In Defense of Wearing Heels on Stage

by The Second City

JAN 23, 2014

As the literary great Mark Twain once wrote, “Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world.”

Wait, that was Marilyn Monroe.

Whoever said it, it’s true. And it’s even more true when it comes to wearing high heels on stage. Worried you’ll be at a disadvantage in your non-Chuck Taylored feet?

This is how you rock it.

Pick a Heel (Within Reason)


When I say “heels,” you’re probably imagining those Lady Gaga-Alexander McQueen-lobster claw shoes. Those are ridiculous/fabulous and so expensive we all could pool together our GrubHub salaries and still come up short.

I’m talking about something you can pick up at DSW with your $5 birthday certificate. (If you’re not a member of DSW Rewards, stop reading now and go sign up.)

You’re not Lady Gaga. You’re a lady who needs a bit of flair added to her show outfit. So pick a heel that makes logical sense to you. Scared of towering stilettos? Try a delicate kitten heel, only an inch and a half high. Can’t balance on a pencil-thin pump? Try a wedge or cone heel, a shoe with a sturdier base. Pick what makes you feel cute and comfortable. Comfortable heels exist.

Stop laughing.

Add Some Spice


Ladies, we’ve all seen standard Second City Improv Outfit in “Woman.” We’ve all worn it. If you haven’t, let me break it down for you: black dress, black tights, black cardigan, black flats and maybe, just maybe– if your Writing 6 director decreed it– a skinny belt in a solid color!

This is all well and good, but it’s just an outfit. It’s not a look unless you have that something special to make you stand out.

A simple pair of heels in a bright color or fun pattern can be the “pop of color” we hear so much about. Imagine walking out on that monochrome deMaat stage in fierce blue heels or channeling Minnie Mouse with some festive yellow pumps! Minnie managed to marry Mickey, mix up macaroni and mambo with the Mouseketeers in a pair of heels.

You can play a game of Freeze Tag.

Strap Yourself In


By now, you’re standing in DSW staring down a wall of heels. How can you make the sartorial Sophie’s Choice that awaits you?

Pick a pair with an ankle strap. What? Yes. Do it. Pick a pair with an ankle strap or a Mary Jane or better yet, an ankle boot. Why? Security.

Have you ever seen a show where a performer starts rolling around on the ground or runs across the stage and their shoe comes off? Would not have happened if their shoes had an ankle strap.

Practice Makes Perfect (Strut)


And by now, you’re reading this article on your smartphone, clutching a pair of red wedges, and pretending to put on one of those gross nylon try-on footies while the store employee watches when your brain drifts to that GIF of the little girl falling over in her mom’s heels, or that GIF of the model twisting her ankle in stilettos or that GIF– why are there so many GIFs of high heel accidents?

Calm down. Put on the heels. Walk up and down the aisles a few times. Pretend to be Naomi Campbell or RuPaul or Jared Leto. Do you feel secure? Stable? Sexy? Then lay down your mama’s credit card, because you’re still paying off that black dress/black cardigan combo you splurged on last week. (After all, you’ll be wearing it for years and years and years.)

It may be tempting to break out those heels right away at that big audition or showcase, but practice in the safety of your own home first. Walk around your house and get acclimated so you don’t bite it when you ask for a suggestion.

Be Womanly (If You Want)


My favorite part about wearing heels on stage is that it reminds the audience that you’re a woman. Admittedly, wearing heels is a pretty basic way to show your womanhood, but it’s a simple and cheap one that doesn’t require a pelvic exam.

In the wise words of (one of) Don Draper’s (infinite) mistress, Bobbie Barrett, “No one will tell you this, but you can’t be a man. Don’t even try. Be a woman. It’s powerful business, when done correctly.”

Women’s bodies are different; the way we see the world is different. We have a unique comedic point of view just based on the fact that society demands we wear dresses and make-up and heels.

Why not strap on the things that are meant to turn us into docile sexpots and be rowdy and powerful and impossible to ignore on stage instead?

Ali Barthwell is a Chicagoland native and Wellesley alumna. She is a member of Moxie, an Official House Ensemble of The Second City Training Center. She tweets about her life and her shoes @wtflanksteak.

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Remember that one time you so knew you had blepharitis? For years, your superior symptom-Googling gave you a certain… I dunno, air of medical quasi-authority. Donʼt pretend like applying to medical school never crossed your mind… because you still had time to consider a career change. So letʼs see. If you start now, you should be a full- fledged M.D. when youʼre about 47 or so. Or maybe marketingʼs not so bad, after all.

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Flirt with Guys Who Look Like Johnny Depp

Let me save you on this one. Hereʼs what you donʼt want to have happen:


(breathy whisper, to dirty-hot barista)

Wow. You look just like Johnny Depp.


Thank you, maʼam.

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Change Your name to Samantha

If youʼve been holding on to this dream past the age of nine and/or the cancellation of Gimme a Break!, weʼve really gotta talk. Unless your name right now is Arnold, Ralph or Joshua, in which case, I totally support you and want you to know I just want you to be happy. Everyone deserves to live their all of dreams. Mostly.


Liz Kozak (Editor) is a writer in Chicago who would take commas and hyphens over cake and ice cream any day. She also contributes regularly at The Huffington Post and blogs about stuff at Follow Liz: @LizKoz



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-A Stress-Free CTA Ride. Yes, the CTA sucks. But looking in the direction of the next train doesn’t make it arrive faster, and working yourself into a quiet rage while squeezed between a DePaul student’s backpack and a lunatic pissing his sweatpants doesn’t get you to work any faster. Instead, force a smile and accept the CTA for what it is: a poorly-run public service.

-That Million-Dollar App Idea. You know that simple-yet-amazing iPhone app idea you have? Someone else developed it last year. Just play Powerball.

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-Flossing Everyday. Every… day…

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Asher Perlman performs with iO, Second City, and Comedysportz. He also writes and performs comedy with ATV and is a winner of the Gimme 5 solo sketch competition at The Playground.




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A Word on Marriage

I didn’t change my facebook profile picture to a pink equal sign.  Don’t get me wrong I support empty gestures as much as the next guy; and there’s nothing like a picture of Ernie and Burt superimposed over parallel lines to legitimize a serious political issue.  I’m just not entirely on board with gay marriage or heterosexual marriage either.  Sure, I’m a married man (very happily if my wife is reading this) but marriage is an institution that blurs the line between Church and State.  A couple can get married in a church or a courthouse by a reverend or a judge, where else does this crossover exist?  You can’t serve your jury duty in a church choir (although that could make for an hilarious Jack McBrayer movie).  You can’t pay your taxes with prayers (I tried).

This whole debate could be clarified if the government left recognizing marriage to the churches, temples, synagogues, and covens and simply let two people of whatever gender, race, or religion merge like corporations do.  That’s basically what marriage is in the eyes of the government, isn’t it?  Two people combine their assets, tax responsibility, and such.  Taking the word “marriage” out of the equation eliminates any questions of morality and then people who did oppose gay mergers would have to come out and say, “I oppose this because I’m a hateful, ignorant, prick”.  The U.S. does not need to legislate morality, leave that to the Taliban.  So if your church is progressive and approves of gay marriage, great; if your church opposes gay marriage, fine but the male prostitute your pastor visits is free to legally spend his life with the person he loves.  That’s win-win.  I hope the day comes soon when any U.S. citizen can get down on one knee and ask the person they love, “Will you file jointly with me?”

Ed Furman is a Second City alumni and a co-founder of the Annoyance Theater. He is a playwright and co-authored the hits Co-ed Prison Slutsand Rod Blagojevich: Superstar.


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