Paula Vogel: Did You Know?

Jobsite opens our 11th season in a month with the hilarious and touching non-traditional family comedy-drama, And Baby Makes Seven, penned by Pulitzer Prize winner Paula Vogel.

Here are some fast facts and nifty tidbits on a very neat woman who I believe is one of the more creative, ingenuous playwrights to come along in the past few decades. I’ve also included a few tidbits on our production.

  • Vogel is a professor and chair of the Department of Playwriting at Yale. She has been married to Brown professor (where Vogel was previously) and author Anne Fausto-Sterling since 2004.
  • Her most famous student is arguably Sarah Ruhl, who also has a show on Jobsite’s 2009-10 season – Dead Man’s Cell Phone. Nilo Cruz, author of Anna in the Tropics, was also a student of Vogel’s.
  • Vogel won the Pulitzer Prize in 1998 for her play How I Learned to Drive, a story about pedophilia and incest that explores the themes of control and manipulation. Those same two themes, though wholly removed away from incest or pedophilia, are also present in And Baby Makes Seven (ABM7). The original production of How I Learned … featured Mary-Louise Parker.
  • ABM7 is one of her earlier plays, and was originally produced under a non de plume (Vi Brennan). Vogel also directed the NY premiere (using her real name).
  • Vogel’s brother Carl died from AIDS in 1988. His death and their relationship served as the inspiration for her play The Baltimore Waltz. Carl was also the inspiration for the character Peter in And Baby Makes Seven.
  • Children and multiple/conflicting/shattered personalities are also an undercurrent in several of her plays, including ABM7.
  • ABM7 director Karla Hartley attended a workshop with Paula Vogel a few years back. The workshop was slated to go an hour, Vogel talked for over 2.5. Karla relates what a great experience it was, and how she learned a lot about her from it. One of the most interesting things Karla told me was that Vogel deliberately tries to write things that are impossible to put on stage. Vogel also claims to “write backwards,” a trait not uncommon to other playwrights I know.
  • In 1997, when I interned at The Hippodrome in Gainesville, Vogel was in residence for a week or so as they got The Mineola Twins ready to open. There were new re-writes Vogel wanted to check on, and I believe a few more tweaks were made at that time. Starring in this production was the brilliant actress Lisa Powers, former artistic director of American Stage and current colleague of mine at USF.
  • I would later direct The Mineola Twins myself at Jobsite in 2004.
  • Jobsite’s production of ABM7 marks the third time the team of director/light designer Karla Hartley, scenic designer Scott Cooper and costume designer Katrina Stevenson have worked together for Jobsite. Previous collaborations have turned out the superlative productions of The Goat (Best Play of 2006 – Creative Loafing), Boston Marriage and Blackbird.
  • Our production of ABM7 also reunites Hartley and actress Alison Burns, who in addition to appearing in Jobsite’s Boston Marriage as the scene-stealing maid has worked with Karla many times over the years in the Jaeb Theater (including RESPECT, Waistwatchers and Jewtopia). I’m happy to finally have my turn being directed by Karla. We’ve collaborated for many years and have co-directed together, but one has never been directed by the other. The third actor, Jessica Rothert, is a relative newcomer to the Bay Area with an impressive resume and we’re very excited to be offering up her professional mainstage debut.

Want more? Check out this interview with Vogel on Charlie Rose that focuses on How I Learned to Drive.

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