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‘Wolves’ brings on-field drama to Longstreet Theatre

Special to GoColumbia

The University of South Carolina Department of Theatre and Dance will present “The Wolves” through March 2 at Longstreet Theatre.
The University of South Carolina Department of Theatre and Dance will present “The Wolves” through March 2 at Longstreet Theatre. Submitted

The University of South Carolina Department of Theatre and Dance will present “The Wolves,” a Sarah DeLappe’s Pulitzer-nominated drama about the personal struggles of a girls’ soccer team Feb. 21-March 2 at Longstreet Theatre.

A 2017 finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, “The Wolves” charges fiercely onto the stage to reveal a brutally honest portrait of life on a high school girls’ soccer team.

The audience is a fly-on-the-goal as they witness the nine talented teammates warm up throughout their season, maneuvering increasingly challenging obstacles both on and off the field. From the safety of their suburban stretch circle, the team navigates big questions and wages tiny battles with all the vim and vigor of a pack of adolescent warriors. “The Wolves” contains adult language and themes that may not be suitable for children.

“There is a rawness to the writing that captures the way teenage girls speak, resulting in truthful exchanges that are contemporary and accessible,” said director Lindsay Rae Taylor, a third-year MFA directing student. “These young women are deciding what to discard and what to latch onto in terms of their relationships, their aspirations, and their beliefs. Over the course of the play we witness how the compounding effect of their individual struggles challenges the team as a whole.”

DeLappe pulls no punches with the characters’ frank language, which is delivered in a barrage of overlapping dialogue.

“The script itself is written like a musical score,” Taylor said. “I’m a big fan of overlapping dialogue, but I’ve never seen it quite to this extreme. It’s a play that will just wash over you,” she adds. “Depending on where you’re sitting in the audience, you will have your own unique experience.”

That special experience will start as soon as the audience enters theater, which is being styled by professor Jim Hunter (scenic design) and Allison Newcombe (lighting design) to re-create the look and feel of an indoor soccer stadium. The on-the-field realism will also extend to the cast, who will perform fast-paced soccer drills throughout the action of the play. With the help of UofSC women’s soccer coach Shelley Smith, and team trainer Anna Conklin, the cast’s rehearsal process will be equal parts soccer training and acting.

“These girls are serious soccer players who grew up playing this sport,” Taylor said. “And when we meet them in the first scene, they are undefeated. The drills have to be precise and impressive, so we have to train the actors as athletes.”

Cast as the team, in roles that are identified only by the characters’ jersey numbers, are Rachael Bates, Kate Chalfant, Amber Coulter, Kelsie Hensley, Olivia Hensley, Kelsey McCloskey, Jordan Postal, Erica Shields, and Susan Swavely. Associate professor Erica Tobolski plays a mother of one of the players. Costume design is by graduate student Tyler Omundsen and instructor Danielle Wilson designed the show’s soundscape.

“It will be exciting to watch,” Taylor said. “If we meet our intention, audiences will feel like an active participant in the game, trying to keep up with the rapid-fire thoughts of these women as they move around the field.”

If you go

“The Wolves”

When: 8 p.m. Feb. 21-24 and Feb. 27-March. There will also be a 3 p.m. matinee on March 2.

Where: Longstreet Theatre, 1300 Greene St.

Tickets: $22 general public; $15 for students; $20 for USC faculty and staff, military and seniors. Available at theatre.sc.edu, 803-777-2551, or at the door.