If the Shoe Fits – Karen Hogle Brown

In my first leading role I ever sang, I sang the title character in La Perichole by Offenbach. In the first act, she is a street performer with her boyfriend, singing in the streets to make money to eat. Our costume designer put some very fun sandals on me that had leather straps that crisscrossed all the way up my leg to my knee. Well, as soon as I started to twirl around in our opening number, one of the laces came loose and started falling down my leg in a tangled mess so I couldn’t easily slip it off – it remained flopping around at my ankle. Add to this that I was already corseted under my rags for my next quick change to a wedding dress, which made bending over to reach my foot a little more challenging. Then I had a choice to make – it was obvious to the audience that I was having a wardrobe malfunction, so do I ignore it and make myself and the audience uncomfortable, or do I bring it into my character and try to acknowledge it, and do something about the predicament? Like no one ever lost a shoe back then? Of course they did. I decided to be perturbed at my shoe visibly, and during
a bit of dialogue, had a seat on a bench and finally got the blasted thing off, and tossed it aside, and even got a laugh from the audience doing it.

I think it is times like these we have to remember what it’s like to be an audience member and know what we would like to see happen to someone. We often forget that the audience is always rooting for us and wants to see us do well, and it is uncomfortable and even painful to watch someone in a predicament on stage. We want to get up and help them so badly – at least I do. I was praying that they would be kind if I tried to rectify the situation with grace and humor, and I was even rewarded with some laughter. I think as long as you can remain in your character and simply react to what’s happening to you on stage as your character, whether planned or not, both audience, colleagues and directors will be okay with your choice. I’m just hoping it’s not a larger piece of clothing I lose next time.

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