This October,the Northeastern Department of Theatre presents the Pulitzer Prize-winning play How I Learned to Drive by Paula Vogel.
But buckle up: it’s going to be a dark and dangerous ride. Li’l Bit takes you on a trip through her adolescence in the 1960s and her complicated relationship with her Uncle Peck. How I Learned to Drive is directed by Assistant Professor Dani Snyder-Young and runs from October 11th-21st in the Studio Theatre, located adjacent to the Curry Student Center mezzanine.
How I Learned to Drive is a 20th century feminist classic that explores issues such as sexual awakening, consent, and abuse of power. Paula Vogel has called it Lolita as told from Lolita’s point of view. It includes adult themes and is recommended for ages 16 and older.
Director Dani Snyder-Young describes the play as, “the story of Li’l Bit’s sexual awakening through memory– a fragmented narrative, plunging the audience into key moments of her relationship with her Uncle Peck as he teaches her to drive. Uncle Peck mostly seems like a really good guy who has an inappropriate amount of chemistry with his underage niece-by-marriage. As more details of their relationship are revealed to the audience we are asked to take a hard look at the gendered dynamics wea ccept as ‘normal’, examining how and why we normalize and how we survive oppressive systems and relationships.”
Regarding How I Learned to Drive, Vogel writes: “We are in an interesting cultural moment in the United States; scandals about the abuse of power through sexual manipulation and assault proliferate in social media. A man with multiple accusers sits in the White House, while a man who was banned from an Alabama shopping mall for predatory behavior has run for the United States Senate. #Metoo ripples through our awareness, even as older women and men face the reality that their careers, their ambitions, and their visibility have already been impacted by that power for decades. Mine certainly has been. Do we come forward now, decades later, after our bodies, our lives, our relationships have been marked and changed by incidents long ago? Will it have impact for the young women and men, girls and boys, who endure abuses now? I don’t know if I will ever again write a play that connects with such a wide demographic of audience members… This is the gift of theatre and of writing: a transubstantiation of pain and secrecy into light, into community, into understanding if not acceptance.”
How I Learned to Drive received the Pulitzer Prize, New York Drama Critics Award, Obie Award, Lucille Lortel, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle and many more. Vogel’s other plays include A Civil War Christmas, The Long Christmas Ride Home, The Mineola Twins, Hot ‘N’ Throbbin,The Baltimore Waltz, Desdemona, And Baby Makes Seven, and The Oldest Profession.
The Northeastern Department of Theatre production features Keely Craig as L’il Bit, Liam Hofmeister as Uncle Peck, Alyse Clinton as Female Greek Chorus, Ben Harris as Male Greek Chorus, and Katya Forsyth as Teenage Greek Chorus.
The design team includes lighting design by Visiting Associate Teaching Professor Oliver Wason and music student Kyle McCrosson; and two guest artists: four-time Elliot Norton Award-winner Janie Howland is designing the set and Rachel Padula-Shufelt is helming the costumes.
Cast member Keely Craig says, “I never turned back after I started reading Paula Vogel’s work. She has the ability to tell complicated and controversial stories with unmatched dexterity and artistry. Her characters are human and flawed but beautiful and complete at the same time. Her work has impacted me deeply as an audience member, a reader, and now finally as an actor.”