Vogel, Paula A. 1951–
Vogel, Paula A. 1951–
(Paula Anne Vogel)
PERSONAL: Born November 16, 1951, in Washington, DC; daughter of Donald S. (in advertising) and Phyllis (Bremerman) Vogel. Education: Catholic University of America, B.A., 1974; Cornell University, A.B.D., 1977.
CAREER: American Place Theatre, New York, NY, member of staff, 1978–79; Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, member of faculty of theatre arts, 1979–82; Brown University, head of MFA writing program, 1985–. Executive member of Women's Studies, 1977–78. Playwrighting instructor, 1981, and consultant at Perseverance Theatre, Juneau, AK; consultant at Central Casting Theatre, Ithaca; board member, Saratoga International Theatre Institute. Conductor of playwrighting workshops at McGill University and at St. Elizabeth's Hospital; has taught at the Maximum Security Center for women at the Adult Corrections Institute in Rhode Island.
MEMBER: Bryn Mawr Drop-out Society (founder), Dramatists Guild, Circle Repertory, Writers Guild of America East.
AWARDS, HONORS: Heerbes-McCalmon Playwrighting Award, 1975 and 1976; American College Theatre Festival Award for best new play, 1977, for Meg; American National Theatre and Academy-West Award, 1978; playwrighting fellowship from National Endowment for the Arts, 1979–80; received commission from Actor's Theatre of Louisville; Pew/TCG senior residency award, 1995–97; Guggenheim Award, 1995; Fund for New American Plays Award, 1995, for Hot 'n' Throbbing; New York Drama Critics Award for best new play, Drama Desk Award for outstanding play, Lucille Lortel, and Obie Award, all 1997, and Pulitzer Prize for Drama, 1998, all for How I Learned to Drive; also recipient of a Bunting Fellowship, a McKnight Fellowship at the Playwright's Center, two National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, and a residency at the Rockefeller Foundation's Bellagio Center.
Meg (three-act; first produced in Washington, DC, at Kennedy Center, 1977), Samuel French (New York, NY), 1977.
Apple-Brown Betty (one-act), first produced in Louisville, KY, at Actor's Theatre of Louisville, February, 1979.
Desdemona: A Play about a Handkerchief (two-act; first produced in Binghamton, NY, at State University of New York at Binghamton, April, 1980), Dramatists Play Service (New York, NY), 1994.
The Oldest Profession (one-act), first produced in New York, NY, at Hudson Guild Theatre, December, 1981.
Bertha in Blue (one-act), first produced in New York, NY, at Hudson Guild Theatre, December, 1981.
The Last Pat Epstein Show before the Reruns (two-act), first produced in Ithaca, NY, at Central Casting Theatre, February, 1982.
The Baltimore Waltz, Dramatists Play Service (New York, NY), 1992.
And Baby Makes Seven, first produced in San Francisco, CA, 1992.
Hot 'n' Throbbing, produced in New York, NY, 1992; produced in New York, NY, at the Peter Norton Space, 2005.
The Baltimore Waltz and Other Plays, Theatre Communications Group, 1996.
The Mineola Twins, first produced in Juneau, AK, 1996.
How I Learned to Drive, Dramatists Play Service (New York, NY), 1997.
Also author of "Dribble." Baltimore Waltz has been produced in over sixty regional theatres in the United States, Canada, Brazil, and England, including Circle Repertory, Center Stage, Yale Repertory, Alley Theatre, and the Magic.
(With Terrence McNally and Harvey Fierstein) On Common Ground (screenplay), Showtime, 2000.
WORK IN PROGRESS: The Castrato Play, a five-character play about castrati in seventeenth-century Italy; Method Acting, a novel about academia and the violation of acting.
