Director A. Nora Long’s love of soccer began during her high school years in Needham, when she would watch her friends play in the regional tournament. Later she bought a season pass for the New England Revolution. Although Long was never a soccer player herself, she has always been passionate about the sport.
Today, her knowledge of passing and shooting is coming in handy as she directs the Lyric Stage Company’s production of “The Wolves,” running January 11 through February 3.
The story follows a girl’s high school soccer team during their practice session. But these girls aren’t just kicking the ball around and stretching, they’re learning how navigate the world around them.
“I don’t know that there are many demographics that we collectively love to hate as much as teenage girls,” says Long. “What’s kind of extraordinary about this play is that it not only humanizes a demographic, but it also prizes their athletic ability and them as members of a team, which also flies in the face of a lot of popular representations of teenage girls being sort of backstabbing.”
The play’s characters are almost exclusively referred to by their team numbers — never their names — further underscoring their participation in something greater than themselves.
This is also true of the team behind this empowering piece of theater. “The Wolves” cast is made up entirely of women, as is nearly all of its set crew.
Long says, “I could not have asked for a better group of women to tackle this play. I think all of us realize how rare it is to work on a play where there’s only women in the room.”
Long says the production has been challenging for the actors because of the immense physicality requires throughout its entire 140-minute duration. The production team has also had to get creative with the space. “If you’ve ever been in a soccer field, they are not intimate,” says Long. “One of our biggest challenges has been how to capture the spirit of the never-ending turf.”
In the script, playwright Sarah DeLappe — who was a 2017 Pulitzer Prize finalist for the drama — notes that the turf should feel like it goes on forever, because the audience has been transported to the world of teenage girls and the play takes place on their turf.
To achieve this affect in the intimate Lyric Stage theater, the turf goes all the way back to the walls behind the audience and rolls out of site beyond the stage. Netting has been rigged up like in an indoor soccer field, and Long warns, “Balls will be flying.”
The production is perfectly timed with the upcoming FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019 and Long says it underscores how marginalized women’s players are in the media despite their incredible achievements. But, Long says, the show isn’t really about soccer.
“I think this will be one of the great plays of the century. Particularly, at this moment, with the national conversation around women, we are confronted with the limitations of the narrative of women in nontraditional roles.”