The School of Performing Arts will present its first Mainstage Theatre show of the season, “How I Learned to Drive,” by Paula Vogel, Oct. 1-4 and 6-9 in the Squires Studio Theatre.

“How I Learned to Drive” tells the story of Li’l Bit, a woman coming to terms with her emotionally complex and sexual relationship with her Uncle Peck. The play unfolds through a series of her fragmented memories, sometimes between Li’l Bit and Uncle Peck, and at other times through a Greek chorus of three actors who play a range of other people in her life as well as provide framing narrative and commentary.

The play received the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. In nonlinear fashion, it moves backward and forward in time as it illuminates themes of loss of innocence, freedom and control, sexualization and objectification, societal complicity, and forgiveness.

Vogel has said that she writes plays backward, moving from a particular emotion she wants to express. Although her works often deal with traditionally controversial subjects, she said, “My writing isn’t actually guided by issues. I only write about things that directly impact my life.” 

Theatre faculty member Susanna Rinehart will direct the production.

“This play speaks unflinchingly to the present moment,” Rinehart said. “It’s such an ingenious theatrical exploration, externalizing the post-trauma psyche with humor and deep emotional intelligence. It will speak to anyone who has personally experienced sexual or emotional violation, particularly at a young age — or knows someone who has — and is trying to make sense of it. Sadly, I would say that is all of us, if we’re paying attention. Vogel has compassion, humor, and respect for the complexity of her subject.” 

About her 1997 play, Vogel said, “My play dramatizes the gifts we receive from the people who hurt us.”

Performances of “How I Learned to Drive” are Oct. 1-4 and 6-9 at 7:30 p.m. in Squires Studio Theatre, located in the Squires Student Center at 290 College Avenue on the Virginia Tech campus.

The show contains adult situations that may not be appropriate for all audiences.

Tickets and Parking

Tickets are $12 general and $10 for seniors and students and may be purchased online. Tickets may also be purchased at the Squires Centers and Activities Ticket Office on the first floor of Squires Student Center or by calling 540-231-5615. Tickets as available will be sold at the Squires ticket office beginning one hour prior to the performance.

Free parking is available on weekends and after 5 p.m. weekdays in the Squires Lot, located at the corner of College Avenue and Otey Street, in the Architecture Annex Lot on Otey Street, and in the Perry Street/Prices Fork lots. Find more parking information online or call 540-231-3200. Alternative parking is available in the Kent Squires parking garage and the Farmers Market metered parking lot, both located on Draper Road. Additional downtown Blacksburg parking information is available online.

If you are an individual with a disability and desire an accommodation, please email Susan Sanders or call 540-231-5200 during regular business hours at least 10 days prior to the event.

The 2019-20 School of Performing Arts Mainstage Theatre series will present “Balm in Gilead” by Lanford Wilson Nov. 12-19; “The Wolves,” by Sarah DeLappe, Feb. 18-25; and the musical “Pippin,” music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and book by Roger O. Hirson, April 23-26. Tickets for all performances are now on sale.