How I Learned to Drive

How I Learned to Drive

Learning to drive can be dramatic.  Years before getting a learner’s permit, I honed my skills on a giant John Deere tractor–not very glamorous, I know, but oh so true.  Yes, I’d load up friends and neighborhood kids and we’d haul tail through my parents sprawling acreage in Gambrills, MD.  We called it the green convertible, which may account for why, to this day, I do not care for them.  Anyway, this early driving experience served me well, I think, excepting one accident that involved a swarm of bees chasing me and me jumping off to safety while the tractor then drove itself into the back of my mom’s darling ’87 BMW.  Did you have any dramatic experiences involving learning to drive?


It doesn’t feel like fall in Florida yet, so that’s what I’m using as my excuse for just now beginning Drama Daily’s “Fall Reading” forum.  The first work up for discussion is Paula Vogel’s 1998 Pulitzer prize winning play, …drum roll…,  How I Learned to Drive, which incidentally is set in my home state.  The title holds both literal and metaphorical significance, alluding to the car experiences, educational and otherwise, shared by Lil Bit and her Uncle Peck and also serving as a framework for exploring sexual abuse and pedophilia and the mid-century eroticization of cars.  I’m just a few pages into the play and already captivated by it.

In addition to her work as a dramatist, Paula Vogel teaches creative writing. She spent years on faculty at Brown University, until  she took an appointment as adjunct professor and chairwoman of the Playwriting Department at Yale University in 2008.   A full  list of her 13 plays can be found on Doollee, the Playwrights Database.   Here is a NYT interview with Vogel from March 1997  when How I Learned to Drive was first produced, and here is Ben Brantley’s NYT review of Vineyard Theater’s 1997 production.

Pick up a copy of Paula’s play and let’s discuss.

One Response to “How I Learned to Drive”
  1. Tillman says:

    When I was twelve our next door neighbors had a golf cart (Oh boy…); there was no golf course, just a five acre ranch. Their daughters enjoyed roving around in the little buggy and didn’t mind sharing the toy with me and my brother. They would race through the front gate, up the driveway and into our back yard where we took turns behind the wheel. It was my brother’s turn and I rode shotgun as he bolted accross our two acres; the girls looked on. We sped along, the white buggy softly jolting towards an oak tree; we were headed straight for it by the time I realized my brother driver, now wearing a grin, was trying to terrorize me. I frantically struck him numerous times before he decided to change direction. We rattled away to the left, nearly clipping the rugged trunk of wood; I may have tumbled out onto the grass had I not held on. He was amused, of course, not I, so when we swapped seats I attempted the same maneuver, aiming this time for one of the beams in a chain link fence. The back end of that golf cart hiked up so high when I crashed. The fence shuddered with a chime. There’s still a crooked beam in the fence to this day.

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