Philadelphia Theater Company has had plans for their latest production, “The Wolves” by Sarah DeLappe since March. In fact, rehearsals for this Pulitzer Prize Finalist was supposed to start on March 15, 2020—until everything shut down due to COVID-19. Nonetheless, the creative arts company decided to do what they could to still make the long-awaited production happen.
“Philadelphia Theatre Company took a little bit of time to figure out what makes sense for the play and what format we wanted to proceed [with],” says Director Nell Bang-Jensen.”They were really enthusiastic about still trying to employ artists throughout this process to honor the work of our cast and creative team that had already been done. So, we adapted it to this virtual production, and I have to say the actors have been incredible at how they’ve adapted.”
The show, which follows nine teenage girls on an indoor soccer league over the course of six Saturdays has now been re-imagined for the virtual stage and will premiere on Nov. 27. According to Bang-Jensen, the show is one that she’s wanted to bring to the City of Brotherly Love for quite some time since she first read the script.
“It’s a play I’ve loved for a long time. I read the script when it first came out and really felt like it was a production that needed to be done in Philly. It offers roles for ten young women which is extremely rare unfortunately in an industry dominated by men. They’re playing teenagers who are in high school and it really offers an opportunity to work with people early on in their career,” she continues. “For me, it’s also a play that’s really about being a teenage girl and it takes their emotions seriously in a way that I really just appreciate and feel like it’s rare for us to put that much value in the voices of youth. It’s a play that celebrates the ideas of resiliency and community in the way these girls come together, they’re meeting week after week while their lives around them change.”
The official synopsis for the play reads: An exciting contemporary slice-of-life play and a smash hit in New York, “The Wolves” introduces nine young women from a competitive high school soccer team as they warm up. It’s a few weeks until nationals, and known simply by their jersey numbers, the team goes through its warm-ups and talks about life.
In each scene, the girls navigate the politics of their personal lives as well as the politics of the larger world, gossiping about things like war, menstrual products, genocide, sports, pop culture, and their relationships. Each team member struggles to negotiate her individuality while being a part of a group. They bond over a bag of orange slices and personal traumas. Living in between childhood and adulthood, “The Wolves” is about the moments that shape who you become the rest of your life.
“We hear their conversations that are sometimes about their personal lives, sometimes about their social studies projects or world issues. They’re wrapping their brains around a wide range of topics,” says Bell-Jensen. “Sarah DeLappe, the playwright talks about the balance of what she calls the prosaic and the profound in the play. The prosaic are the things that seem mundane in their lives but then there’s also the profound where they start talking about world issues. They experience a loss on the team and you see all of the ordinary bits of our lives that seem mundane [actually] have these larger consequences and start defining who we are in the world and how we move through it. I feel like that’s just so true to adolescence, all of these micro experiences that make us who we are and we get to see that on a week to week basis with these 9 very funny characters.”
To work on the production, all of the creative team and actors worked through Zoom to do table reads and work out rehearsal kinks. Then, the actors received their own sort of recording studio equipment including a green screen, lights and sound equipment to help make a three-dimensional production into a two-dimensional show at home.
“What I’ve been pleasantly surprised by is how a lot of the physicality can translate. I think we’re so used to opening Zoom and seeing talking heads so it’s been great to figure out how these girls physicality can translate to the screen. I’m really proud of the work they’ve done creating visual movement, despite the fact that it’s two dimensional,” explains Bell-Jensen.
This streaming play is Pay What You Can and can be streamed at philatheatreco.org starting on Nov. 27. Philadelphians should note that the play will no longer be available after Dec. 20. Patrons can call the virtual box office at 215-985-0420 to get more information.
“It’s just some humor and some joy, there are lines in this play that make you laugh out loud every time and the timing and the comedy is so well done by the playwright and the actors, so I hope it brings a sense of lightness to people. I also think it’s a play about community and people coming together week after week even after experiencing a loss, so I think it’s nice to hear stories of resilience and gathering right now in a time that we cant,” says Bell-Jensen. “It’s a great kind of empowerment story for younger women. But I think it’s also an important piece for everyone—maybe especially if you’re not in that demographic—to listen to voices of the youth and how conceiving of themselves in the future on finding their resiliency and strength as a community.”