• Edge Journalist

With diverse cast in ‘The Wolves,’ Actors Theatre aims to reflect youth in America

The cast of Sarah DeLappe’s “The Wolves” at in Actors Theatre of Louisville. Photo by Jonathan Roberts.

By Martin Sanders-Whiteley

Atherton High School, Class of 2020

The setting is a soccer field where a girl wearing a jersey with the No. 46 on the back makes an offhand comment to her teammates. None take it very well. Then, stretching in unison, they turn their backs away from the character, called #46.

This subtle combination of emotion and movement has been rigorously woven into “The Wolves,” the play by Sarah DeLappe that runs through Feb. 1 at Actors Theatre of Louisville.

The play doesn’t follow an overt, overarching narrative but is made up of conversations, often in overlapping dialogue, between the girls during this soccer team’s Saturday warm-up exercises. Yet Assistant Director Julian Rufo and Assistant Dramaturg Kathryn de la Rosa worked with Director Pirronne Yousefzadeh and the cast to create this cohesive production. (A dramaturg is a literary advisor who has thoroughly researched and studied the script and helps the cast to better understand it. The dramaturg also acts as “the audience before the audience,” as de la Rosa put it.)

Within this soccer team, each member has her own distinct personality with none falling into caricatures on stage. For that, de la Rosa credited DeLappe’s writing and the playwright’s understanding of teenagers in “The Wolves.”

“There’s so much in the script that we really didn’t have to invent anything,” de la Rosa said. “Everything [the characters] say is so deliberate, and the really subtle relationships between the characters help to support that.”

The cast of Sarah DeLappe’s “The Wolves” at in Actors Theatre of Louisville. Photo by Jonathan Roberts.

Rufo pointed out that Actors Theatre also took steps to cast this production differently than many theaters have produced across the country. Actors Theatre specifically set out to give the production a more diverse cast by including actors of many different ethnicities as well as a transgender actor.

“A lot of productions of ‘The Wolves’ are really just homogeneous in the way that the girls look, and having, like, a diverse cast means that everybody brings something really different to the table,” Rufo said.

The conversations of the characters, who are only referred to by their jersey numbers, frequently intercut talk about serious political subjects with more casual ones.

“Having #7 be the one in the second scene, who has a strong reaction [to the conversation] about the [immigrant] kids at the border,” de la Rosa said, as an example, “it looks and sounds different to an audience who see a Latina actress do that verses, like, a white woman.”

Key to making the production work is synchronizing its dialogue — as the entire play is made up of conversations between the teenagers— with movement.

Rufo recalled matching text with movement as “something we had to find by experimenting with different movements, and figuring out how we can make that line land on that exact movement — but keep the movements light and natural, and make it feel like it’s just a happy accident.”

Despite the great differences among the characters, and the lack of one unifying storyline, the members of “The Wolves” come together as a soccer team, all bonded by the experience of being teenage girls.

“Seeing something so immediately about being a young feminine person in like, Middle America,” de la Rosa said, “just seeing characters that were so much like me is such a huge deal because in theater we are usually stuck working on, like, Shakespeare.”

Martin Sanders-Whiteley writes for Atherton High School’s Aerial magazine and reviews movies as Anthropomantic Fiend on YouTube.


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