When Sarah DeLappe’s The Wolves began previews Off-Broadway this fall, marking the 26 year-old playwright’s professional debut, it wasn’t long before it generated serious buzz. When the production opened September 11, it was to unanimous rave reviews, and The Playwrights Realm was quick to announce an extension. A month later, the Off-Broadway company announced a return engagement in the winter—this time with the additional support of Broadway producers Scott Rudin and Eli Bush (The Front Page).
Directed by Lila Neugebauer, the play about an all-girls soccer team wraps up its acclaimed, extended second engagement at The Duke on 42nd Street December 29.
The truth is, The Wolves was well on its way to success before it had arrived Off-Broadway. During developmental workshops and readings with Clubbed Thumb, the play garnered the attention of multiple producers. In 2015, it earned the inaugural 2015 Relentless Award in honor of Philip Seymour Hoffman, and the largest cash prize in American theatre.
“We went to one of the readings, and knew immediately that we had to do it,” says Roberta Pereira, The Playwrights Realm’s producing director. “We made an offer before it got the Relentless Award… For us, it was pretty much love at first sight.”
Prior to its original Playwrights Realm bow Off-Broadway, The Wolves received a mainstage production at Vassar & New York Stage and Film’s Powerhouse Theater in summer 2016.
Pereira, who has been working in the theatre in New York for over a decade, says that she was not prepared for the level of attention the show received when it premiered in New York City. “It’s rare this kind of fervor,” she says. “And what’s interesting about The Wolves is that it was beloved by the audience and critics…. We weren’t expecting to get both of them on that level.”
DeLappe is now a resident playwright at The Playwrights Realm. She has a desk at their administrative offices, and the theatre covers her health and dental insurance. The organization also contributes to her professional development—helping her pay for her grad school tuition, and introducing her to important industry contacts like Rudin, who has over 50 Broadway producing credits.
“Part of the work that we do for our playwrights is bring a lot of industry people to see their shows,” explains Pereira. “There was a lot of attention [on The Wolves] and Scott was very interested in it. He was working on The Front Page but was able to come in and catch it. Afterwards, I had a call with him and he was very complimentary of the show.”
“I was just so excited… It did feel like a big moment,” says DeLappe of her first meeting with Rudin. “I was always hopeful that this play would have a second life in New York. We had a short run and we extended, but I really hoped that more people would get to see it.”
“I tried not to read the reviews but I’m so grateful that it was so warmly received,” continues the playwright. “The word of mouth was really moving to me—that people were excited by the show and wanted to share that with other people.”
The Wolves takes place on an indoor soccer pitch, with each scene a warm-up before the girls’ next game. As they stretch, the adolescent women talk about things you would expect teenagers to talk about: school, periods, boys; they also discuss topics you might not: the Khmer Rouge, ethics and politics, immigration policy, and issues of social justice. DeLappe says the idea for the play came to her on a visit to the Lower East Side’s New Museum.
“I was taking in all of this art that was generated in response to these very real, daily political realities in the Middle East and North Africa, and I felt very far away from it,“ she says. “I was listening in on conversations on the Bowery and I felt this great distance between what those artists were responding to and how I, and the people around me were trying to engage with their art.”
“It made me think: what could be further away than a bunch of teenage girls on an indoor soccer field warming up for their game?” she continues. DeLappe, who grew up in Reno, NV, but is now based in New York, started to write the play on the subway home from the museum.
Following the conclusion of The Wolves’ second Off-Broadway run, DeLappe will focus on grad school and the development of two new plays—both of which she is enthusiastic about, but isn’t ready to discuss. In the meantime, she will also receive ten years of ongoing support from The Playwrights Realm—with the promise of more exciting things to come from the young playwright.
For more information on The Wolves visit playwrightsrealm.org. The all-female cast for both Off-Broadway stagings was made-up of: Brenna Coates, Jenna Dioguardi, Samia Finnerty, Midori Francis, Lizzy Jutila, Sarah Mezzanotte, Tedra Millan, Lauren Patten, and Susannah Perkins. Mia Barron was replaced by Kate Arrington in the second engagement.