‘How I Learned to Drive’

Article Published: Nov. 3, 2011 | Modified: Nov. 14, 2011
‘How I Learned to Drive’

The Appalachian State University Department of Theatre and Dance presents Paula Vogel’s Pulitzer Prize-winning drama, “How I Learned to Drive,” in the intimate I.G. Greer Studio Theatre on campus.
This thought-provoking tale runs two weeks with performances Nov. 3 to 5 and Nov. 10 to 12 at 7:30 p.m., with matinees on Nov. 6 and 13 at 2 p.m. Ticket prices start at $6 for ASU students. For more information, visit http://www.theatre.appstate.edu or call the box office at (828) 262-3063.

The story describes from beginning to end a relationship that, on the surface, society would consider inappropriate. Yet the audience is told the plot in such a genuine way, it is difficult to see an antagonist on stage. With interludes from a Greek chorus, visual projections and detailed monologues from the main characters, the play’s twisted tale of incest, control, misogyny and pedophilia comes together in a unique performance that uncovers the true complexity of relationships.

This ASU seniors-only cast of “How I Learned to Drive” is directed by lecturer Anna Ward, who claims the play’s strength comes in its refusal to pass simple judgment on a complex subject matter and instead engages directly with issues of sexuality and manipulation in the complexity of relationships.

Boone resident Ariel Nicastro, the actor playing Li’l Bit, has dealt with dramatic roles before in “Stop Kiss” and “Still Life with Iris,” showing her ability to handle sensitive subject matter with tasteful style.

Joseph Watson, portraying Uncle Peck, honed his skills with challenging roles in ASU’s “Metamorphoses” and “Stop Kiss,” now has the challenging job of revealing the depth of a character whose relationship boundaries are blurred.

“This cast has been great,” said director Ward, who indicated that this is the first time she has seen this play come to life on stage. “They are very willing and eager to work, so my experiences working with them have been very good and very rewarding.

“The challenges are in the roles and in the subject matter. The character of Li’l Bit has an age range from 13 to 35 and goes in and out of these ages quickly. The relationship between Li’l Bit and Peck is a challenge because, again, it moves through time, as well, and the relationship is very complicated.”

According to Ward, all of the other roles are played by three actors who move in and out of the action.

“Their challenge is in playing several roles, as well as making the transitions solid between the time and various locales,” she said. “The play itself is very well written, so the playwright’s words can do a lot of the work for us. We just have to pay attention to them.”

Vogel’s work also has the ability to make the audience relate to it by presenting universal themes about the evolution of personal relationships.

“Most plays remind me of something or some relationship in my life,” Ward said. “I think that is what makes a play worth doing or watching, that ability for us as an audience to relate to the characters on some level.

“The beauty of this play is in watching the character of Li’l Bit and her journey from a difficult past to a point of reconciliation. I think that is something most of us can relate to.”

Tickets are available in person at the Valborg Theatre box office Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 2 to 5 p.m. and Tuesday and Thursday from 12:30 to 5 p.m., or by phone at (828) 262-3063.

Prices are $6 for students and youth (ages 6-18), $8 for faculty, staff and seniors, and $10 for adults. More information is available online at http://www.theatre.appstate.edu.

Both of the Thursday performances of “How I Learned to Drive” will feature post-show “talk-back” sessions where audience members will be able to ask questions of the director and cast.

I.G. Greer Studio Theatre is located on the lower level of I.G. Greer Hall, on the building’s east side. The door faces the B.B. Dougherty Administration Building. Parking on campus is available after 5 p.m. in faculty lots, the College Street deck near Belk Library and Information Commons, and the Rivers Street parking deck.

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