We invited The Shoe Project mentors and coaches to respond to the following question: Why have you taken on this work? This is Leah Cherniak’s answer.
I have worked in theatre all my adult life—as an actor, director, teacher and coach. Part of what I love about working in theatre is the necessary act of creating community. It happens so quickly in most rehearsal halls. There is an intimacy in making a play. You gather with others daily for long hours and weeks to discuss themes, ideas. You inhabit characters and play them with each other. You find understanding together, building something, making something and finally sharing it all with an audience. The rehearsal time is short and intense. The cohesion is powerful and so often joyful.
I experience much of this intimacy while coaching the women in The Shoe Project. There is great joy and excitement in working with each participant individually. We get to know each other rather quickly because of the questions, observations and conversations that a story provokes. Together we gain an understanding of how each story can find its way from the written page to a performance on a stage. We explore and practise how to tell their story, with the intention of standing in front of a live audience to communicate it effectively. And this offers me the privilege of getting to know each of the Shoe Project women through the search for clarity and authenticity in each story. It’s a delicate act, finding a comfortable and personal way to live on stage and tell one’s story. Often between the storyteller and the audience, an intimacy is also felt, a friendly and powerful exchange. I love watching this happen in a Shoe Project performance.
I am grateful for my many years of coaching the women in The Shoe Project. Through their stories, I have been offered insights into a part of each of the extraordinary women who participate. And in the process of coaching, they have taught me so much about courage, determination, humour and hope.