We invited The Shoe Project mentors and coaches to respond to the following question: Why have you taken on this work? This is Alison Matthews’s answer.
When Katherine Govier contacted me about coaching for the Vancouver chapter of The Shoe Project, I thought it sounded interesting. Much of my work is with actors, and I do like opportunities to work with different groups of people. I was also keen to have the chance to support women.
What I am discovering through this work is a kind of unfolding and revealing. Each time we meet, warm up our bodies and voices, practise speaking the stories aloud, and build a public performance, I understand a little more about what The Shoe Project is really doing. The women and their stories come into focus, and this is a radical act. Centring women’s voices, especially the voices of women from marginalized communities and less developed countries, is not the way our mainstream power structures were designed. I know so little of the struggles of women in other parts of the world. And they share them with sensitivity, passion and grace.
I love exploring the nuances of speaking in front of audiences. But the participants of The Shoe Project are also working very practically on language skills. They sign up to work on their skills in written and spoken English. It is professional development—job training. And it’s a way for them to tell their story and to connect with their new communities here in Canada. I am honoured to serve them—not only because of the sacrifices they’ve made and the hardships they’ve faced in coming here, but because their presence here is a gift to us.
I do this work because the women who come to the project are remarkable. I do this work in hopes that we may listen and learn.
Alison Matthews is a voice specialist in the Drama Department at the University of Alberta. She is also a founding faculty member at the Arts Club Actor’s Intensive and Head of Coaching for the Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival, where she has coached since 2007. Alison is the voice instructor for the newly created Realwheels Acting Academy: a professional training program for artists in the disability community. With 30 years of professional acting experience, Alison has numerous film, television and theatre credits. She has been in demand as a professional voiceover artist for over 25 years.