After 15 months and 450 performances, Paula Vogel's Pulitzer Prize-winning comedy/drama, How I Learned To Drive, ends its acclaimed Off-Broadway run Apr. 19. The show first opened at the Vineyard Theatre Feb. 26, 1997 and then moved to the Century Theatre across the street, May 6.
Since then, Drive has nabbed Best Play awards from the NY Drama Critics Circle, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, Lucille Lortel (1997) and Village Voice Obies. Apr. 14, the play was awarded the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, beating out the finalists Freedomland and Three Days of Rain for the $5,000 award.
Vogel told Playbill On-Line that she firmly supports the producers' decision to go ahead and close How I Learned To Drive, as scheduled, rather than capitalize on the Pulitzer.
She said the show's actors worked a "modern miracle" in keeping up the quality level of the performances, and that she wants to go out "with head held high," rather than "switch casts every few weeks.
Currently in the cast are Cotter Smith (Uncle Peck) and Deirdre Lovejoy (Li'l Bit). Smith, who took over the wheel from Bruce Davison Jan. 20, starred on Broadway in An American Daughter and Off-Broadway in Walking The Dead and El Salvador. Lovejoy was most recently in The Water Children at Playwrights Horizons. In Drive, Lovejoy replaced Molly Ringwald, who took over for Ivanov's Jayne Atkinson, Oct. 7. The roles were originated in NY by David Morse and Mary Louise Parker. Drive's director Mark Brokaw went on to stage the still-running As Bees In Honey Drown. The play had its West Coast premiere at Berkeley Rep (a co-production with San Francisco's Magic Theatre), Jan. 9 Feb. 27.
For tickets ($45-$47.50) and information on How I Learned To Drive at the Century Theatre, 111 East 15th St, call (212) 239-6200.
Vogel's latest play, The Mineola Twins, was produced at Perseverance Theatre in Alaska and is being considered by Roundabout Theatre Company for a Broadway production in the 1998-99 season, with Annette Benning and Jane Kazmarek rumored for roles, since they did readings of the work at Roundabout this winter. Twins would be Vogel's Broadway debut.
Here is Vogel's "Who's Who" listing from the Drive Playbill: "Paula Vogel's plays have been performed at theatres such as the Lortel Theatre and Circle Repertory in New York, the American Repertory Theatre, the Goodman, the Magic Theatre, Center Stage and Alley Theatre as well as throughout Canada, England, Brazil and Spain. The Baltimore Waltz won the Obie for Best Play in 1992 and her anthology, The Baltimore Waltz and Other Plays, has been published by TCG. Other plays include Hot and Throbbing, Desdemona, And Baby Makes Seven, and The Oldest Profession. Other awards include the AT&T New Plays Award, the Fund for New American Plays, the Rockefeller Foundation's Bellagio Center Fellowship, several National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, and the McKnight Fellowship. She is a member of New Dramatists. Her new play, The Mineola Twins was in production at Trinity Repertory, Feb. 28-Mar. 23, in Providence, RI. She is currently developing her screenplay, The Oldest Profession, with Fred Berner, Joanne Zippel and Olympia Dukakis. How I Learned to Drive was made possible by the generous support of the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation and the Pew Charitable Trust Senior Residency Award. The author wishes to thank Molly Smith and Perseverance Theatre for their help in the development of this work."
-- By David Lefkowitz