For decades, the competitive and energizing world of sports has been the backdrop for many acclaimed theatrical works. From Clifford Odets’ boxing-themed drama Golden Boy to the baseball centric Damn Yankees and Richard Greenberg’s Take Me Out, writers use athletics to create high-stakes drama, to build atmosphere and as a metaphor for life’s challenges. Yet these plays, like much of our society’s discourse around sports, focus on male athletes.
Enter The Wolves—Sarah DeLappe’s incandescent new play about a soccer team of 16-and 17-year-old women. These athletes usher us into their realm where daily concerns—in addition to soccer —include the academic and social rigors of high school, familial relationships and, perhaps most crucially, identity formation. Whether you are a teenager yourself, a teacher, a parent or grandparent of teenagers, or simply take an interest in how people are shaped by their youth, The Wolves’ candid rendering of young athletes is likely to provoke questions and memories, painful and uplifting alike. And the real soccer drills and warm-ups performed by this cast of rising young Chicago talents bring the passion and aggression of the game to the stage: a rare experience in the theater.
Sarah is one of many invigorating, forward-thinking female writers making her mark on today’s theatrical landscape—and The Wolves, her first professionally produced play, has quickly become something of a phenomenon. I was thrilled last year when, shortly after we selected this play for our 2017/2018 Season, The Wolves was honored as a Pulitzer Prize finalist. Like any good sports team, The Wolves has found a devoted following, as two encore engagements were held after its initial premiere off-Broadway. The Goodman is incredibly excited to now host the play’s Chicago premiere. Our production is directed by Vanessa Stalling, a former Goodman Michael Maggio Directing Fellow and a director whose work I have admired for years; in particular, I was drawn to her adaptation and direction of United Flight 232 at The House Theatre of Chicago, in which she shaped a complex and haunting human story about the real-life 1989 plane crash in Sioux City. I am excited to watch as she finds similar depth in the characters in The Wolves, with all their adolescent angst and explosive energy.
I hope you will enjoy this exclusively female story, which shines a literal and metaphorical spotlight on young women, who are still rarely portrayed as athletes or protagonists. As Sarah notes, this play is our invitation to see women as fully complex, multidimensional human beings who deserve respect and attention. Here, finally, we see the world from their perspective.