COMFORTABLE SHOES is in its last couple weeks of rehearsal, before opening on October 7th, marking the accumulation of a year’s worth of work by Ida Cuttler in last season’s Neo-Lab slot. This is an exciting one for The Neo-Futurists for many reasons, including the return of Halena Kays, who is a Neo-Futurist Artistic Associate and director of CS. Halena has worked with the Neos on some of our favorite Prime Time productions of the past, including Daredevils, POP/WAITS, and Burning Bluebeard.
For this show, Halena has the pleasure of working with a couple of talented assistant directors, recruited from previous shows and the MFA Directing program at Northwestern University, where Halena is an assistant professor. Jeremy Ohringer and Danielle Roos talk process and inspiration, giving a sneak peek into the production thus far.
FIRST, WE CHECK IN
Jeremy Ohringer: Should we start this conversation the way we start rehearsals, with a “check-in?” [A daily ritual the CS team goes through, where everyone in the room says three sentences, beginning with ‘I am…,’ ‘I feel…,’ and ‘I am bringing….” At the end of rehearsal, everyone ‘checks out.’]
Danielle Roos: Sure! I am thrilled to share a bit about this rehearsal process. I feel so much respect for incredible work Ida, Katie and Halena have put in over the past year on this piece. I am bringing eagerness to see all of the play’s elements come together over the next couple of weeks before we open.
JO: I am ready to discuss this process. I feel grateful to be in the room with all these smart people. I am bringing excitement for people to come see COMFORTABLE SHOES!
WORKING WITH HALENA…
JO: I’ve been following around Halena for years. She has a way of creating a collaborative room that I just can’t get enough of. I always learn so much. This process has been a treat because everyone in the room is so game to try anything. What about you?
DR: I also feel a bit like a Halena groupie. She’s one of my Directing professors in Northwestern’s MFA program and I always learn so much from having her as a teacher. I also had the opportunity to AD for her last spring, but I was excited about getting to watch her process again, this time while working on a new play. In addition, I got to see an early snippet of COMFORTABLE SHOES performed [in its first Neo-Lab workshop showing in the fall of 2018], and was immediately fascinated by Ida’s gorgeous writing and the beautiful dynamic that Katie and Ida have on stage. I jumped at the chance to be in the room for this final phase of their work.
CHALLENGES SO FAR?
JO: It has been challenging deciding what to cut. Ida’s writing is unique and delightful. There are so many brilliant moments in the play, I think the main challenge for the team has been editing them and putting them in order. Ida has the lion’s share of this work, but she and Halena are super open to suggestions and ideas from anyone in the room. Maybe the biggest challenge is not getting overwhelmed by the options while still being open to all of the possibilities.
DR: I totally agree, Ida has written such a variety of beautiful stories that there’s many directions this show could go. It’s both sad to say goodbye to sections of her writing as the script gets edited, but also rewarding to see the play as a whole become clearer and more focused on the story she wants to tell.
FAVORITE MOMENTS IN REHEARSAL?
DR: I don’t want to give anything away, so I’ll be intentionally a little vague (And hopefully entice people to come see what I’m referring to!), but Ida is doing so much physical storytelling in support of the words she has written. It’s been a joy watching her and Halena figure out what each moment looks like on stage and what the physical vocabulary of this show is.
JO: An amazing moment was when Katie first brought her violin into the mix and underscored Ida’s text. The musicality of the violin compliments the musicality of the text. It is invigorating to witness Ida and Katie combine their magic.
SHARING WITH THE AUDIENCE
DR: I’m excited for audiences to share in the warmth and joy Ida and Katie exude while performing. They’ve been working tirelessly on each moment of this show, but they make it look effortless and have such great chemistry as performers. From that first sneak-peek I got a year ago, this piece felt like something truly special and I’ve been eagerly anticipating getting to see it performed in its entirety.
JO: Yes, I am continually surprised by the piece, so I can’t wait to see a fresh audience experience all of the twists and turns of COMFORTABLE SHOES!
(The conversation ends there. Regretfully, Jeremy and Danielle forget to “check-out.”)
COMFORTABLE SHOES opens on Monday, October 7th and runs through November 16th. For tickets, click here.
Jeremy Ohringer is a director and teaching artist. He recently returned from Boston where he received his MFA in directing from Boston University. Favorite projects include ANGELS IN AMERICA: PERESTROIKA and OF BLOOD AND DIRT (Boston University), MILKWHITE (The Kinematics) and WHO ROWED ACROSS OCEANS (Lost Compass Collective/Edinburgh Fringe). He also assisted Halena on POP/WAITS and ENDGAME.
Danielle Roos is currently pursuing her MFA in Directing at Northwestern University where she recently directed THE FLICK, WOYZECK, and is preparing to direct JULIUS CAESAR. Danielle is the founder of Yellow Rose Productions and co-founder of the Henley Rose Playwright Competition for Women in Knoxville, Tennessee. She also assisted Halena for ON CLOVER ROAD.