inspiring to be reminded that we are very much more than we think. These boots are timeless!

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    • Awww, thank you, Shirley! I’m wearing them again today to audition for a no-bull southern lady role… don’t have to stretch too far to pull that character off the shelf! Yes, I think we all have these multitudes inside of us just waiting to get out. I guess it’s just a reminder that we must be awake and listening to access them!

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