An entirely female cast carries Pellissippi State’s fall Theatre production – a joint venture with Knoxville’s River & Rail Theatre Company.
“The Wolves” by Sarah DeLappe, a play about teenage girls who have been playing competitive soccer together since they were children, will run Dec. 2-18 at Old City Performing Arts Center, 111 State Street. Tickets are now on sale here for 11 performances, with prices ranging from $4 for nonprofits that bring 10 or more students to $40 for premium seats.
A student preview will be held at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 1, with tickets priced at $7.
While “The Wolves” is about nine soccer players and each scene in the 90-minute production represents one week in the team’s soccer season, the play is about much more, said Associate Professor Grechen Wingerter, who is directing the play for Pellissippi State.
“It’s really a play about what it means to be a young woman in America – whether you are an athlete, an ace student or a girl trying to hold onto her childhood,” Wingerter said. “’The Wolves is about all the pressure put on kids, especially girls and young women, to do all those things or to not do all those things. You aren’t supposed to challenge the status quo. You’re supposed to fall in line.”
The “dream cast” is a mix of former and current Pellissippi State Theatre students as well as University of Tennessee students and professional actors, Wingerter noted, and other Pellissippi State students are serving behind the scenes as assistant director, assistant stage manager and more. Professor Claude Hardy is set designer and tech director.
The timing is perfect, Wingerter added, as the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ is being played through Dec. 18, but that wasn’t her reason for selecting this show.
“’The Wolves’” has been on my list ever since I read it because it’s so well written,” Wingerter said, noting she was scheduled to direct the play in fall 2020 before the coronavirus pandemic hit. “It spoke to me because I was on my high school’s first girls’ soccer team, in 1986, and the play brings together the two things that gave me a sense of belonging in high school: theatre and soccer. I’d love to see this play get soccer people into theatre and theatre people into soccer.”
The cast has been learning soccer drills and ball handling, as they will be acting while simultaneously “warming up” for the fictional team’s games in each scene. The play will not show games, but instead focuses on the interaction between the girls before and in between games.
“The team is only as strong as the individuals, but what happens when the balance is thrown off, when life intervenes, when someone new comes in and challenges those roles?” said Wingerter, who is dedicating the show to her high school soccer coach, Howard LaBrant, who passed away Oct. 17. “These girls have played together for so long that they know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, how to poke the bear, how to support each other. They are not the same as they were when they were 6. It’s a coming-of-age tale as they learn how to both be a team and maintain their individuality.”
Wingerter recommends the play for middle school-aged children and older, as there is some strong language as well as discussion of adult themes.
River & Rail is a professional nonprofit theatre bringing together diverse communities in Knoxville to experience, develop and discuss world-class theatre arts.