“Wolf Pack”: “Wolf Pack” will be presented at the McCarter Theater Center. Written by Sarah DeLappe and directed by artistic director Sarah Rasmussen, the play runs from September 17 to October 16 at McCarter’s Berlin Theater. (Photo by William Clark)
Donald H. Sanborn III
MetercCarter will start with wolf pack. This 2016 TV series, written by Sarah DeLappe, depicts a high school girls’ soccer team. Artistic Director Sarah Rasmussen is directing the production, which begins September 17th.
On August 30, the Princeton Public Library hosted a “Library Live” discussion about the work. Paula Alekson, McCarter’s Artistic Engagement Manager, moderated a conversation between Rasmussen and actor Katharine Powell.
The September 7th “Director’s Cut” gives us a glimpse into the rehearsal process. As a benefit of McCarter membership, viewers had the opportunity to watch Rasmussen direct the cast until they were fired that day, after which Nicole A. Watson, McCarter’s BOLD Associate Artistic Director, moderated the conversation with Rasmussen.
“Living in the Library”
Rasmussen receives Minnesota Theater Outstanding Directing Award for his 2019 production wolf pack at the Jungle Theatre. Alexson notes that Powell was there to play “a dual role: as an actor and a psychotherapist in private practice — first and foremost ‘living in the library!'”
Rasmussen praised the “all-female cast, in this really driving new show,” that built an indoor soccer facility and the team played “all winter… over the course of six scenes — six different Saturdays” for training.
Rasmussen was impressed by the character’s uniqueness, saying: “The incredible gimmick that Sarah Drape does as a playwright is that first we only see the numbers on them. You have a feeling – at least that’s how I started – “How can I tell them apart? “Ninety minutes later, I know Exactly Who these girls are, I’m very concerned about… where they go. ”
A unique aspect of the script is how much dialogue overlaps.”A lot of times, the text is written in columns,” Rasmussen said. She likened it to a “musical score,” adding that while the piece was “Precise and tricky at first,” it”Sing in such a beautiful way. “
Powell agreed. She recalled that when she read the script, she thought, “This is awesome.” It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a script like this. She added: “This is a playwright who really hears the voices and puts them on the page in such a real way. I’m really attracted to it. “
Rasmussen added: “When all this orchestral language is going on, they’re playing football and running. Literally… pat you on the head, rub your stomach, listen to your cues – while others are Walk up and down the stage and talk!”
When it came to casting, Rasmussen said, “We don’t need specific football experience, although we’re interested in people who are… athletic.” One of them is a ballet-trained dancer. “She does a great job with football; we just have to keep her from doing ‘ballet weapons’ sometimes. Football weapons are a little bit different,” the director added.
Lighting designer Jackie Fox does a lot of dance lighting. “That’s important to me because when you think about great dance lighting, I want the space to be lit in a certain way; there’s a lot of side lighting that captures dead bodies in interesting ways. It almost feels like a dance… Because it’s so sports-centric.”
Rasmussen also praised the contributions of the rest of the all-female design team, including costume designer Raquel Adorno, sound designer Pornchanok Kanchanabanca and set designer Junghyun Georgia Lee.
Football consultant Heather Driscoll
To best portray the world of football, the cast and creative team spent time watching teams in the area, including those from Princeton University. Additionally, Heather Driscoll – the youth director and head coach of the Next Level Soccer Academy – became the film’s football consultant.
At the library event, Rasmussen discussed Driscoll’s contributions. “It was fun talking to Heather as a coach, not just about technical skills, but about culture Most importantly – a culture of motivation, encouragement, how people deal with loss, and how people respond to challenges. “
When asked if she directs the actors’ movements or advises the production on whether a segment looks real, Driscoll told the writer, “Both. Earlier, we Start with something different to get the actresses comfortable with the dance.” Activities include passing, dribbling, and stretching.
She added: “At one point I could sit and watch while they were running through the scene; and discuss some things…they could tweak to make it look smoother and just talk about them being football specific things.”
“One actress in particular was going solo at the prom,” Driscoll explained. “She’d get through her lines…she had a bit of a pattern she wanted to do. So we played with something she was comfortable with and looked more ‘football’ – that should make her stand out a bit.”
wolf pack Marks Driscoll’s first involvement in a theatrical production. “I don’t have a theater background at all, so it was a really great experience,” Driscoll said. She enjoys getting to know the cast and creative team, and seeing “how the performance works”. She added: “It’s fun to be involved. It’s really fun to connect the two worlds.”
As the audience took their seats in the first few rows of the Berlin theatre, they noticed a brightly lit stage covered in green artificial turf. Lee’s set pays homage to DeLappe’s opening stage orientation, which describes a “football field that feels like it’s going on forever”. We see Lee’s set model — where Fox can plug a flashlight to calculate lighting — and a page of DeLappe’s script with overlapping dialogue bars.
This is the first time the actors have moved from the rehearsal studio to Berlin. As such, certain areas of the stage have been marked with tape to help prepare lighting cues. While the actors were rehearsing their lines while kicking the football back and forth, Rasmussen would periodically prevent them from adjusting the entrance or a bit of other blocking. While she has directed the show before, Rasmussen emphasized that she did it in a different location. She had to make “different choices” for McCarter’s production.
DeLappe has said she is interested in the “counterpoint” between the actors’ movements and their dialogue. What was especially striking at this point in the rehearsal process was how well the energetic actors made the most of this “counterpoint.” Conversations are often interrupted by well-placed kicks or stops. Rasmussen likened the script to a musical score. The kicks add a percussive effect that accentuates the dialogue.
Teammates are played by Brittany Anikka, Renea Brown, Annie Fox, Katie Griffith, Maria Habeeb, Owen Laheen, Isabel Pask, Jasmine Sharma and Maggie Thompson. Swings are Mikey Gray and Isabel Rodriguez.
Rasmussen told Watson that the actors were “very motivated.” They typically rehearse “eight hours a day, six days a week”, she added, describing the play as a “monastery”.
Noting that football is “important in this community”, Rasmussen sees parallels between the game and the drama. Seeing coaches grow “from the strengths of the young”, Rasmussen was inspired by the way they “empower the team”.
TonHis discussion of the parallels between football and theatre is reminiscent of a quote by Rasmussen at a library event. Talking about the time the actors spent watching real footballers, she said: “That’s why we make plays – why we tell stories: so we can go into these other worlds and learn more.” She added , the actors’ performances honor real-life athletes by creating “an incredible emotional journey.”
The Wolf Pack, directed by artistic director Sarah Rasmussen, will be performed at McCarter’s Berlin Theater from September 17th to October 16th. McCarter’s website notes that strong language and themes suggest parental discretion; the show is recommended for children 12 and older. All guests, regardless of age or vaccination status, are required to wear masks inside the theater. For tickets or other information, visit McCarter.org.