Southwestern Theatre Kicks off the Season with a Fierce Female Soccer Team
September 18, 2019
“Faster, faster! Hustle, ladies, hustle,”director CB Goodman coaches the tenacious team of actors as they propel across the stage in alternating high knees and butt kicks. These Southwestern University students are warming up for a run-through of the Theatre Department’s season-opening production, The Wolves by Sarah DeLappe.
A 2017 Pulitzer Prize Finalist, 2016 New York Times Critic’s Pick, and 2015 winner of the Relentless Award for Playwriting, Sarah DeLappe’s The Wolves is a fast-paced play that dives into the lives of nine ferocious female athletes on an indoor soccer team. A cohesive unit on the field, each member plays a distinct role in the pack: the Intellectual and the Innocent, the (Ex-)Coach’s Daughter and the Cool Girl, the Awkward Outcast and the Anxious Overachiever.
Together, they navigate the unruly terrain of adolescence, practicing rigorous warm-ups with precision and skill while talking smack, telling jokes, and volleying thoughts on everything from periods to foreign politics.
Having played soccer competitively between the ages of 9 and 18, Goodman feels a strong connection to this play and its characters and brings a unique understanding to the position of director. Ms. Goodman is a New York City–removed, Austin-based theater maker who specializes in devised theater, physical theater, object work, and puppetry, and she currently teaches Fundamentals of Acting at Southwestern. Considering her background, she says The Wolves feels like “the right play at the right time.”
One of Goodman’s goals for this production is to make sure it resonates as more than a simple story about a high-school soccer team. The more she and the cast dig into the script during rehearsals, the more layers of subtext and subject matter they discover in DeLappe’s writing. Part of their research has included looking into the bestselling feminist book Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés, which introduces the idea of embracing the “wild woman archetype”—representative of the instinctual nature of women—which has been suppressed by society’s demand for demureness. Goodman says she aims to broaden that idea beyond women to apply to anybody that feels like they have been outside mainstream society. In the process of this production, she believes the “whole journey has been How do we unleash that wild woman archetype?”
The more she and the cast dig into the script during rehearsals, the more layers of subtext and subject matter they discover in DeLappe’s writing.
Above all, Goodman thinks the main message of The Wolves boils down to boundaries. “It’s this really wonderful 90 minutes of looking at young people as they test new boundaries,” she says, “what that means morally and ethically, and what the ramifications are because their decisions and choices have a bigger impact.” She compares these boundary-bending moments to those of a toddler moving from crawling to walking: “you go to standing, and all of a sudden, the boundaries shift because you can see things, you can grab things that you didn’t know were there before.” For the titular Wolves, these blossoming desires might translate to college dreams, romantic relationships, or shedding old identities.
As much importance as the director and the team place on divulging the deeper meaning in The Wolves, portraying the sport as accurately as possible is also a top priority. The actors—most of whom do not have a soccer background—began individual physical training over the summer with a specialized routine provided by Goodman and gathered before the semester for a weeklong bootcamp.
Doing drills while also projecting and keeping up with the dialogue is a difficult balance to strike. “Similar to a musical where you have singing and dancing, we have playing soccer and speaking,” Goodman explains. The play’s structure of simultaneous overlapping conversations has inspired the team to approach the script like music. For their first read-through, they used rulers to line up dialogue and discover the dynamic flow of each conversation, and then they practiced singing multiple songs in rounds at once to master maintaining conversations while surrounded by distracting noise. Building the illusion of a long-established, deeply bonded team has also called for the cast’s focus on theater exercises that practice moving as a single organism. To Goodman, training for this show has been “all about how to listen—how to listen with your ears, how to listen with your body so that you can be so present on stage.”
Goodman is excited for audiences of all ages to see The Wolves. For younger people—“whether you’re male, female, nonbinary”—she hopes that the production is “able to reach you deep down and [make you think], ‘ah, I have been seen…My journey is up there.’” As for audiences 30 years old and up, she thinks the play is important as a reminder of the daily struggles young people are going through, which are easy for adults to dismiss when they are not regularly exposed to them. “The play, in the end, is, I think, this very beautiful, hopeful [experience] for older people and for younger people of [feeling] like we’re going to get through this. That’s kind of what I’m going for.”
Like the cool, energizing bite into an orange slice before a game, The Wolves is simultaneously refreshing and nostalgic. Do not miss your chance to see this play, running two weekends only at the Sarofim School of Fine Arts.
The Wolves by Sarah DeLappe will run September 27–29 and October 3 and 5–6, 2019. Performances will be at 7:30 p.m. Thursday–Saturday and 3:00 p.m. on Sundays in the Jesse H. and Mary Gibbs Jones Theater at the Sarofim School of Fine Arts, Southwestern University. Tickets can be purchased through Southwestern University’s Mathers Box Office in person, over the phone at 512.863.1378, or via their website at www.southwestern.edu/tickets. Season subscribers save 20% off the total cost of tickets, and additional discounts are available for students and patrons 62+.