Movement, body care underscore ‘The Wolves’ at Actors Theatre
The cast of Sarah DeLappe’s “The Wolves” at in Actors Theatre of Louisville. Photo by Jonathan Roberts.
By On’Dria Gibson
Louisville Male High School, Class of 2021
“The Wolves,” Sarah DeLappe’s play running at Actors Theatre of Louisville through Feb. 1, begins, with an all-girl soccer team sitting in a circle stretching from one side to the other while their overlapping conversation builds. From there, their wandering discussions often touch on dicey topics — Abu Ghraib and menstrual blood — as their bodies are in motion.
“The Wolves” is the story of a team where discussions of topics including ethnicity, boys, mental health and what’s politically correct come up during these warm-ups before weekend games.
In addition to this dialogue, movement is a key element to “The Wolves,” as DeLappe’s script indicates. The choreography audiences see on stage at Actors Theatre is, in large part, due to work by movement director Rocio Mendez, movement associate Alex Might, and soccer coach Sophia Traub. This marks Traub’s first time working on a theater production.
“I think the movement in this play, in particular, roots the audience in the reality of what’s happening,” Might said. “The movement reflects what’s about to happen and tells the story of where it’s going,”
Besides the team’s exercises during the play, there are demanding soccer moves requiring much more breath control and focus. During these moments, the characters’ conversations stop. Through passing drills and one-legged stretches the girls come together, differences aside, and work as a team.
Alex Lin as #11 in Actors Theatre of Louisville’s production of Sarah DeLappe’s “The Wolves.” Photo by Jonathan Roberts.
Cast members Sushma Suha and Angela Alise had prior soccer skills, while the other cast members had not. That’s where coach Traub was able to step in to aid the girls in rehearsals. Might and Mendez said they couldn’t have done their work without Traub’s soccer expertise.
Mendez created choreography, not as in graceful ballet steps but rigorous soccer moves, that could set the tone of the scenes. For instance, one particular scene involves some extensive footwork and juggling. That scene started out with four different variations. The scene also creates a very awkward moment for player #46 (Suha) involving a rhyme.
“Of course, it’s always risky because at one point (Suha as #46) juggles the ball — you could be a professional soccer player for two decades and still mess that up because it’s unpredictable,” Mendez said.
Might said actors needed to have breaks during their six- to eight-hour rehearsals involving lots of movement and stretching.
“A lot of this play was so physical. A lot of these stretches are hard to repeat,” Might said. “And that’s what I was finding difficult — having to repeat these things over and over for a long period of time and still be good to your body.”
Mendez said that the all-female, diverse cast that focused on the actors’ physicality made this production different than others she has worked on. She also credited DeLappe’s strong writing, which perfectly captures the teenage scatterbrained mind created, in part, from social media and one-day history lessons these teenagers relayed in their discourses just before playing soccer.
“I hope we keep making plays a bit more like this — that talk about current issues, with more strong women leads and that show how physically well we can endure this kind of work,” Mendez said.