SIDELIGHTS: Paula A. Vogel is not one to shy away from often highly politicized, commonly taboo topics … she faces them head on with eloquence and compassion. Throughout her career Vogel, an award-winning playwright, has delved into an assortment of topics from the nontraditional family to AIDS to domestic violence to pedophilia. As she explained to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, "I always feel that I'm writing the script and my audience is writing the play. The fact that 200 people can go in there and come out to have arguments in the car and lobby, and that everyone is always right: That makes it an ideal platform for democracy." Vogel had her first big success with The Baltimore Waltz in 1992, then won the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1998 for How I Learned to Drive.
In 1986, Vogel's brother Carl, whom she was very close to, contracted HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Eventually, Carl became very ill and Vogel cared for him. During this time she developed the idea for The Baltimore Waltz. "I wrote this play in my head while in the hospital, waiting for the doctors," Vogel remarked to Pamela Sommers in the Washington Post. The play concerns a woman, Anna, who comes down with Acquired Toilet Disease (ATD), an affliction of single, female elementary school teachers, and her brother, Carl, a gay library employee. Vogel uses the fictional ATD to force the audience to re-examine their views on AIDS, which is the real subject of the play. Her characters lament that no one is aggressively seeking a cure for the disease ATD because it afflicts a segment of the population that is relatively powerless. Later in the play, the audience discovers that the story is actually taking place in Anna's mind as she tends to her dying brother Carl in a Baltimore hospital.
How I Learned to Drive was inspired by one of Vogel's favorite novels, Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita. Dick Scan-lan in the Advocate praised "Vogel's flair for poetic dialogue in an era when a television style of naturalism has seeped its way into the theater." Stefan Kanfer in the New Leader also applauded Vogel's writing, stating, "Neither her plot nor her people are predictable; in the middle of the saddest scene she evokes a laugh, and just when a moment seems to be edging on hilarity she introduces a wistful note that leaves the smiles frozen on the audience's faces." The play was an off-Broadway hit and earned the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for drama.
In conjunction with How I Learned to Drive, Vogel wrote The Mineola Twins. Vogel published How I Learned to Drive together with The Mineola Twins as The Mammary Plays, but Ben Brantley in the New York Times commented on [The Mineola Twins,] "Those who know this dramatist only from … How I Learned to Drive … may have difficulty recognizing her voice here." The Mineola Twins is a comedy about the political schism that divides people, as well as the confining roles prescribed for women.
Vogel once told CA: "A crucial influence on my future writing career was my dismissal from the theatre arts faculty of Cornell University. The playwright is in an unenviable position. On the one hand, as a practitioner interested in writing crafted, intelligent, forward-looking plays, she (or he) is at the same time unable to find permanent financial support from academic communities which espouse high theatrical standards. One can only bite the bullet, write, and live as a VISTA volunteer for the arts."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Newsmakers 1999, Issue 2, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1999.
Contemporary Dramatists, 6th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.
Advocate, June 10, 1997, p. 61; January 20, 1998, p. 99; February 2, 1999, Dick Scanlan, review of How I Learned to Drive, p. 42.
American Theater, February 1997, p. 24.
Dallas Morning News, May 27, 1997, p. 21A; April 15, 1998, p. 33A; October 25, 1998, p. 1C.
Independent on Sunday, June 21, 1998, p. 7.
Jewish Exponent, July 17, 1997.
Los Angeles Times, April 15, 1998, p. A14.
Nation, July 28, 1997, p. 24.
New Leader, June 30, 1997, Stefan Kanfer, review of How I Learned to Drive, p. 21 New Republic, July 7, 1997, p. 28.
Newsday, July 29, 1993, p. 67; November 12, 1993, p. 73; March 17, 1997, p. B5.
New York, April 7, 1997, p. 46.
New York Times, May 7, 1993, p. C5; November 12, 1993, p. C20; March 16, 1997, sec, 2, p. 6; March 17, 1997, p. C11; Ben Brantley, February 19, 1999, Ben Brantley, review of The Mammary Plays, p. B1.
Reuters, April 14, 1998.
Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN), May 15, 1998, p. 1E; May 19, 1998, p. 4E.
Variety, April 20, 1998, p. 57.
Washington Post, May 22, 1994, p. G14.