Counterstream Radio
New Music Streaming 24/7
New Music Playlists
Browse Music, Video, Interviews and more.

Iron Shoes

A contemporary, neo-feminist folk opera combining original music, powerful singing, movement, text, humor, and environments of light.

The Latest Update

Kitka partners with Shotgun Players to present the world premiere run of IRON SHOES

Posted on October 30, 2017 by Kitka, Inc.
More Updates ▼

Kitka Collaboration Yields a Futuristic Folk Opera

Posted on October 14, 2016 by Kitka, Inc.

A San Francisco Classical Voice Feature Article by Lou Fancher


IRON SHOES Selected for Berkeley Repertory Theater Ground Floor Residency Program

Posted on March 9, 2016 by Kitka, Inc.

Kitka is honored and thrilled to be among the projects selected by the Berkeley Repertory Theater for a 2-week Ground Floor Residency Program this June. We’ll be using this opportunity to immerse ourselves in the development of the fully-staged version of our futuristic neo-feminist folk opera IRON SHOES, a collaboration between Kitka, our brilliant composer-from-within Janet Kutulas, director/choreographer Erika Chong Shuch, librettist Michelle Carter, and dancer-actors from the ESP Project. You can read the press release from the Berkeley Rep below. We’re so excited!


Librettist Michelle Carter Joins IRON SHOES Creative Team

Posted on March 9, 2016 by Kitka, Inc.

Michelle Carter is a two-time recipient of the PEN USA Award in Drama.  She has also received the Susan Glaspell Award, the Ebell Playwright Prize, the PEN West Award, Backstage West’s Garland Award, a Susan Smith Blackburn Prize nomination, and a Kesselring Prize nomination.  She’s held residencies at the Berkeley Repertory Theater (Ground Floor), the Donmar Warehouse in London, the Cite Internationale des Arts in Paris, and the Fine Arts Work Center, Provincetown.  Her plays have been produced and developed at Playwrights Horizons, Moscow Art Theater, Centenary Stage Company, Kirk Douglas Theatre, Asolo Repertory Theatre, Clurman Theatre, Abingdon Theatre, Shotgun Players, Aurora Theatre, the Magic Theatre, Symmetry Theatre, Just Theater, Crowded Fire, AlterTheater, the Women’s Playwriting Festival, the Unplugged Festival, the New York Summer Play Festival, Grimeborn Opera Festival in London, and the New Work Festival in L.A.  Music theater and dance theater projects include: DREAMSPIEL, a Ukulele Opera (libretto, lyrics) with the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain: Arcola Theatre, London.  AFTER ALL, Part I, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (Erika Chong Shuch, choreographer/director). THE LUCKY ONE (Shotgun Players).  She has published plays with Dramatic Publishing, many short stories and essays, and a novel with Penguin Books. 

IRON SHOES Awarded Additional Support from Foundation and Government Sources

Posted on March 9, 2016 by Kitka, Inc.

We are pleased to announce that the IRON SHOES project has been awarded additional support from the following foundation and government sources:

The Creative Work Fund

The Kenneth Rainin Foundation NEW Program

The National Endowment for the Arts Multi-Disciplinary and Presenting Program



Kitka, in collaboration with lead artist/stage director-choreographer Erika Chong Shuch, members of Erika Chong Shuch’s dance-theater company The ESP Project, composer Janet Kutulas, and production designer Allen Willner respectfully request a New Music USA grant to support the creation, presentation, and documentation of a new vocal-dance-theater work entitled Iron Shoes.

A contemporary, neo-feminist, folk opera combining original music, powerful singing, movement, text, humor, and environments of light, Iron Shoes will transform source material drawn Eastern European fairytales into a contemporary performance experience. Departing from conventional narrative forms, the collaborators will embark on an imaginative, evocative, and entertaining journey that uses archetypal elements from the tales as points of departure from which to explore themes of female empowerment and disempowerment, confinement and mobility, youth, age, and relationship to self, others, daily life, and dreams.

