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‘The Wolves’ build community with soccer
Actor's Theatre of Charlotte opens 31st season
Published Wednesday, October 16, 2019 1:02 pm
by Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post

Ahzjai Culbreth plays No. 8 in Actor’s Theater of Charlotte’s season-opening production of “Wolves.”

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Women’s soccer has taken over October in Charlotte.

Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte kicked off its 31st season with “The Wolves” the same night the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup winning U.S. women’s national team played down the street at Bank of America Stadium. While Sarah DeLappe’s work, a 2017 finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, deals more with the lives of suburban teenage girls than the sport itself, strength among these women both on the field at Bank of America Stadium and at Queens University’s Hadley Theater resonates throughout the city.

“They were here the night we had our pay-what-you-can night,” said Annarah Shephard, who plays the goalkeeper No. 00. “That energy was definitely present in the space that we had in here knowing they were right down the street.”

Said director Sarah Provencal: “With that in mind we have thought a lot about the U.S. women’s national team. I’ve thought a lot about it, and have gotten a lot of inspiration from women like Megan Rapinoe [2019 FIFA Women’s Player of the Year]. I just love to watch the women’s national team walk on the field or stage together. The power they exude, and the sense of community and equality with each other and support of each other is real poignant, contagious atmosphere, and I think I see that in ‘The Wolves’ as well, and it’s something that the actors have done a really great job of cultivating with each other—this sense of support and community and empowerment of each other.”  

“The Wolves” never actually shows the girls playing in a game. Instead, it is all about the buildup, as the characters perform drills.

“We’re getting ready to play the game,” Shephard said. “It kind of gives you a look into what we actually go through as an athlete to bring yourself to get to that strength. We say it’s like a war—getting ready for a war, and the community that brings you together, and getting yourself ready to be able to play at your best every time you step on the field is something we’ve brought into the warmup sequence.”

Said Provencal: “It’s less about the actual logistics of the game of soccer, and it’s a lot more about the community that these women have formed.”

The cast goes by number rather than a specific character name, as noted with Shephard’s character, the goalkeeper No. 00.

“She’s a really strong character,” Shephard said. “She’s a hardcore perfectionist. At first, when I read the script, she doesn’t really say much, and I was kind of intimidated on how to portray that accurately without it being one note and giving layers to her. Through the process of figuring out who she is, and learning more about her, it was a lot of fun to figure out why she works the way she does, and how she perceives things the way she does, because she is very closed off. Through the process of the play you can see why, and kind of get a glimpse into why she acts the way she does. A lot of times when people are quiet, you automatically relate that to weakness, and I think there’s a certain strength in her.”

Both Shephard and fellow cast member Ahzjai Culbreth, who plays No. 8, found out about the production through an email.

“I got the email, and I was like, ‘OK,’ and then my brother sent me a screenshot, and was like, ‘you should audition for this,’” Culbreth said. “I was like, ‘I saw the email.’ I got a monologue that I just finished memorizing recently, and I was like, ‘that was alright.’ Then I got a call back, and I was like, ‘OK, I guess it was a little better than alright.’ We did the call back, and I was like, ‘I don’t think I’m going to get that.’ Then they were like, ‘do you want to play No. 8?’”

Culbreth found her casting ironic, as the only character she shied away from wanting to play turned out to be her role.

“They sent out sides for the audition, and I was reading the character descriptions, and the only one I didn’t really like was No. 8,’” Culbreth said. “It’s really interesting that I got to play her, because it put me in her shoes. The reason I didn’t have a good impression from No. 8 was, because she reminded me of this girl I went to high school at [Central Academy of Technology and Arts] with. It allowed me to put me in the perspective of someone like that, and uses innocence as a defense mechanism.”

Runtime: 90 minutes, no intermission

Recommended for ages 14-up

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