Theatre Unbound - How I Learned To Drive - Author Biography

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How I Learned To Drive

Author Biography

Paula Anne Vogel was born on November 16, 1951, in Washington, D.C., and lived there throughout most of her early life. She attended Bryn Mawr College on a scholarship in 1969 and then went back to Washington, where she attended Catholic University of America, earning her Bachelor of Arts degree in 1974. She went to graduate school at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, earning enough credits for a Ph.D. but leaving with an A.B.D. in 1977 after failing to submit her thesis. From 1979 to 1982, she was a lecturer in Women's Studies and Theater Arts at Cornell; she was fired in 1982 for political reasons. Leaving Cornell gave her time to work on theater projects including guest lectureships at McGill University and University of Alaska. In 1984, she took a position as the director of the graduate playwriting program at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, where she stayed until the fame she earned from How I Learned to Drive allowed her the financial independence to leave there in 1997. Throughout her playwriting career she has been associated with numerous programs, including Theatre With Teeth in New York, Theater Eleanor Roosevelt in Providence, and Perseverance Theater in Juneau.

Vogel's plays have been produced since 1974. Her themes have generally centered around imaginatively making sense of subjects that mainstream society finds taboo. And Baby Makes Seven, for instance, deals with a same-sex couple using the occasion of their impending childbirth to clear out the imaginary children that they already have. Hot'n Throbbing has a divorced mother raising her children with the money she makes writing pornographic novels. In The Oldest Profession, senior citizens fight against their slide into poverty during the Reagan era by working as prostitutes. One of the most personal of Vogel's plays, and the most successful before How I Learned to Drive, was The Baltimore Waltz, written in 1989 and produced in 1992. In it, a woman tours Europe with her brother, seeking a cure for the fictitious Acquired Toilet Disease, or ATD. Vogel wrote it soon after watching her brother Carl, with whom she shared a close bond throughout life, die of AIDS. The play uses the prejudices and misconceptions about the imaginary disease to highlight societal attitudes about AIDS and its victims. That play won numerous writing awards and was produced by over sixty theater companies in the United States, Europe, and South America.

With the acclaim that she has garnered for How I Learned to Drive, Vogel has been able to leave teaching and concentrate on writing. She is only the tenth woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for playwrighting and the first openly gay woman to do so.