Ella Santos, 20, plays one of nine high school soccer players in The Wolves, a play by Sarah DeLappe, who grew up in Reno. It opened in New York in 2016 and earned DeLappe an American Playwriting Foundation award, an Obie Award, a Pulitzer Prize nomination and countless reviews praising her sharp, realistic portrayal of female adolescence. Santos is working on an associate’s degree and plans to go into social work and creative writing. She’s performed locally in Bare: A Pop Opera, staged in a former Gap store, and Sierra School for Performing Arts productions, including Fiddler on the Roof and Cinderella. The Wolves is her first non-musical. The play made its Reno debut at Goodluck Macbeth on March 15, and it runs through March 30. For tickets, visit www.goodluckmacbeth.org.
How did you learn about this play?
I just season-auditioned for GLM. I didn’t really go in with any expectation of what the plays were going to be. But then I got a callback for this play and immediately ordered the script, because I was like, “Oh, my gosh, it’s a recent play. It’s about women. I’m interested.”
Which character do you play?
I play #13. She’s, like, the stoner, wacky, weird, try-to-be-funny-but-isn’t-really-that-funny one.
This play looks physically demanding to perform, with all those soccer drills. How did you and the other actors prepare for your roles? Were you already soccer players?
It’s kind of funny, because none of us are soccer players. I think all of us are in the situation where we played in elementary school and that was about it. Actually, the very first rehearsals that we had, we met at the Reno Sportsdome and played soccer together. … That was our first time meeting each other. … We’re all a bunch of theater kids trying to kick a ball around. It was really entertaining.
How did you learn the drills?
We had two sports coaches. They both came in when we were at the Sportsdome and then a couple of times when we were at GLM and just taught us how soccer players warm up, certain stretches that they do, certain warm ups, just all of the techniques, how to run with the ball, stuff like that, taught us to at least look like we know what we’re doing.
So, you’ve been a teenager pretty recently. How well do you think this play represents teenage life?
Oh, my god! It’s ridiculous. Every single girl in this play is a stereotype. Every single girl is a girl that I knew. It’s really weird—#13 is like 14-year-old me. It’s crazy the parallels. It’s all of those moody emotions, but also the reality. … They all have backstories. They have siblings or whatever. My brother’s a pot dealer in the play. Those are things that normal teenagers deal with. It’s not normally shown in theater, but it’s very real. … In the very first scene … two or three girls are having a conversation about a tampon, and the rest of us are talking about the Khmer Rouge. So, we just start off like, OK, genocide—period. I don’t think it gets more teenage girl than that.
Do you remember how you reacted when you first read that scene?
Honestly, I was like, “What the heck?” … In the dressing room, all the time when we’re talking, it sounds like the conversations we’re having on stage. It’s the same thing.