The character building in The Wolves, the play produced by students in Chair in Performing Arts professor Jodi Baker's <a href="/live/news/1116-the-sneeze-pleases-the-senses">Special Topics in Production </a>course, is done in a more naturalistic style than in typical theater — several conversations are often held at the same time, and the audience slowly individuates the characters from one another through these dialogues.The character building in The Wolves, the play produced by students in Chair in Performing Arts professor Jodi Baker's Special Topics in Production course, is done in a more naturalistic style than in typical theater — several conversations are often held at the same time, and the audience slowly individuates the characters from one another through these dialogues.

Set on an indoor soccer field somewhere in suburban America, The Wolves follows a girl’s high school soccer team through their weekly pre-game regimen and ritual. Conversation is scattered across the field: small solos—both intentional and accidental—emerge from the polyphony as nine girls work to understand how to individuate and belong.

This is the pregame, in between the soccer game and the rest of life. Within this liminal space the audience slowly comes to see the individuals that make up the team even as they blend into one another—like geometric shapes, configuring and reconfiguring. The various spaces the players come to occupy—foreign and domestic, individual and collective—remind the audience of the liminality of the field; the stage is a cross-section in their lives as they come together, as a unit, for a moment, and for a season. The field is a sanctuary in spite of, and perhaps because of, its limits.

The Wolves follows the conversations and social dynamics of a soccer team comprised of nine adolescent girls.The Wolves follows the conversations and social dynamics of a soccer team comprised of nine adolescent girls. Credit: June Soo Shin ’21The play’s focus on issues of identity, freedom of speech, equality, and belonging make it especially relevant for the current cultural and political environment, co-director Kiera O’Brien ’18 said.

“I was really interested in The Wolves because, yes it’s about women’s bodies and women’s bodies moving in union and ritual, but it’s also about how we understand how we belong and how we, particularly in the US, do or don’t have hard conversations,” O’Brien said. “It’s about addressing what we feel is comfortable to say and what we feel like we can discuss. I feel like the viscera that’s involved in these tough but necessary conversations comes out in this piece.”

Layers of conversation fill the indoor field of The Wolves, as the young women purposefully occupy this small physical space. The organized chaos of interdependent female bodies moving in coordination provides an image of anonymity where the audience only gradually distinguishes the individuals that make up this team.

In Special Topics in Production, an experiential course taught by <a href="/live/news/1356-coa-professor-named-to-permanent-faculty">COA Chair in Performing Arts Jodi Baker</a>, center, students research, rehearse, and produce a performance for the public in collaboration with a faculty director.In Special Topics in Production, an experiential course taught by COA Chair in Performing Arts Jodi Baker, center, students research, rehearse, and produce a performance for the public in collaboration with a faculty director. Credit: June Soo Shin ’21

In The Wolves, DeLappe crafts a parallel between the disconnect of suburban adolescence and the isolation of an indoor field. This theme is particularly important for some students in the course.

“Personally, the play makes me think about the personal and the universal. In the beginning the young woman talk about world problems, genocides, massacres, dictatorships as if they are far away: We don’t even know how to pronounce certain phrases! We feel they are horrible but we can’t empathize,” Anđela Rončević ’19 said. “ Yet, then suffering happens directly in front of our eyes and it hits us — the wider scale of things. Everything about our setting is isolated. It’s indoor, its on fake grass. It’s not even called fake grass, its called Astroturf!”

The plays chosen for Special Topics in Production are produced by students, including non-actor aspects of production such as dramaturgy, set design, light and sound design, and stage management.The plays chosen for Special Topics in Production are produced by students, including non-actor aspects of production such as dramaturgy, set design, light and sound design, and stage management. Credit: June Soo Shin ’21The mood of the play, and conversations and emotions shared between team members, are in constant flux. Moving through humor, aggression and insecurity, such fluctuations reflect the reality of what it means to transition through adolescence to adulthood as a young woman in suburban USA.

“We are not trying to recreate an indoor soccer game. That is not the role of the piece. The piece is about bringing to the fore group dynamics and highlighting this intimate liminal space that happens with these girls,” O’Brien said. “The text itself demands more attention than I think people would think being about nine girls warming up for a soccer game. For example, it’s not simply what stretches do soccer players do before games, but it’s about what stretches do they want to do that allude to this ritualized action of coming together,sharing this space, and working hard.”

To bring The Wolves to actuality an all female cast and crew researched, rehearsed, and produced the play. Students from the class took on multiple roles in the production of the play, including director, set designer, light and sound designer, stage manager, dramaturgist, and actor.

Students enrolled in <a href="/live/profiles/3426-special-topics-in-production" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Special Topics in Production</a>, taught by COA Chair in Performing Arts <a href="/live/profiles/1114-jodi-baker" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Jodi Baker</a>, spent their winter term staging the play The Wolves, written by Sarah DeLappe.Students enrolled in Special Topics in Production, taught by COA Chair in Performing Arts Jodi Baker, spent their winter term staging the play The Wolves, written by Sarah DeLappe. Credit: June Soo Shin ’21

The work that went into producing the play over the 10-week term exemplifies what it means to learn at COA, where education is engaging, challenging, and rewarding. Just as the actors are pushed to think on their feet, responding to balls and snippets of dialogue, students at COA immerse themselves in a continuous process of reacting to one’s environment.

For their production of The Wolves, a play written by Sarah DeLappe, students enrolled in COA Chair in Performing Arts Jodi Baker's Special Topics in Production course had to learn how to play soccer, and stretch properly, as part of their rehearsal work.For their production of The Wolves, a play written by Sarah DeLappe, students enrolled in COA Chair in Performing Arts Jodi Baker's Special Topics in Production course had to learn how to play soccer, and stretch properly, as part of their rehearsal work. Credit: June Soo Shin ’21Producing the play has provided perspective on the value of the interdisciplinary education one receives at COA, Rončević said.

“This play does not ask me to stop thinking about my other passions. Like photography, it’s all about composition: I am more aware of my body in a diagonal with number 11 (another player on the field),” Rončević said. “Or pottery, teaching one about the idea that you can’t leave for the weekend because if you leave campus you can’t add your handles to a pot — the clay gets too dry. It teaches you about time and timelessness.”

“The time on the stage, for example, is so different from the time you experience in everyday: a couple of minutes become an eternity,” Rončević said. “Maybe it’s a cliche to say, but theater has so many worlds in one world. It brings into question: should we get so obsessed with one thing or instead have this massive, chaotic, organized journey just here, on the In The Wolves, the field is a sanctuary in spite of, and perhaps because of, its limits.In The Wolves, the field is a sanctuary in spite of, and perhaps because of, its limits. Credit: Junesoo Shin ’21Astroturf?”

The Wolves
Directed by Jodi Baker

Production Team:
Abigail Jackson - Design
Aimee Miranda - Stage Manager
Lily Gehrenbeck - Stage Manager
Thule van den Dam - Dramaturgy
Kiera O’Brien - Assistant Director

Ensemble:
Isabel Shaida - Movement Director & #25
Margherita Tommasini - #00
Leta Diethelm - #2
Evening Primrose Meunier - #8
Emily Engelking-Rappaport - #11
Andela Roncevic - #13
Bea Butler - #7
Estefany Perez - #14
Ela Keegan - #46
Jen Shepard - Soccer Mom