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From the ITF Main Stage: Kinky Boots

The cast of Kinky Boots - Denver School of the Arts
The cast of Kinky Boots - Denver School of the Arts

The International Thespian Festival (ITF) main stage celebrates outstanding student work from high schools across Thespian Nation. And this summer, those festivities continue as Thespian Troupe 5869 from Denver School of the Arts performs Kinky Boots.

Strut into the heartwarming and dazzling universe of Kinky Boots. When Charlie Price is faced with saving his family’s struggling British shoe factory, he finds an unlikely ally in Lola, the fabulous entertainer in need of sturdy stilettos. Together, they turn the factory around, crafting the most outrageously unique boots.

But it’s not just about the footwear – it’s a journey about finding your passion, overcoming prejudices, and embracing your true identity. With an exhilarating blend of humor, heart, and toe-tapping numbers, Kinky Boots is more than a musical – it’s a beacon of hope and a tribute to the power of acceptance.

EdTA chatted with troupe director Shawn Hann to get a peek behind the curtain.

Why this show? What was the spark or idea behind choosing it?​

As an ’80s child, I grew up loving Cyndi Lauper [the show’s songwriter] and how she represented being a completely unique human, holding true to herself while others criticized her. As a teen, this helped me be ME, take “you’re weird” as a compliment, and stand my ground while peer pressure tried to make me adapt to how they wanted me to behave and think.

It makes sense why [Kinky Boots] would call to Ms. Lauper’s heartstrings – it celebrates being exactly who you want to be, with no judgment, and without letting others tell you who you should be.

Being inspired by my students, especially by Neko Daniels who plays Lola, who was able to identify with his character in a deep, meaningful way and use theatre to encourage everyone to be themselves has shaped my desire to tell this story on a national stage.

The cast of Kinky Boots - Denver School of the Arts

Has your vision for the show evolved in preparation for the ITF stage?

Knowing we’re adjudicating, we usually build to travel and store. The vision has been clear throughout the process of telling this story as truthfully as possible. This show was based on a real story and real people, although it had a different ending.

Got any fun rehearsal moments?

Getting all our Angels into their heels has been an ongoing fun ride. Our choreographer, Santana Trujillo, teaches a class about moving in heels, so this was up her alley. She had all the Angels meet at her dance studio over summer and created the movements for the drag queens.

The cast of Kinky Boots - Denver School of the Arts

What’s one piece of advice you’d share with troupes hoping to make main stage next year?

Have plenty of ideas for fundraising and an idea of where those fundraisers can go in your spring schedule. Once we learned we were selected, the real work of prepping to travel the set/costumes and getting all the people needed to run the show all the way to Indiana began.

Our main fundraiser is to do a benefit performance of the show. We sell tickets in March-May and then remount the show the week before we go to Indiana in June. The Friday night before we leave is the benefit performance, then the company breaks down the set and loads it into the truck to meet us in Indiana.

What do you hope the audience takes away from your show, and why is this important to you?

I hope students who see the show identify with some of the characters and feel seen. The material is perfect to help open the doors for conversations between parents and their children and show people they might need to accept someone for what they are, just like Don, realize the power of acceptance to change the world.

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