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Rankin to 'coach' College production of 'The Wolves'

Barry McNamara
02/07/2019
MONMOUTH, Ill. – One way to look at the next Monmouth College theater production is that it’s a war movie, only with an ensemble cast of 16-year-old female soccer players.

That’s how the play’s author, Pulitzer Prize-finalist Sarah DeLappe, has said she originally saw The Wolves, which will be staged Feb. 21-24 in the College’s Wells Theater. Professor Doug Rankin will direct the show, which focuses on the dialogue between nine teenage soccer players.

From the safety of their suburban stretch circle, the teammates navigate big questions and wage tiny battles with all the vim and vigor of a pack of adolescent warriors – or wolves.

“It’s really different – almost not a play, but a play at the same time,” said Rankin. “I’m really into the idea of theater in a different format for a different type of audience, as well as our traditional audience.”

The Wolves is DeLappe’s debut play.

“If you know nothing about Sarah DeLappe, I didn’t either,” said Rankin. “When she wrote the play (in 2014), she was a 26-year old graduate student at Brooklyn College.”

DeLappe has been praised for her “uncanny” ear for the age group, which can be attributed in part to her job as a tutor to adolescents. The Yale University graduate originally set out to be an actress but was steered toward being a playwright by one of her Yale professors, Paula Vogel, who wrote And Baby Makes Seven, which was performed at Monmouth College last spring.

Although there is some soccer motion in the play, “It’s their tongues – and their minds – that are moving at warp speed, with ideas and emotions jostling for position,” wrote one critic. “The girls are sussing out one another’s identities, eagerly and suspiciously, like an industriously sniffing, newly formed pack of dogs. As we listen and try to make sense of the torrent of words, each young woman emerges by degrees as a completely defined self. Within 15 minutes, you’ve stopped looking at their jersey numbers to tell them apart.”

The dialogue is frequently layered with simultaneous lines.

“You’re talking about world culture, you’re talking about importation/deportation issues that are common to today ... you’re talking about some really personal issues of life and death and of families,” said Rankin “It’s a very emotional play. I think the audience will be intrigued to sit through this and see where it goes.”

Portraying the nine soccer players are:

Allie Bryan ’22 of Abingdon, Ill.
Amelia Chavez ’21 of Chicago
Amanda Grissom ’19 of Eldridge, Iowa
Deandrea Halmon ’19 of Chicago
Hannah Lingle ’19 of Muscatine, Iowa, (a member of the Fighting Scots women’s soccer team)
Gabrielle Stumbo ’22 of Shelley, Idaho (also a Fighting Scots soccer player)
Amy Ward ’19 of Lacon, Ill.
Haley Willits ’18
Molly Wintermute ’22 of Oswego, Ill.

The other member of the cast is a soccer mom, played by Maddie Baker ’19 of Galesburg, Ill.

“In my many years of teaching theatre at a liberal arts college, I have had the privilege of working with students of many disciplines, and many of my students are athletes,” said Rankin, who has adopted an active pre-rehearsal warm-up for the actresses complete with flying soccer balls. “They assimilate well into my classes. Theater is like sports: an ensemble is a team; a stage crew is a team; a stage is a field of play; rehearsals are practices; directors and choreographers are coaches; everyone works toward a common goal. I hope audiences will enjoy seeing this all come together. To me, this has been a ‘coach’s’ dream.”

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Monmouth College will present “The Wolves” at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 21-23 and at 2 p.m. Feb. 24 at Wells Theater. Tickets can be purchased online at department.monm.edu/theatre. Tickets are $8 for adults, $7 for seniors and students, and $6 for students and faculty with a Monmouth College ID.