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by Guest Blogger: Tory Ross
Well friends, the day finally arrived! We moved into the Hirschfeld on Thursday and were reunited with all the fabulous things that make up our little Price and Son factory. The whole reunion got me thinking about how we spend our evenings at the show. Essentially, it's shoes. We make shoes. I won't give away any plot points, but shoes is the name of our game and while out-of-town in Chicago, we created a very interesting faux-community in our Northampton Town shoe factory. With that in mind, I decided to map the life of a Price and Son shoe and introduce you to all the people who create it, from leather bits to boxed and shipped.
In this first instalment, I have interviewed our three stitchers, who essentially take the pieces of perforated leather and stitch them together to make the upper body of the British brogue. Here are some excerpts from their interviews beginning with Caroline Bowman who plays Maggie Radcliffe, the youngest floor worker at the factory.
Tory Ross as PAT SMYTHE: So Maggie, what is your role in the shoe-making process?
Caroline Bowman as MAGGIE RADCLIFFE: Well, I sew the seams. I'm a really quick sewer and I learned from my Aunt Trish.... [now in British dialect] oh, I'm totally British...
TR as PS: But what do you mean by, "I sew the seams?"
CB as MR: Well, I basically put the shoe together. I have pieces of fabric that go over the shoe, like the leather.
TR as PS: So, you sew the leather together. Do you like it? How long have you been doing it?
CB as MR: I love it SO much. I just learned at a very young age how to sew and it's just been my passion forever and I'm so happy to be here at Price and Son! Shoes are just essential and I'm so happy to be a part of something that makes peoples' feet warm 'cause it kinda warms their hearts too, you know?
Both Caroline and Maggie are sweet, effusive and exuberant girls. Maggie sits next to Adinah Alexander's Marjorie Dawson Coombs, known more commonly around the tea cart as Marge.
TR as PS: Margie, how long you been at Price and Son?
Adinah Alexander as MARJORIE DAWSON COOMBS: I been at Price and Son for 48 years.
TR as PS: And tell me what you do at the factory.
AA as MDC: I make shoes.
TR as PS: What is your favourite part of that process?
AA as MDC: I like to sniff the glue. No, I'm kidding. That's Crispin. [More about Crispin when examine the life of a cart-pusher/shoe-shiner] I love the smell and the feel of the leather and I like to finely craft something from beginning to end. It gives you a great sense of accomplishment.
TR as PS: Who is your least favourite person in the factory?
AA as MDC: I'd have to go with Gemma Louise [pictured below, explained further in Part Four of this series].
She needs a new haircut. I think she's a little of a... you know... I'm not quite sure...
TR as PS: She's a bit tough.
AA as MDC: She's a bit tough. But if I really had to choose, I would say... Trish. I don't trust her.
TR as PS: Tell me why.
AA as MDC: I think she's... at the turn of whatever's advantageous to her, she would go with it. She's out for herself. She's only out for her own interests.
TR as PS: Would you say you're a better stitcher than her?
AA as MDC: ABSOLUTELY.
Don't get me started on Marge and Trish. It's like the female odd couple up there near the sewing machines.
TR as PS: Trish, what is your full name?
Jen Perry as TRISH: My name is Trish. It's just Trish. Don't worry about it.
TR as PS: So Trish, what do you do here at Price and Son?
JP as T: I'm a stitcher. I stitch. I make boots. I make shoes. I make tongs. I make flaps. I make heels. You know, I sew. I'm a sewer.
TR as PS: How long you been sewing?
JP as T: Oh my god. Jesus. Bloody 'ell. For forever. I been doin' it for years... YEARS... probably like, 18?
TR as PS: What's your favourite part of making shoes?
JP as T: Coffee breaks. The coffee breaks. Sometimes it's a cracker, a wafer, a cookie.. something good to eat. Sometimes on a birthday we'll get, you know, a bit of a cake.
TR as PS: Who is your favourite person in the factory?
JP as T: My favourite person in the entire factory is Don [who will be featured in Part Two of this series]. Yeah, he's my cousin as well.
TR as PS: And are you related to Maggie?
JP as T: Maggie?
TR as PS: Yeah... she's your niece?
JP as T: Oh yeah! She's my niece! But like, she's my niece to my ex-husband, so you know, there's a bit of bad blood there now cause we're divorced. But she has to be nice to me because I'm her superior.
TR as PS: So, who's your least favourite person in the factory?
JP as T: Oh, there's this old woman who works next to me sometimes. Her name's Marge. She is a sour one. She's so very sour. I don't think she's had a proper shagging in quite some time.
TR as PS: Has this animosity always been present between the two of you?
JP as T: I think she's jealous of my handiwork. I mean, I can do a zipper like nobody's business. She can't even see it anymore because she's too old.
Well there you have it folks; our stitchers. There's an abundance of this detailed character work up there on the Hirschfeld stage. Paid performances begin March 3rd. Ps. This is my job.
A vintage Price & Son ad that hangs on the back wall of our factory set.
Caroline Bowman as Maggie Radcliffe
Adinah Alexander as Marjorie Dawson Coombs
Jen Perry as Trish casting a disapproving glance at Ellyn Marie Marsh's Gemma Louise Hunter