The Wolves – Lisa chats with Jessica Arthur (Theatre Interview)
The Wolves is currently showing at The Old Fitz theatre in Darlinghurst. You can grab your tickets here.
The photograph of Brandi Chastain celebrating her penalty conversion in 1999 that sealed the Women’s World Cup for the United States over China was voted the second most iconic cover image of Sports Illustrated. Not because of the win necessarily (although that was astounding) but because of the exuberance exhibited by a woman, who was supposed to be as demure in her win as she would be generous in her loss. It was this famous moment that formed part of the impetus for Sarah deLappe to write The Wolves. The Wolves is made particularly interesting (besides being beautifully written) because the way DeLappe has depicted teenage girls steps outside of pre-conceived sterotypes and its ability to invite the audience into a world previously kept at bay. If all the worlds a stage, then not only are we players, but we are following a script. I firmly believe it is the role of women today to re-write that script and The Wolves takes another step away from forcing females into an image for the convienience of others. Too suggest I am excited to see this production is an understatement. Producers, Red Line Productions have this to say about the play:
Left quad. Right quad. Lunge. A female indoor soccer team warms up. From the safety of their suburban stretch circle, the team navigates big questions and wages tiny battles with all the vim and vigour of a pack of adolescent warriors. A portrait of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for nine young women who just want to score some goals.
Assembling an all-woman team to bring this production to life, I had the great opportunity to chat with Jessica Arthur, the director of this exciting forthcoming production. The below is what she had to say about The Wolves.
LT: Coming of age stories have become an important event in all literature, including theatre. Why do you think we are so attracted (as adults) to watching youths reach a point where they are trying to understand their lives?
JA: I think it is because it is usually a time in your life that you don’t view as crucial until it has passed. In Adulthood you reflect on all the experiences that have contributed to your make up. In hindsight you can see your decisions and actions more clearly. The questions and experiences that emerge during our coming of age don’t really stop, but our frame of reference alters and settles. We may continually strive to understand our identities through the accumulation of our learning experience through time. Sometimes it is only after certain events that we realise how fundamental they were in the formation of our character.
Also, being a teenager is challenging and it is such a precious life changing time. I think there is something nostalgic in seeing young people try to find themselves as it is something I think everyone no matter what age, gender, culture, background – can relate to. Identity is something so individual and unique and to be able to see yourself in others is a magical part of existence.
LT: The Wolves is a physically demanding play for the performers. How have you sought to reconcile the physical aspects of the play with the emotional challenges and transformations exhibited by the characters?
JA: We have approached this play in different layers: 1. Character development/world of the play. 2. Soccer skills. 3. Lines, language and dialect. Within the combination of 1, 2 and 3, many of the discussions during the blocking phase have centered around what each person’s individual character would do. When do they stop doing exercises while everyone else continues? When do they focus on their warm up more intensely? When is their head in/out of the game? What conversations do they hear or not hear? By putting an emphasis on the fact that these nine young women would all have different challenges as well as trajectories we have been able to map nine unique stories that are full of quirks, contradictions, insecurities, intelligence, and wit.
LT: Often young women conversing treat each other as symbols while really they are having their own conversation with a perspective they are trying out. How did you evoke this sense of individualism inside a team while you were directing The Wolves?
JA: *I am not sure about making the assumption that women conversing treat each other as symbols? I am just focusing on the individualism aspect of the question.* (LT – No problem Jessica – many thanks)
Going off the back of the previous question, I have had regular one-on-one sessions with each member of the team. We’ve mapped relationships, backstories and trajectories. Delappe gives many subtle hints in the script about each character’s home life and it has been a joy uncovering these together. Three of the cast members are teens and have just left high school, calling on them to answer questions about adolescence has been invaluable. And we have all of course, looked back on the time we were teenagers and even recollected experiences with classmates we observed in order to understand these characters better.
Styling has been a large contributor in portraying individualism amongst these women. Designer Maya Keys has had ongoing conversations with the cast about how each of them would wear their uniform and do their hair. Expressing personality through style is such a huge thing for teenagers.
LT: Science, politics, art and love are supposedly the four primary extra-philosophical conditions of thought that stimulate us to stronger creative endeavor. (Being and Event – Badiou) How does The Wolves stimulate thought in these four areas?
JA: Science – Mathematical in their tactics and musical in score of the text.
Politics – There are politics within the team as well as in the world of the play. They talk about the Asylum Seeker situation in Arizona, the National Guard, Khmer Rouge, all the while negotiating social status.
Art – The script is an artistic creation. The Wolves challenges form as well as subverts the conventional teenage coming of age story, which is usually dominated by depictions of young men.
Love – Love and passion for sport, team and self are huge players within this game.
LT: What are you enjoying the most about bringing The Wolves to life for Sydney Audiences on the Old Fitz stage?
JA: Showcasing the talents of nine young women is just the best experience to be a part of. To create something with a large cast of women in a space as intimate as the Fitz has its challenges but what can be assured is an experience where the audience is invited to be either a 10th member of the team, a spectator at the ‘City Sports Dome’ or even just to revel in the nostalgia that The Wolves evokes.