Last week, I had the honor of interviewing Shelby Lewis, production manager of THE WOLVES at the First Presbyterian Theater which will begin on September 17th. THE WOLVES is a contemporary play by Sarah DeLappe, first performed on Broadway in 2016 and featuring the story of a teenage girls’ soccer team as they warm up for their games.
Finalist for the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, THE WOLVES is a bold and daring play that truly captures the issues of today’s youth, summed up in both humor and emotional depth. Shelby Lewis, the play’s director, collaborated with this young cast of female actors to bring this stellar show to life for Fort Wayne audiences.
“I love that it’s a fiercely feminine piece,” Lewis said, “because it obviously has a female ID cast, but also talks about the myriad veins of what that means. be a woman. And some are more tomboy, some are super feminine, some are boppy, some are tough. Each of these characters is in everyone, of any gender, but it’s good to have a script that they feel like they’re representing them. And that’s also scary for them, because they must be vulnerable, right? “
The Fort Wayne cast of the football team is aged 13 to 21, which is in the age range Lewis enjoys directing, as she works with school-aged actors at Interlochen Arts Camp in the Michigan during the summer. While she generally prefers Shakespeare and does very few contemporary shows, she notes that this piece has a complexity that gives it real weight and depth. “This play was as complex and character driven as the Shakespeare plays I usually work on,” she said. “It was a pleasure to work with [this cast] and I’m so glad they show the hard work they’ve done, because the script is complex, and it’s something different than what they’ve ever done before. Most of the plays they performed were adult roles that the productions then do for children. But this scenario is made for 16-17 year old characters. Since the script was designed for them, THE WOLVES gives these young comedians the chance to really explore what it means to be a teenager in 2021. “If I could have done this play when I was 16 or 17, I would have freaked out, “Lewis said.” It’s so well written, it looks like literature, and yet it’s so modern it’s cool. “
She also has a long-standing relationship with the First Presbyterian Theater, although this is her first staging for them. Lewis’s first involvement with First Pres came when she moved to Fort Wayne three years ago and auditioned for Noel Coward’s PRESENT LAUGHTER, where she later played the role of Daphne Stillington. Since then, she has felt a strong connection to the theatrical space that First Presbyterian offers. “It’s my favorite space in town because of the raked audience seats; everyone has a good seat, and yet it’s still intimate… everyone feels like they can get closer to the characters mentally and physically. So it was such a joy to play as an actor, when they approached me about directing here, I was very excited. “
I then asked Lewis what excites him most about THE WOLVES in particular. “To have something this raw and genuine, to talk about the real feelings we have, whether ugly or beautiful, these are the real conversations we should be having,” she explained. This play is a bold choice for the season, not least because of its rawness and language, but it really comes into its own as part of the First Presbyterian Theater’s mission statement. “They want to spark conversations, and they want pieces that will serve the community by asking these tough questions.” One way the theater works in this direction is to offer talks after their Saturday performances, where audiences can ask questions of the director, cast or representatives of the Fort Wayne Women’s Fund. It’s a piece that was created to spark discussion, so if you’re interested, be sure to attend the Q&A after one of those Saturday shows.
“Because I read the script, I’ve seen a production of it before and was very moved, I identify with and work a lot with this age group – but there is something about a script written for them in their voice, which they confirmed as their voice, which puts me in a place of listen more than anything, ”Lewis said. Their ideas sparked her gratitude for her casting, especially as she notes that they were invested in the show from day one. She said that they were open about their personal connections to certain moments or characters through the rehearsal process, and that they were ready to take on any challenges that were thrown at them, whether it was the complexity of the scenario or the literal manipulation of the soccer balls. and that they take care of each other. And this cast is definitely a team. “
Make sure to catch THE WOLVES this weekend or the second weekend of its run, as it is sure to be a sight you don’t want to miss.
THE WOLVES is a 90-minute show with no intermission, which runs until September 26 (Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.). The Saturday shows include a Q&A panel with Shelby Lewis and cast, as well as a representative from the Fort Wayne Women’s Fund, starting immediately after the show ends. You can purchase your tickets on the First Presbyterian Theater website or by calling the box office at 260-422-4226. The First Presbyterian Theater is located at 300 W. Wayne Street in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
A portion of the proceeds from THE WOLVES ticket sales will also go to the Women’s Fund of Greater Fort Wayne. Please note that due to frequent adult language and sensitive topics covered in this play, the production is rated PG-13 and may not be suitable for all audiences.