This 2016 play, a finalist for the 2017 Pulitzer Prize, marked an impressive dramaturgical debut by writer Sarah DeLappe, who used her youthful experience on a girls’ soccer team to create a microcosm of female adolescence. In the playwright’s words, the work is “a portrait of teenage girls as human beings” that, in the Lyric staging, proved a stretching, kicking, jumping-jacking whole and the sum of its idiosyncratic parts. Taking the form of a series of chatty warm-ups by the titular team, neatly packed into the 90 minutes allotted a soccer match, the play features random, overlapping dialogue that pings around faster than even the most deftly propelled ball. But what is most striking about it, even if you don’t catch every word amid the shifting alliances and butt kicks, is that it takes its nine strong, budding personalities seriously even as it lays out the near-comic cacophony in their heads — fed by parents, politics, schoolwork, social media and a lifetime of shared pop-cultural references. A. Nora Long was at the helm of the fast-moving, high-prancing production set on an AstroTurf slope surrounded by protective netting. And the nine Wolves, most portrayed by recent graduates of respected actor-training programs, were convincing in both their ferocity as a huddled, howling pack and their vulnerabilities as individuals bravely groping toward adulthood.
We sat down with Director A. Nora Long to learn what makes The Wolves one of the most impressive new plays in recent years!
Why is this play important?
There are few groups as universally-maligned as teenage girls. The vast majority of our pop culture representations portray them as vain, shallow, cruel, and vapid. Delappe affords us a nuanced, funny, thoughtful insight into the lives of young women, as they wrestle through the rather fraught process of growing-up, focusing on their humanity, in all its wonders and flaws, and their athleticism. Make no mistake, this is a play about a team of competitive athletes. These players are seeking immediate victories but also future security and college scholarships. Like soldiers preparing for battle, we see our heroes in moments of vulnerability and triumph, brash confidence and blistering defeat. And they keep coming back each Saturday for another shot at glory. It is a story of perseverance in the face of adversity, a celebration of the human spirit, and a showcase of the extraordinary abilities of the body. In short, it is a great fucking play.
Why is the Lyric Stage the right fit for this play?
Young women are, by far, the largest demographic in the local casting pool. After spending years seeing thousands of brilliant actors for the odd part as the girlfriend, the daughter, or the broad in the tower, finding a beautiful story that plays to our community’s strengths was an obvious fit for Lyric Stage’s long-standing commitment to local artists. Lyric audiences have always prized rich, character-driven stories that offer them a unique perspective on the world. The Wolves is an astonishing play that does all that and more. Also, where else can you get the feeling of sitting pitch-side at the City Sports Dome indoor soccer field arena?
Why is this play important to do now?
It’s always the right time to do great plays, but as the national conversation seeks to be more inclusive of the experiences of under-represented groups, a play about young women as human beings and athletes feels particularly of the moment. If the future is female, have no doubt, the future is coming.
Left quad. Right quad. Lunge. A girls’ indoor soccer team warms up. From the safety of their suburban stretch circle, the team navigates big questions and wages tiny battles with all the vigor of a pack of adolescent warriors. As the author says, “I wanted to see a portrait of teenage girls as human beings – as complicated, nuanced, very idiosyncratic people, athletes and daughters and students and scholars and people who are trying actively to figure out who they are in this changing world around them.”