New staff member directs spring mainstage “Wolf Play”

Profile photo of Professor Meera
Courtesy of Lewis & Clark

This year, the Fir Acres Theatre welcomed a new staff member to the department: Assistant Professor of Theatre Suhaila Meera. Meera is taking on the task of directing this semester’s mainstage performance of “Wolf Play” by Hansol Jung. 

Meera got her Ph.D. from Stanford University in Theatre and Performance Studies with minors in Comparative Studies in Race & Ethnicity and Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies. Meera has previously directed several plays, including “Constellations” by Nick Payne as well as an adaptation of a play by Bhisham Sahni which she helped co-write. 

“At Stanford, I was doing a little bit of directing and creative work, of course, but also working on a dissertation. My research broadly looks at child actors and how they play refugees,” Meera said. “(It was a mix of) performance studies, childhood studies, critical refugee studies and thinking about how theatre performance and film can help us understand the current
refugee situation.” 

Meera has a particular interest in “Wolf Play.” Hansol Jung is a woman of color who wrote the play for a diverse cast, both in gender and ethnicity. The cast consists of five actors, the majority being people of color, with a nonbinary character played by a nonbinary actor. 

“Part of the reason I had proposed ‘Wolf Play’ was because my own research very recently has moved to incorporate puppet representations of children. While I primarily write about live children playing their roles, I am also interested in how, at times, puppets are used to stand in for refugee children,” Meera said.

“Wolf Play” is about a young Korean boy, Wolf, who is adopted by an American family who can not take care of him and eventually hand him off to another couple — a lesbian couple. Drama ensues when the father from the initial adoptive family, Peter, takes issue with Wolf “not having a dad.” The play explores the meaning of family, themes of racial bias and the effects of early
traumatic experiences on a child’s psychological development.

“I think Hansol Jung, in my interpretation, is interested in exploring transnational adoption and how adoption works or doesn’t work in the US. For me, the play takes up questions of race, gender and representation,” Meera said.

In terms of how the play uses puppetry, young Wolf is portrayed by an “Asian boy doll” puppet, as opposed to a child actor. Adult Wolf carries around his puppetized younger self as he narrates and looks back on his childhood. Meera’s production of “Wolf Play” will be using a puppet that was made for a production of “The Caucasian Chalk Circle” by Bertolt Brecht and is being redesigned to fit the aesthetics of
this show. 

“The puppet, at times, stands in for the child, and at other times is the Hobbes to Wolf’s Calvin, a kind of toy or imaginary friend,” Meera said.

Many plays use puppets in the place of living child actors, especially when the experience of portraying that character may be traumatizing for a real child. 

“Wolf Play” is still a work in progress, but Meera is very enthusiastic about where the rehearsals, as well as the design process, are headed.

“Rehearsals have been amazing. I feel like they’re making amazing character choices, and finding great relationships with the characters,” Meera said. “When I direct, that’s always something I’m really invested in: How do we bring out the relationships between these people?”

The cast has “Wolf Play” been tasked with portraying character relationships that are very complex, yet still have to make them relatable enough to be understood by the audience. The play has a ton of depth that the actors are doing a fantastic job learning to communicate.

 “Wolf Play” will run at Fir Acres Theatre March 8-10 and 14-16. If you are dying to know how Wolf’s story plays out, tickets are available now.

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