In The Wolves, Mia Barron plays a character called Soccer Mom. Was there anything in her own background that prepared her for the role? “I know so little about soccer, it’s embarrassing,” Barron explained backstage before an evening performance. “I have zero athletic experience or prowess, so it’s good I don’t have to play soccer in the show.”

“Luckily,” Barron said, “the play is so exquisitely written that it’s not dependent on what I do or don’t know about the subject matter. All I have to do is invest in the full connection between this woman to her daughter and the time she’s spent with her daughter and her daughter’s soccer team.”

Barron, who grew up outside of Boston and did graduate work in acting at NYU, said that performing The Wolves has been emotional in at least two ways. “It has made me think a lot about being the age of these young women, and the ways the characters feel so young and so old at the same time.” And, she added, “it has been emotional because I did the play at the Duke Theater on 42nd Street last year and now at Lincoln Center Theater and they are both places where I’ve worked in my life and have plenty of memories.” Even before she started working at LCT, Barron has vivid appreciation of its productions. She singled out shows in which she “was seeing great artists for the first time”: Audra McDonald in Marie Christine and Spalding Gray in Morning, Noon and Night. Barron also mentioned Cherry Jones in The Heiress: “I had seen her before, but every time it’s extraordinary.”

Barron has been fortunate in her own assignments at LCT. “One of my first jobs out of grad school,” she remembered, “was understudying here in a play called Q.E.D.” The play was Alan Alda portraying the physicist Richard Feynmann. It was basically a one-man show except for a scene with a student, the role I understudied. Alan Alda is the most lovable and personable person on the planet. Because he talked to the audience, Alan wanted to warm up by chatting with us. So the woman playing the student, the stage-management staff , and I would go to his dressing room and hang out. He would tell stories. It was a lovely, lovely job.”

I’m going to gloss over Barron’s work in the spectacular LCT production The Coast of Utopia, because I covered it so extensively when I began this backstage blog. But I will not neglect LCT’s staging of Bruce Norris’s 2013 play Domesticated, in which Barron appeared with, among others, Laurie Metcalf. “That was another great experience for me,” Barron said, “because Laurie is a hero of mine. It was special to get to act with her and to work on Bruce’s play because I love his writing.” (She appeared in an earlier Norris piece, The Pain and the Itch.)

The Wolves is unlike not only Barron’s previous LCT outings but also, she said, unlike most contemporary theater in general. “It's going to be a very popular play for schools because there are so many parts for women. That’s still unusual, though starting to change.”

Barron’s character doesn’t come on until the end of the story, so what is the evening like for her? “Because I don’t interact with all these young women onstage or do their physical warm-up with them, the interaction is different from what I’m used to. It’s goofy backstage before show time, and it’s wonderful to spend time with them in the dressing room without having to worry about my preparation. And then when they go onstage I have the dressing room to myself. I do a leisurely warm-up and start thinking about the play and the very heightened emotional circumstances in which I make my entrance.”

Barron continued: “I think of my preparation as letting fall away the emotional boundaries you build up by just walking down the street in New York on the way to work. The writing is so good that if I’ve done that then I can follow my character’s thoughts in a very honest way. Some nights, I feel like I’ve done it and, some nights, I feel like it’s more of an effortful, technical thing. I remind myself on those effortful nights that I get to have another go the next day.”

 

Brendan Lemon is the editor of lemonwade.com.