The Shoe Project Antigonish: Immigrant women tell their stories

Arts & Entertainment Community Featured

ANTIGONISH – Something amazing is afoot in Antigonish! Immigrant women are telling their stories and letting us walk a mile in their shoes. This courageous group, led by Anne Simpson and Laura Teasdale, are joining in a movement that is sweeping across Canada, called The Shoe Project. But what is it?

Initiated by novelist Katherine Govier, the Shoe Project began as a way to assist immigrant women in telling their stories. It started with Katherine facilitating ten-week writing workshops followed by a drama specialist organizing and leading the women in a performance at the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto. Since then, immigrant women across Canada — from Vancouver to Halifax — have been involved in Shoe Projects in their communities, with professional writers and drama specialists helping to bring the stories to the stage.

The Shoe Project Antigonish, funded by the Shoe Project and Nova Scotia’s Culture Innovation Fund, marks the first time the project has been offered in a small, rural community, yet immigrant women have inspiring stories to tell here, too. Locally sponsored by Arts Health Antigonish, in partnership with Theatre Antigonish and Antigonish County Adult Learning Association, The Shoe Project Antigonish began with a small group of women who came together for writing workshops with Simpson throughout the fall of 2018 and it will culminate in a performance at the Bauer Theatre on Feb. 8 and 9.

When asked about the impact of the project, local coordinator and writing facilitator Simpson says, “When I went to see the Shoe Project performance in Fredericton last spring, I watched, entranced, as the women told their stories. I knew it could be done in Antigonish. It has been magical: AHA! has been a wonderful sponsor and ACALA has been supportive from the beginning. We also have a theatre that brings great community projects to the stage—Theatre Antigonish. Most of all, at the heart of this project is a group of women who wanted to explore their own stories. They’ve told me they don’t want it to end.”

It was not easy to find people brave enough to want to write and present their stories in front of an audience, but with much help from Jyotsna Jain at ACALA, a perfect group was formed. Diverse in age, experience and native land, they were united in their trust of Simpson, a writer herself. Together they explored their voice and style of writing, while having fun and really supporting each other. The resulting stories to be presented on the Theatre Antigonish stage are touching, wise, funny and smart. Their immigration is a central theme, and each chose a pair of shoes as a jumping off point in their writing, but that is where the similarities end. The narratives are as diverse as this group of women.

To highlight the stories of these fascinating women, Laura Teasdale was brought on board as a theatre consultant. She was tasked with putting the stories together in a creative way and coaching the participants in feeling comfortable on stage and allowing their personality to shine through. Thanks to partners at Theatre Antigonish, the show will be a visual feast as well.

Andrea Boyd, artistic director for Theatre Antigonish says, “We are so happy to be able to include The Shoe Project in this year’s Theatre Antigonish season. This project is a powerful symbol of what community theatre is all about, and it is also a wonderful chance to celebrate and embrace our rich diversity. When Anne brought this project to our attention, I knew right away that it would be the perfect fit for us. I cannot wait to watch the show and hear all the stories by these amazing women. The show is being presented free of charge, so I hope we have a packed theatre. Come early to get your seat – It will be worth it!”

Teasdale adds, “The women range in age from 25 to 75 and hail from India, South Korea, Germany, Spain, Vietnam, the Philippines, and the Netherlands. These eight women have a unique perspective on life in Canada and why they love to call it home.” The participants are Karen Bissonette, Renée Romero Brown, Willie Duykers, Almudena Garcia-Garcia, Anu Joshi, Jyotsna Jain, Soo Kyeong Lee, and Yen Ngoc Nguyen. And as a special treat, Simpson also engaged dancer and choreographer Liliona Quarmyne, whose dance will be her way of telling her own story of immigration from Ghana.

The line up will begin at 6:30, doors open at 7. Seating will be on a first come, first served basis.

For information call (902) 867-3333 or email tickets@stfx.ca.