What's rewarding about performing in 'Footloose'?

A year ago Miette Morris was recovering from reconstructive knee surgery.

Tonight she'll "kick off the Sunday shoes" as she cuts "Footloose" in BAMtheatre's production of the classic 1984 dance-heavy film. The double-cast musical runs tonight through Sunday at Nazareth Academy in LaGrange Park (see Page 20 for details).

"This is one of the very first shows I'm back actually really dancing," Morris said, exclaiming, "I do not get a break!"

That's because Morris plays Ren, the lead - and traditionally male - character famously depicted by Kevin Bacon on screen. She admitted to not seeing the movie before learning of BAMtheatre's plan to stage it.

"That's when I fell in love with the character of Ren. I saw myself in him," Morris remarked of the outgoing Chicago kid transplanted to a repressive small town, "kind of being more of the outsider and the person who's not really fitting in with the crowd all the time."

Morris approached the company's leadership about taking on the role as a female.

"It was a big ask," the Hinsdale Central rising senior acknowledged.

Depicting male Officer Lockstock in Central drama's staging of "Urinetown" this spring afforded her valuable insight into the challenges of such an undertaking. Some of her singing parts in "Footloose" needed adjustments to make sure they were within her register.

And the stamina required to project one's voice while in constant motion during a particular song also took some acclimation.

"We are full dancing and singing during this entire thing," she said. "(At first) they had me do in the original key, and I was like, 'This is kind of low for me to be out of breath and dying of choreo-

graphy.' "

Eventually she and the creative team collaborated to find the right moves.

"They said, 'We are going to make this role fit you versus you fit the role because we want to you shine,' and I cannot be more grateful," Morris said. "It's wonderful confiding in people that believe in me and making sure that they're comfortable with what I'm doing and vice-versa."

Morris, a competitive dancer before she shifted to acting, felt even her limits being pushed.

"I think this is the hardest choreography I've done to date," she said.

Children of the '80s will appreciate the familiar score and nods to the era's fashion.

But instead roller skates for the drive-in servers, they wear 21st-century Heelys.

Morris noted the parallels between Ren as a barrier-breaking figure and the effort to show the audience a different interpretation of a character they think they know.

"(Ren) just wants everyone to accept each other as they are," she said. "Playing around with the gender has been really fun to explore.

"We don't want people to be scared of this change. It's about, 'I just want to see you at face value and what you have to offer,' " she added. "It's so nice to have a community of open arms and go along with what you have to offer."

- by Ken Knutson

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean