Women Wonders: Steph Singer’s “Simon And His Shoes” Offers Optimism

Steph Singer, co-writer of Simon And His Shoes, and “Un-Block The Music”
connected on an artistic level, but perhaps even more importantly on a “life” level during our interview. Experiencing and achieving a joyful life is on top of my bucket list goals. Not that I didn’t always want “joy” in my life, but it is different now in 2022. Why? Perhaps it is my age (over 21…LOL), my experience, losing my mom, the pandemic lockdown, the fact that my oldest daughter got married this year, the realization of a lifelong dream of having a book deal, I am not sure. But, what I do know is that Steph hit a nerve with me when she said, “I have always been interested in JOY…joy to me is not happiness. It’s the acceptance that sad things happen, but we pursue happiness or optimism in spite of that.”

Simon and His Shoes, written alongside Laurel Haines, is being performed at The Tank in NYC for a limited run through October 30. (Tickets are available at: https://ci.ovationtix.com/35658/production/1135388). It is an original musical about a pair of shoes, Bud & Beedle, who walk out on their owner, Simon, because he doesn’t wear them and he never even leaves the house. Simon chases after his shoes with the help of his younger sister Izzy. The show summary says Simon could never have guessed, but his runaway shoes might be the best thing that ever happened to him.

“Hope,” Steph said, is essential to her.  She told “Un-Block The Music” that “artists get inspiration from all parts of life. And, I feel that there are certain musicals that capture the bittersweet nature of living. That is what I strive to think about and to create work that exemplifies that experience as much as possible.”

Steph’s passion for theater goes back to her childhood in the UK. “I loved theater and film, art installations and characters as a kid. It’s a thing that just keeps coming up for me. Still, I am always trying to find a way back to that childhood innocence space…in the place of discovery. It’s my general aim. It was so obvious to me that theater was something that was prewritten in my future!”

Steph attended University Of Sussex and after graduation she got a theater job in London as a producer for big events that did beautiful public art. That was the stepping stone that lead her to starting her own company. “‘BitterSuite’ was created to re-imagine music performances. The co-founders believe that music is a multi-sensory experience; we listen, touch, taste, smell and move with it. We produce performances and collaborate with others through The Lab to deliver participation programs, talks and collaborations that explore our connection with music.” (https://bittersuite.org.uk/)

How intrigued are you? “Un-Block The Music” is fascinated and that is why a chapter of my upcoming book will be dedicated to Steph, who like many others I have interviewed, was part of the BMI writer’s workshop in NYC. Her spin, however, is so very different.

In addition to Simon and His Shoes, Steph’s other credits include the score for an immersive synth based disco horror installation Samuel. (FYI, an installation in theater is a 3-dimensional work designed to transform the perception of space.) She also scored The Moth, an immersive ballet by the New York City Ballet, and has created an orchestral score for BitterSuite’s experience HELD.

HELD combines music with guided storytelling to transport you to a cinematic universe within your imagination. Be the leading character in this intimate tale and discover where the music takes you today. Listen to a unique recording that uses the latest ambisonic techniques to provide an all-encompassing audio experience. Feel music throughout your body.

Readers must be intrigued by now. You can experience HELD at home. For tickets go to: https://bittersuite.org.uk/product/the-held-experience/

In the meantime, let’s get back to Simon and His Shoes. The show, Steph said, is about loneliness, and we started writing it before the pandemic. Steph and Laurel got the idea from “hikikomori” which is the Japanese word for a severe form of social withdrawal characterized by young adults, mostly male, who don’t leave the house; not even for school.

Laurel and I thought, “How can we make an optimistic show that tackles this phenomenon. We focused on creating characters before we started writing scenes. It was like a short story first. All of the core characters that exist in the show now…arrived then.”

All of the shoe characters are puppets. “Laurel and I had very strong feelings about the characters, the type of shoe portrayed and why characters belonged to that shoe. We worked with a puppet company called The Ladies of Mischief. We talked with them about where the mouth would be on the puppet, how much expression the shoe needed to understand what they are singing. The shoe may have eyebrows that move for example. We needed to decide what could help a shoe express emotion.”

Steph and “Un-Block The Music” discussed so many more facets of theater, audio and human response to it. Autonomous sensory meridian response, for example. Don’t know what that is? I didn’t either, but I am learning and I will talk about it in Steph’s chapter of the book. So go see Simon and His Shoes for now, and hang tight, the book is coming.

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