How I Learned to Drive, a play at UCR
Riverside – The Department of Theatre at the University of California, Riverside, is pleased to present the 1998 Pulitzer Prize-winning play HOW I LEARNED TO DRIVE by Paula Vogel.
The story follows the strained, sexual relationship between Lil Bit and her Uncle Peck, from her early adolescence into college years and beyond. Using the metaphor of driving and the issues of pedophilia, incest, and misogyny, the play explores the ideas of control and manipulation.
Lil Bit grows up in rural Maryland during the 1960s with a large extended family: her mother, who became pregnant at a young age; her grandmother, a God-fearing former child-bride; her ignorant, sexist grandfather; her Uncle Peck, a recovering alcoholic affected by experiences in combat; and Aunt Mary, who is in denial of her husband’s behavior.
When she is eleven years old, Uncle Peck gives her a driving lesson, during which he molests her. Lil Bit is too young to understand what has happened and, while her mother suspects that Peck has an unhealthy interest in her daughter, she does nothing about it.
Years pass and Lil Bit enters puberty. Though she is quite intelligent, her classmates recognize her only for her large breasts. Peck continues to molest her, at one point uses his amateur photo studio to take provocative pictures of her. Though he makes her uncomfortable, Peck is the only family member who is kind and supportive of her plans to go to college. He continues to give her driving lessons, helping her develop a feeling of control that she does not have in her home life.
Peck attempts to convince his niece to have sex with him, but Lil Bit reluctantly rejects his advances. Since they are both outsiders in their family, she feels an odd kinship with him. When she goes to college, she is surprised to receive gifts from her uncle in the mail, along with letters counting down to her eighteenth birthday. And when she turns eighteen, she confronts Uncle Peck. He has been long awaiting the chance to have sex with her now that she is of legal age, but more than that, he wants to marry her. Lil Bit refuses and permanently severs their relationship.
Narrating as an adult, Lil Bit reveals that she was eventually expelled from college and that Uncle Peck drank himself to death. However, looking back on her experiences, she has learned to forgive Peck for his wrongdoings, concluding that he gave her something valuable: the freedom she feels only when she drives.
How I Learned to Drive premiered Off-Broadway at the Vineyard Theatre in 1997 and in 1998 received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. In addition, the play won the Off-Broadway Lucille Lortel Awards (1997); the Drama Desk Awards (1997); the Obie Award (1996-1997); the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Off-Broadway play; and the New York Drama Critics Award for Best Play.
PAULA VOGEL (Playwright) first came to national prominence with her AIDS-related seriocomedy The Baltimore Waltz, which won the Obie award for Best Play in 1992. She is best known for her Pulitzer Prize-winning play How I Learned To Drive (1997), which examines the impact and echoes of child sexual abuse and incest. Other notable plays include Desdemona, A Play About A Handkerchief (1979); The Oldest Profession (1981); And Baby Makes Seven (1984); Hot n Throbbing (1994); and The Mineola Twins (1996). Vogel’s family, especially her late brother Carl Vogel, serves as an influence to her writings. Carl’s likeness appears in such plays as The Long Christmas Ride Home (2003), The Baltimore Waltz, and And Baby Makes Seven. A renowned teacher of playwriting, she is currently adjunct professor and the Chair of the playwriting department at Yale School of Drama.
Kathryn Ervin (Director) is a professor in the Theatre Arts Department at Cal State San Bernardino, where she has taught since 1989. She received a BA from Wayne State University and an MA from Illinois State University. She has taught at Illinois State University, Bradley University, and Michigan State University. At CSUSB, she has directed Twelfth Night, Love is No Laughing Matter, Wedding Band, Little Shop of Horrors, Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead and Marisol. Her production of Keep Hedz Ringin’, a hip-hop version of Wagner’s Ring Cycle by UCR Theatre professor Rickerby Hinds, was a regional finalist at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF) in 2003. As a guest artist at Illinois State University in 2007, she directed August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Ervin is a recipient of the KCACTF Excellence in Education Award, as well as a board member and past president of the Black Theatre Network. She also serves as Arts Faculty for The California Arts Project and is a board member for Option House Inc., a shelter providing services to battered women and their families. In 2004, she received the received the San Bernardino NAACP Chapter’s Pioneer Award for community awareness.
Marc Longlois (Scenic Designer) is Production Manager of the Department of Theatre, Head of Stage Management, Staff Scenic and Costume Designer, and Lecturer in Design, History, and Technical Theatre. He received his MFA from Southern Methodist University where he studied with acclaimed Broadway designers William and Jean Eckart; Rosemary Ingham, author of The Costumer’s Handbook; and Richard Corson, author of the definitive text Stage Makeup. He has worked for professional regional theatres, including the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre and the Alabama Shakespeare Festival; for opera companies, and in television and industrial production. He is a member of United Scenic Artists, Local 829 and has designed costumes, scenery, and sound for over 100 productions at UCR.
Bonnie Robinson Cage (Costume Designer) is the Costume Shop Manager, and a Designer/Lecturer for the UCR Department of Theatre. She has previously worked for the University of Houston, the Houston Shakespeare Festival and the Childrens Theatre Festival, and served as Head Cutter/Draper and Adjunct professor and Designer. She was a visiting assistant professor at Prairie View A & M University in Texas, serving as Costumer and Historian. Bonnie completed her MFA at Utah State University. She worked as technical designer in the California fashion industry before pursuing a career in costume design. She also worked seven seasons with the Utah Shakespearean Festival in various capacities including costume shop manager and costume designer for a touring production.
Ryann DelPrado (Lighting Designer) is a senior Theatre major and Chancellor’s Performance Award winner. At UCR, she designed the lighting forMercury, Mars and Mayhem, was the Assistant Lighting Designer on Metamorphoses, and Assistant to the Lighting Designer for The Marriage of Figaro. At the Porthole Theatre in Dana Point, she stage managed The Wiz and The Haunting of Hillhouse. She designed lighting for Velocity-A Dance Concert, Fiddler on the Roof and The Odd Couple. She is a graduate of Dana Hills High School and the South Orange County School of the Arts.
Glen Dunzweiler (Lighting Designer) has an MFA in Lighting and Sound Design from the University of Missouri at Kansas City and is the resident Lighting and Sound Designer for the UCR Department of Theatre. He has designed for the Unicorn Theatre in Kansas City, Henlopen Theatre Project in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, and International City Theatre in Long Beach, California. While in Las Vegas, he was the Resident Designer for the UNLV Dance Department and worked for the moving light company VariLite Production Services. In 2005, his work was featured in the How I Did That section of Lighting Dimensions Magazine. He has worked with Sculpture Artist Randy Cooper on lighting his Shadow Sculptures, has written a new theatrical work, The Bad Play. Glen is currently producing a feature-length documentary about the middle-class homeless called yHomeless.
TICKET AVAILABILITY: (951) 827-4331
Advance Tickets: available at the University Theatre Fine Arts Ticket Office, Monday – Friday, 10am – 4pm
Walk-Up Tickets: available at the ARTS Building Ticket Office one hour before each performance
Ticketmaster: (213) 480-3232, (714) 740-2000, www.ticketmaster.com