Feeding The ‘Wolves’: UA play a challenge for cast of young women

Feeding The ‘Wolves’: UA play a challenge for cast of young women
LARA JO HIGHTOWER/Special to the Free Weekly

Playwright Sarah DeLappe’s play “The Wolves” is, ostensibly, a play about high school girls playing soccer: The audience eavesdrops on seemingly mundane conversations held over practice sessions. Insults are hurled, alliances are made (and broken), and these athletic teenage girls speak in a language that’s all their own. Five or ten minutes in, however, it becomes obvious: There is a lot going on here.

“I see this play as a play about survival,” says Kate Frank, director of the University of Arkansas production on stage this weekend. “It is a tightly written, dark comedy about adolescent female athletes growing up in 21st century America.”

As the play progresses, it becomes clear why the playwright chose this particular title.

“In our bird’s-eye view as an audience, we are invited to witness spontaneous, unfiltered conversations about whatever is exciting or disturbing them on that particular day,” explains Frank. “They gossip and lament over wide-ranging topics, from their social studies class, where they are learning about genocide, to the scary and uncomfortable changes that are taking place in their own bodies. During this most perilous phase of their development in life, these teen girls find strength in bonding together as a ‘pack,’ rallying their fierceness and wildness through the game of soccer in order to survive and win.”

Most of the girls have known each other since childhood, though a newcomer gives us a glimpse of what it’s like to try and infiltrate the group. DeLappe’s dialogue is rapid fire, full of colloquial language, and both hilarious and heartbreaking by turns. Frank calls the language “hyper realistic” — and as it would be with any group of teenagers, pay attention, because the action moves quickly, and you won’t want to miss a thing.

The cast of 10 women — all playing high school students, except in one role — seems an ideal choice for a university production, and, indeed, Frank says the play has been a hit with the cast.

Sarah DeLappe’s play “The Wolves” was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2017. Chicago Tribune critic Chris Jones called it “a formidably precise piece of observational writing.” Charlotte Stover plays No. 00 in the University Theatre production that opens this weekend. (Courtesy Photo/Ash Micheel)

“The actors in the show have expressed that they love that the play is high-energy and very physical,” she notes. “They’ve mentioned that it has been a strong bonding experience and that the show deals with very serious, real-life problems.

“The play is an exciting choice for our students, providing many roles to young women in our program , and an opportunity to work on a contemporary play by a promising young female playwright,” she continues. “The play also demands strong physical preparation and training that is ideal for young actors.”

This will be the University Theatre’s second live production since its stages went dark starting in March 2020 due to the global pandemic. Last month’s “Love’s Labours Lost” was performed in the miniature Greek theatre right outside the Fine Arts Building.

“It is interesting to note that there are 10 roles altogether,” says Frank. “Of those 10, at least half are played by freshmen and sophomores. These young actors spent either their senior year in high school or their freshman year in college on Zoom! Needless to say, they are ecstatic to be working in this live production, and they are all so grateful to have this opportunity.”



‘The Wolves’

WHEN — 7:30 p.m. Nov. 3-6 and 2 p.m. Nov. 7

WHERE — Global Campus Black Box Theater in Fayetteville

COST — Free, but tickets must be reserved online

INFO — uark.universitytickets.com or 575-4752

Categories: Theater