About the Program
Our members come from all over the world. Whether immigrant or refugee, many women are professionals in their own countries but need to improve their communication skills in English to attain their goals in Canada. Others are homemakers, workers or have had their education disrupted but have the desire to lead. We want to raise the voices of all.
Our program has two major components: the first is a writing workshop. When stories are completed, each woman moves on to personal performance coaching, the second part of our program. The two come together when they perform for the public.
How it Works
Shoes are a metaphor for journey and transformation. They are with us every step of the way. They are also a great icebreaker for groups of women of diverse age, faith, background and language.
In each city, our team recruits through newcomers associations and social media. 12 participants are selected based on their desire to write and share their stories. We even offer the option of performing for the public. Almost every woman takes it!
Participants attend 10 weeks of workshops led by one of our writer-mentors. She will work with each woman to discover and craft a story of her journey to Canada, shaped around a pair of her shoes. This is a collaborative process and workshop participants are supported by their peers.
Once she has completed her story and shared it with the group, each woman begins the one-on-one voice and performance coaching. She may then rehearse with the group, and bring her story to the stage.
And then they take to the stage. There have been performances in Toronto, Vancouver, Canmore, Calgary, and Halifax attracting audiences of their families and communities, the general public, and other newcomers. The experience of sharing these deeply personal stories is empowering, and, for those who are there to hear, profound.
Since the first performance in 2011, The Shoe Project has now completed thirty separate events in different venues, ranging from synagogues and churches to conference centres and theatres. Click to learn more about our work, and get in touch if you would like to discuss bringing The Shoe Project to your community, or using stories in your classrooms or events.
The Shoe Project began here, in the lunch room of The Bata Shoe Museum, in 2011.
The Shoe Project held its first workshop in Calgary in 2016 with the valued participation of the Calgary Immigrant Women’s Association. Its first public performance was in January 2017; for the past three years it has appeared as part of the High Performance Rodeo, an international theatre festival. The women who attended the writing workshops develop deep personal connections which provide the support for them to get up on stage and tell their personal stories to an audience of strangers.
The city has embraced The Shoe Project wholeheartedly. All our shows sell out. The presentations are emotional and the audience leaves feeling deep connections to the performers.
TSP’s first performance in Vancouver in 2018 showed us how much interest there is for The Shoe Project in Vancouver. It was standing room only at the Museum of Vancouver when women from Syria, Tibet, Eritrea, Colombia, Somalia, Indonesia, Iraq, Bangladesh, and El Salvador took to the stage. After the performance, the women were surrounded on stage by members of the audience wanting to speak to them. Some people in the audience became our future partners, such as Kevan Ellis, Director of Education at the Arts Club Theatre Company and Jan Littler-Finseth from Pacific Immigrant Resources Society.
The first performances in Halifax were held in September 2017 at the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21. It was a magical night where women from Yemen, Nigeria, Ukraine, Israel, Venezuela and other countries brought their words and images together in powerful and touching performances.
In fall 2019, The Shoe Project met in the premises of the Writers Federation of Nova Scotia and performs in The Music Room on March 8 2020.
Bow Valley chapter was established in 2014. It offered the first The Shoe Project workshop outside of Toronto. Immigrants and refugees are an important part of the small mountain towns of Banff, Canmore and Lake Louise. They contribute in a very real way to the local and national identity. The Shoe Project, Bow Valley has facilitated three workshop cycles. All the Bow Valley performances had sold out, with standing ovations and great interactions between the audience and the performers.
The Shoe Project, Bow Valley partners with artsPlace in Canmore for the venue and promotional support, with the Banff Canmore Community Foundation and Town of Canmore for funding, and with supportive coaching from outstanding authors and the vocal coaching talents of Nan Hughes Poole, to help each woman reach her full potential.
Edmonton's Workshop West Playrights' Theatre held the first Shoe Project workshop in 2020, during the worldwide pandemic. The performance moved online, and then in 2022, both the 2020 and 2021 participants took to the stage for two performances.
“In early 2020 I went to see an installment of The Shoe Project at the High Performance Rodeo in Calgary. It was an unforgettable experience: I was moved, inspired, and humbled. As I sat in the audience that sunny afternoon, I knew we needed to host the project in Edmonton."
Heather Inglis, Artistic Director, WWPT
Participate in The Shoe Project
If you are interested in joining a workshop or volunteering, contact us. If you want The Shoe Project to visit your community, contact us.
Become a Mentor
The Shoe Project will run training sessions in 2020 for writing mentors and performance coaches. To learn more, contact us.