Iron Shoes imagines the meeting of three young women, inspired by characters from three separate Slavic fairytales. In the original stories, each maiden has been doomed (for different reasons) to wander the earth in iron shoes. It is only when each one has worn out three pairs of these shoes that she can hope to find ease, happiness, and authentic love. Other prominent characters in the tales include three Baba Yagas (powerful, destiny-making, wildly unpredictable, old witches), and each young woman’s lover. Interestingly, each of the male lover-characters is also navigating his own way through a set of curses, including being trapped in the form of an animal, such as a falcon or a pig.

Magic shoes appear in countless fairytales across many cultures. Shoes contribute to each story’s action by enabling or prohibiting mobility through time and space. Enchanted footwear can be involved in dancing, flight, wandering, shape-shifting, escape, invisibility, or shaking the earth. In fairytales as well as in everyday life, shoes convey powerful messages about social status, role-identity, strength-fragility, and gender-sexuality. Perhaps the most important part of our clothing, shoes represent our position in relation to reality, our social status, how solidly our feet are established on the ground. Shoes immediately communicate who we are, and what path we are embarking upon.

The iron shoe motif in Slavic fairytales is most often associated with a difficult quest or challenge faced by the protagonist. Iron itself is rich in symbolism and meaning. The 10th most abundant element in the universe, iron represents the planet Mars in astrology. In alchemy, iron rules physical strength and represents male energy. (The symbol for iron is the “male” symbol, a circle with an arrow pointing upwards and to the right). Metaphorically, iron represents discipline or a need to temper primal urges. Everyday speech reveals even more layers of meaning for iron: an iron will, constitution, grip, or resolve… ironing out problems, having many irons in the fire, etc. To be “in irons” is to be shackled. But iron can also be a tonic, a strengthening supplement connected to life-blood.

A 6-performance premiere run is planned for May, 2016 at The Crucible in Oakland, CA.


Project Media

Erika Chong Shuch’s “Chorus of Stones”/Janet Kutulas’s “Hopp Ide Tisztan”/Allen Willner Production Design Slides
Like this? Login or register to make a playlist of your favorites pieces.

This composite 5-minute work sample, prepared for the Kenneth Rainin Foundation, shows highlights from Erika Chong Shuch’s 2011 dance-theater work “Chorus of Stones”, followed by Janet Kutulas’ composition “Hopp Ide Tisztan” accompanying still photographs of Kitka’s 2010 vocal-theater production “Singing Through Darkness: Songs of Wartime” (music direction by Mariana Sadovska, stage direction by Andre Erlen). The photographs that follow show a variety of stage productions designed by “Iron Shoes”‘ production designer Allen Willner.

Erika Chong Shuch’s “Love Everywhere”
Like this? Login or register to make a playlist of your favorites pieces.

LOVE EVERYWHERE, directed and choreographed by Erika Chong Shuch, is a work by the Erika Chong Shuch Performance Project; commissioned by Dancers Group’s ONSITE Program. LOVE EVERYWHERE premiered Valentine’s weekend, 2010 in multiple high-visibility locations around San Francisco. This video clip was filmed at San Francisco City Hall. Inspired by the struggle for marriage equality, Love Everywhere is an interactive celebration of the 6th anniversary of San Francisco’s issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Janet Kutulas’ “Iron Shoes” (2013 Sketches)
Like this? Login or register to make a playlist of your favorites pieces.

This SoundCloud file features highlights of a “work-in-progress” showcase performance of Janet Kutulas’ musical sketches for “Iron Shoes”, performed by Kitka at the Piedmont Piano Company in Oakland in March 2013. Some of these sketches will be developed as part of the evening-length score for the fully-staged production of “Iron Shoes”, some may be discarded, and much more new music will be composed as a result of an in-depth co-creative process with Erika Chong Shuch, Kitka Women’s Vocal Ensemble, and the ESP Project.

Start and End Dates



Oakland, California

5 updates
Last update on October 30, 2017

Project Created By

Oakland, California
Kitka is an American women’s vocal arts ensemble inspired by traditional songs and vocal techniques from Eastern Europe and Eurasia. Dedicated to developing appreciation for music rooted in Balkan, Slavic, and Caucasian women’s vocal traditions, Kitka also strives to expand the boundaries of folk song as a living and evolving expressive art form. Kitka’s activities…

In Collaboration With

Composer and Performer
El Sobrante, California
Choreographer, Stage Director, and Performer


Leave a Reply