ONSTAGE Morgan Green grew up in Marin and went to Redwood High School. Now she lives in Brooklyn. So directing Marin Theatre Company’s The Wolves (through April 15), a physically lively Pulitzer Prize finalist about a girls’ indoor soccer team, is a kind of victorious homecoming for her.
Green first saw the script when the playwright Sarah DeLappe, who she knew socially, showed it to her. Green directed some early readings of it, and she says she found it thrilling.
“I loved how realistic the speech patterns were and it actually sounded the way young women talk to each other,” she said. “They’re not stupid, but they don’t have a lot of knowledge yet, and they’re trying to figure out what is worth their time and what isn’t and what is cool and what’s not.”
In the play, which was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize, the scenes all take place before a game while the girls, identified by their jersey numbers, are doing warm ups. And talking. And talking. The play is all about the dialogue between the girls, which covers all sorts of things including their periods, their friends, snake-handling, China censoring the Internet, their (unseen) coach being hung over, Harry Potter, and the pronunciation of Khmer Rouge. The play has a great structure, Green says.
“It’s an elegant way to track time and it’s quite masterful to write a play with no main character—yet you feel you get to know all the characters at the end,” she said. “That’s quite rare. Most artistic directors are pushing for a strong, single protagonist.”
To have the actors speaking their lines while they’re doing lunges and hamstring stretches and kicking the ball back and forth adds something too, Green says.
“It’s like they’re acting and simultaneously doing a dance,” she said. “The text tells a story and the body tells another story, so it’s more complicated, which is more interesting. Theater has to do a lot to hold an audience’s attention, and this makes it more dynamic, putting that physical layer on top.”
Shane Kennedy, coach of the girls’ soccer team at Mill Valley’s Tamalpais High School, is responsible for that physical layer. He worked with the cast several times a week training them and going through warm ups and drills.
“I think more than anything, we wanted the actors to have a team experience,” he said. “We wanted them to be able to pass and receive to show it’s a play about a soccer team.”
DeLappe has said that she thought of the girls on the team as warriors, preparing to go into battle, and Green took her cue from that. When you’re a teenager, the stakes are high, she said.
“If you’re 16 years old and something bad happens, it’s the worst thing in the world and it has never happened to anyone before,” she said. “That’s why the first betrayal in the play is so intense.”
In soccer, you have two teams pitted against each other, fighting to win. That’s pretty rare in a teenage girl’s life, Green said.
“For women, there’s not a lot of opportunities to express rage and competitiveness and sheer joy,” she said. “If you score a goal, you can scream and dance.”
Girls are often taught to accommodate others and to apologize, Green says. Not during their training with Kennedy.
“Sometimes they were passing and the ball would go haywire, and they would say ‘sorry,'” she said. “The coach would say ‘There’s no sorry in soccer!'”
Through April 15
Marin Theatre Company, Mill Valley
Tickets and more info here.