Combining Performing Arts and Athletics

The cast of the Smith production of "The Wolves" by Sarah DeLappe

Until this semester, Pioneers soccer team member Aisling Keane ’19 had never acted in a play. “I’m a student athlete at Smith, and I had never ventured too far out of that bubble,” she says.

Zoe Margolis ’19 had appeared in campus theater productions and also likes to run and work out. But before this semester, she had never been a member of a Smith athletics “team.”

As cast members of The Wolves—which opens Friday, Feb. 23, at 7:30 p.m. in Hallie Flanagan Studio Theatre—these students have been able to delve into those previously untried experiences in a play that seamlessly combines art and athletics.

The Wolves, a first work by Sarah DeLappe, focuses on a high school girls’ indoor soccer team, with each scene taking place during the warm-up for a different game. The New York Times praised the show for its “atomic” girl power and a script that captures “the scary, exhilarating brightness of raw adolescence.”

Daniel Elihu Kramer, director of the Smith production and chair of the college’s theater department, says he was drawn to the play’s powerful female roles, as well as the opportunities it offers for physicality and creative staging. (The set in Hallie Flanagan is a turf field).

“Parts of the script are almost unreadable because everyone is talking over each other and people are only identified by their team numbers,” Kramer says.

The content of their conversations also ranges widely. “The play opens with people having a moral debate about the Khmer Rouge, while the next conversation is about someone who’s just gotten her period,” Kramer says. “One of the things this playwright understands is that both of those topics are important.”

In casting the show, Kramer reached out to Director of Athletics Kristin Hughes to help encourage Smith athletes to try out—which is how Keane came to be part of the production. Over Interterm, assistant soccer coaches Dani Britt and Jennifer Dimos helped lead workouts for the cast.

Margolis—an art history major who says she grew up dividing her time between performing arts and athletics—cites the workouts as the best part of preparing for the show.

“That’s where we not only picked up the necessary soccer skills, but also bonded as teammates and castmates,” she says.

Keane—who plays the team captain in The Wolves—says she has alternated between feeling completely at home with the play’s characters and setting, and being on completely new territory as a first-time actor.

“I have learned so much about myself and what I can do if I push myself past my comfort zone,” she says. “I definitely have gained a huge appreciation for the pure physical and mental energy that it takes to be part of a play.”

Coming into one’s own is part of the core message of The Wolves, Keane adds.

“The part of the characters that resonated with me from the beginning is how they are all coming into their more ‘adult’ selves, yet their lives continue to revolve around the game of soccer,” she says.

Athletic director Hughes sees another message in the collaborations behind the show. “The opportunity to have athletes involved in this production enriches the Smith experience and really broadens how students define themselves,” she says.

“And one thing is for sure,” Hughes adds. “We will have a rowdy crowd show up to support the performances!”