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Pulitzer Prize-Winning Play Opens School of Performing Arts Theatre Season

The University of Maine School of Performing Arts theatre department opens its 2012–13 season with the award-winning play “How I Learned to Drive,” written by Paula Vogel. The play opens at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, October 19 in the Cyrus Pavilion Theatre. Additional performances are at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 20, 26, 27; at 2 p.m. on Oct. 21 and 28; and noon on Oct. 25. Tickets are $15 (free with a student MaineCard) are available online at or at the door.

The play follows the strained, sexual relationship between Li’l Bit and her aunt’s husband, Uncle Peck, from her adolescence through her teenage years into college and beyond. Using the metaphor of driving and the issues of pedophilia, incest and misogyny, the play explores the ideas of control and manipulation.

“The subject matter of this play is something we would all rather avoid. Insidious as alcoholism and emotional abuse, pedophilia and incest are dark secrets in many families,” says Marcia Douglas, a School of Performing Arts theatre faculty member who is directing the play. “Vogel handles this topic with humor and insight and leads her heroine to a place where forgiveness is possible. Can we learn to find compassion for the perpetrator while abhorring the act he commits? If Li’l Bit can do it then there just might be a way to stop the cycle that has been put into motion. This play is both touching and disturbing at once.”

Audiences will notice that the Cyrus Pavilion Theatre has been transformed into nearly a full theatre-in-the-round for this production.

“I have chosen to stage this play in the round so that the audience is unable to look away from the complexity and pain of this family,” Douglas says of the theatre’s transformation. “This kind of staging puts each of us in the midst of the action rather than on the outside looking in as does the more typical picture-frame staging does. For me the play is about forgiveness and I am hoping the audience will come to a new understanding and appreciation of the possibility of hope.”

The roles of Li’l Bit and Uncle Peck are played by UMaine theatre majors Allison Smith and Greg Scot Mihalik, respectively.

Smith describes the challenge of the role of Li’l Bit as “mind-opening.”

“It has helped me improve my craft in the arts, while also teaching me valuable lessons in resiliency and forgiveness,” she says.

Costumes for the show were designed by Kathleen Brown of the SPA. Scenic and lighting design were by SPA’s Dan Bilodeau.

Contact: Monique Hashey, (207) 581-4721 or

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