Vogel, Paula A(nne) 1951-
VOGEL, Paula A(nne) 1951-
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 M.F.A. writing program, 1985—. Executive member of Women's Studies, 1977-78. Playwriting instructor, 1981, and consultant at Perseverance Theatre, Juneau, AK; resident playwright at the Signature Theatre, 2004-05. Consultant to Central Casting Theatre, Ithaca; board member, Saratoga International Theatre Institute. Conductor of playwriting 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; playwriting fellowship from National Endowment for the Arts, 1979-80; 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, and Off-Broadway Award, Village Voice, 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, February, 1979.
Desdemona: A Play about a Handkerchief, (two-act; first produced 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, February, 1982.
The Baltimore Waltz (also see below), 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.
The Baltimore Waltz and Other Plays, Theatre Communications Group (New York, NY), 1996.
The Mineola Twins (also see below), first produced in Juneau, AK, 1996.
How I Learned to Drive (also see below), Dramatists Play Service (New York, NY), 1997.
The Mammary Plays (includes How I Learned to Drive and The Mineola Twins), Theatre Communications Group (New York, NY), 1998.
The Long Christmas Ride Home, Theatre Communications Group (New York, NY), 2004.
(With William M. Hoffman and others) The Way We Live Now: American Plays and the AIDS Crisis, Theatre Communications Group (New York, NY), 1990.
(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, to whom she was very close, contracted HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Eventually, Carl became 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 Anna's 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 Scanlan in the Advocate praised the author'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." How I Learned to Drive 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, which was published with How I Learned to Drive as The Mammary Plays. Ben Brantley, commenting on The Mineola Twins in the New York Times, noted, "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's The Long Christmas Ride Home tells of a family spinning out of control, as does their car on the way home from an unhappy holiday meal. In a clash of past and present, the play's flash-forward reveals how which each individual is eventually shaped by the prejudice and intolerance demonstrated at the family gathering. Gerard Raymond commented in the Advocate that The Christmas Ride Home "bears all the Vogel hallmarks: humor, compassion, unflinching honestry, and a political voice filtered through a family drama."
As Vogel once commented of her career: "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:
Contemporary Dramatists, 6th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.
Newsmakers 1999, Issue 2, Thomson Gale (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. A 21; April 15, 1998, p. A33; October 25, 1998, p. C1.
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; February 19, 1999, Ben Brantley, review of The Mammary Plays, p. B1.
Reuters, April 14, 1998.
Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN), May 15, 1998, p. E1; May 19, 1998, p. E4.
Variety, April 20, 1998, p. 57.
Washington Post, May 22, 1994, p. G14.*