It seems like a lifetime ago, before COVID-19 took a firm hold on daily routines, a group of young thespians took to the Emma Willard School stage and worked theatrical magic recreating the look and feel of a competitive indoor soccer team. Under the direction of Instructor/Theatre Director Erica Tryon, the winter play, The Wolves by Sarah DeLappe, depicted the poignant sideline conversations of a nine-member girls’ team.
Erica, who also acted in the play delivering a stunning portrayal of a grieving mother, shared, “This play is a rare occurrence in that it passes the girl-affirming Bechdel Test
with flying colors. The Bechdel Test is used as an indicator for the active presence of women in the entire field of film and other fiction. We were thrilled to perform a play at Emma Willard that so deeply aligned with our mission, as it was exclusively and triumphantly about teenage girls.”
The play’s intensity and its delivery made the audience feel as if they were witnessing something almost private. The language was real and the relational exchanges among the players felt familiar to one’s own adolescence while spinning forward in a completely compelling frame of the story line, which reaches a powerful and heart-breaking conclusion.
The play gave our students “an opportunity to experience a piece of theatre that feels completely relevant to their everyday lives,” adds Erica. A play such as The Wolves brings to light an example of intellectual flexibility. As a member of the audience, it is difficult to ignore the parallel process of the actors replicating the characters in poignant inquiry and constantly wrestling with a changing and challenging social order. The play serves as a container modeling social give and take.
The performers took charge on the stage and made the storyline seem very real. Dean of Students and Wellbeing Shelley Maher noted, “The feeling and intensity of an athletic team is just like what the students performed. Almost exactly! It was spot-on!”
Erica adds, “The very authenticity of this play also made it a very real and at times, a heavy 75-minute experience. The language, though mostly PG-13, is raw. The themes deal with homework, periods, genocides, Plan B, death, college recruitment, teamwork, and immigration detention centers. The Wolves is a portrait of adolescence that forces the audience to contend with the incredible weight—and unbridled joy—of being a teenage girl in today’s society.”
The actors held a “Talk Back” at the end of the production because some of the themes and the conclusion were difficult to process. The audience had many questions about the staging, the language, pace, and even individual performances. There seemed to be agreement from the actors and the audience that the play, while letting us in on dynamic and often uncomfortable exchanges, brought awareness and reckoning that growing up, being a part of a team, learning in relationship, and finding one’s own voice are the very stuff of growing up. And really, these are the very elements that mark an Emma Willard experience.
Brava to the actors, stage crew, and the director for presenting a play that felt like reality.