By Gwyneth Easley
University of Oklahoma sophomore Lucy Dismore was pacing the Weitzenhoffer Theatre. Near where Dismore was pacing there was a cardboard box filled with soccer balls, and on the outside of the box was a joke written that said, “Careful, wolves inside.”
For Dismore this joke represented her ultimate goal: to be one of the wolves.
It was callbacks for the members of the theatre department at the University of Oklahoma. Dismore was called back for the role #00 in “The Wolves” by Sarah Delappe, which according to the PR statement released by the department is about “portrait of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” for an indoor soccer team as they take on challenges on and off the field.
Director Doctor Judith Midyett Pender had stepped out to take a break for a few moments, which gave Dismore time to get to know the space. On the floor she saw a tape line left over from the last show she had been apart of in the Weitzenhoffer Theatre “Twelfth Night.” This line reassured Dismore that she could do this.
Dr. Pender returned to her seat and told Dismore “whenever you’re ready, take as much time as you need.” Dismore took a deep breath then delivered a monologue titled “Time Out” from the show, which features character #00 having an emotional breakdown.
“So I did it,” Dismore said. “ I was crying, with snot all over the place and try to kick soccer balls out of the door.” She also ripped her shirt off at a hole in the collar, she smiled remembering it was one of her favorites. “But it was all worth it,” Dismore said.
Indeed it was worth it, because two days later when the cast list came out she was excited to learn that she had landed the role of #00. She was going to be one of the wolves.
The rehearsal process began shortly after the cast list was posted, and the girls were ready to start the process. There was just one problem. “None of us knew how to play soccer. Were all starting from the ground up,” said Dismore.
According to Dismore the girls in this all female show had soccer balls put in their hands, or under their feet, from day one. The goal was twofold: to rough up the soccer balls and make them seem used or “well loved” as Dismore put it, but also to make the feeling of the ball second nature to the girls so that when performance time came they could act and emote while knowing where the ball was underneath them.
Rehearsals were also a little different from the typical rehearsal that members of the cast had experienced in previous shows. According to Dismore, there were cones set up in the space and the girls had to run drills around the cones with scripts in hand. She laughed remembering how important it was to “get off book” as fast as possible.
For the members of the cast learning to play soccer was the biggest physical challenge of being in the show. Dismore said that cast member, Alexis Pudvan got hit in the face with a soccer ball, cast member Alexandra Swanbeck hurt her ankle at the beginning of the process, Dismore herself got kicked in the chest and most of the cast got very used to having shin splints.
“We were bad at soccer!” Dismore said while laughing. “But it was fun, and it’s definitely part of the versatile process that I think is under valued because it was bonding us together as a team.”
Having the cast act and feel like a team was very important to the overall feeling of the show. University of Oklahoma sophomore and understudy for the role of the Soccer Mom Melanie Baxter realized this as she watched the girls grow closer through the rehearsal process.
“Usually you have to have an emotional trust in a normal play, but in this one you had to have an actual physical trust,” said Baxter. “They’re doing these different exercises and they’re trusting each other to stay in their spot.”
Emotional trust was established after the cast was comfortable with their footwork.
The role Baxter was understudying was a mother whose daughter was on the team and passed away. “She lost her daughter,” said Baxter. “It’s really difficult to put yourself in the headspace of something you’ve never gone through yourself.”
According to playwright Sarah Delappe, the show is about more than just a soccer team. Delappe says that her script shares many themes with war movies, and tales of war often have heightened emotions.
Dismore also found herself struggling with the emotional aspects of her character. She said that Dr. Pender did not make her run through her emotional monologue in the script more than twice a day.
“It’s taxing in the moment,” said Dismore. “And she was very appreciative of that.” Dismore said that she also found that she could use her breathing as a mechanism to safely convey the depth of emotion her character would experience. She found the rhythms of her breath from playing soccer.
Though Dismore’s emotions during the show came from her breathing, she said there was still a nervous, excited buzz in the room the cast was preparing in before opening night.
Dismore was in the makeup room. It was opening night, tt was hot, and the smell of stage foundation makeup was distinct. The cast finished their make up then went to the movement room to run sprints and do their usual warm ups before the show.
She said they dedicated the show to “people who have a drive as strong as we do, but who did not have the ability to follow them.” Then places were called.
Backstage was cold but also humid, and Dismore had already begun to sweat before the show had even started. Stadium lights had been chosen to light the theatre not only for the effect but for the sound that stadium lights make when they light each section of a field.
Dismore heard each light turn on individually making that familiar popping sound, and she knew it was time to go onstage. She knew it was time for the wolves to play their game.