Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2016-04-27
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage


A Talk with Paula Vogel

facebook twitter pin it stumble upon digg google +1 reddit email

Professor, playwright, social radical, Pulitzer Prize-winner, lesbian ... Paula Vogel is all of these things, although not necessarily in that order. She is the author of a score of plays over 30 years, among them The Mineola Twins, The Long Christmas Ride Home, The Oldest Profession and—most famously—How I Learned to Drive, the work about the sexual molestation of an adolescent girl by her uncle that won her the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Vogel's play The Baltimore Waltz also is widely produced and admired, a fictionalized version of her relationship with her brother, who died of AIDS. All of the above plays have been produced in Chicago at the Goodman, Next and Northlight theaters, among several others.

Vogel recently made a rare visit to our town to conduct weekend writing workshops at Chicago Dramatists, and she made a precious half-hour available to talk with Windy City Times. Compact in the best Judi Dench sort-of way, Vogel is warm and relaxed and speaks with ease, enthusiasm and great intelligence without ever lecturing. She is free with information about her own upbringing amid economic hardship in Washington, D.C. 'We lived below the poverty line,' she says. 'No one in our family went to theater; we didn't have money to go to theater, so it's highly improbable that I'm a playwright.'

Vogel began writing musical skits in high school and then started writing plays as a scholarship student at high-toned Bryn Mawr College. 'And then I wrote a play about the breakdown of civilization at a women's college, based on Lord of the Flies. The students and faculty loved it; the administration was not amused. It was no surprise that my scholarship wasn't renewed.' She moved on to Catholic University back in Washington where, she says smiling, 'a lesbian feminist was not exactly welcome in 1972.'

Cornell University was her next academic stop, where she found a teacher who definitely steered her towards a theater career and guided her into the doctoral program. She paid her way as a clerk-typist. 'I typed my way through the first year at Cornell,' she recalls. 'I could type 85 to 90 words per minute, which is a very useful skill for a playwright to have.' Having completed her dissertation, she fell victim to a coup within her department in which her liberal faculty advisors were replaced with their politically opposite numbers. They ordered her to trash her two years of dissertation work and start over. She told them to shove it and quit.

After some years as a struggling playwright, although one whose plays was produced, Vogel was recruited by the very prestigious Brown University where she has remained for close to 25 years. She's now a Professor of Creative Writing and famous for the playwriting workshops she organizes each year. Despite her success and fame, she says that even within the liberal milieu of an Ivy League university and the world of professional theater, she has found a surprising degree of prejudice and bigotry.

'I think I was fired at Cornell in part because I was open ( about being lesbian ) . ... There has been some horrific bashing in the field of theater as well as academics. I've had graffiti written in my notebooks or on the blackboard, jokes told to my face ... .' Her inspiration as a writer and role model—not that Vogel claims to be one, but she is—has been Marie Irene Fornes, now 77, a New York writer who was born in Cuba and is a legend of Off-Broadway theatrical innovation, progressive values and the women's movement. 'Marie Irene Fornes is my mantra. Being in the closet is not an option because of her. Being in the closet is just not an option because of my brother.' She chuckles, 'Been gay so long, looks like straight to me. Yet I don't feel I can speak for young lesbians.'

Despite her own lengthy and successful career, Vogel says 'The American theater remains homophobic. In fact, there's a peculiar misogyny combined with homophobia that's very potent. If we say that only 17 percent of all plays produced are written by women, can you imagine how few of those are written by lesbians?'

Vogel's own current writing project is work of musical theater, A Civil War Christmas, combining literature and music from the great War Between the States, and set on Christmas Eve, 1864. She's spent eight years researching the history, literature and music of the period to shape the work, which will see two developmental productions next year under the direction of the gifted Tina Landau ( a Steppenwolf Ensemble member ) .

'My first love has always been musical theater ( but ) I took a 30-year detour,' she says, explaining the gap between the musicals of her high school and college years and today. 'The musical is the American art form. It's the most like Brecht's work was ( in 1920's Germany ) as an expression of Americanism.'

Vogel has a great deal to say about contemporary America, to be sure, and none of it is very good when it comes to the current state of our politics and our government. She decries the Bush administration and its compulsive need to foster subjects of hatred, whether Islam, immigrants or gays and lesbians.

She does believe that the creative impulse within everyone is a saving grace, or might be if it were not wrung out of most of us as children by conformity-driven social and educational systems. 'I come from the point of view that we are all born innately artists; that creating in the arts is a human impulse. ... If all men and women are artists, then every man and woman is gay or lesbian.'

facebook twitter pin it stumble upon digg google +1 reddit email

Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


Indie Boots Theatre Festival 2016: The Ava Plays 2016-04-29
Nominees Announced For the 43rd Non-Equity Jeff Awards 2016-04-29
Harris Theater Presents Music & Dance 2016-17 Season 2016-04-28
THEATER REVIEW Even Longer and Farther Away 2016-04-27
THEATER REVIEW In the Time of the Butterflies 2016-04-27
THEATER REVIEW Sender 2016-04-27
THEATER REVIEW The Producers 2016-04-27
Theater spotlight on In the Heat of the Night, Critic's Picks 2016-04-27
THEATER The end of adolescence: Ike Holter looks at aging hipsters in 'Sender' 2016-04-27
Jennifer Hudson, Harvey Fierstein in "Hairspray Live" to air Dec. 7 2016-04-25
From Berlin to Tinseltown 2016-04-19
THEATER REVIEW Mitera 2016-04-19
THEATER REVIEW Carlyle 2016-04-19
THEATER REVIEW Mary Page Marlowe 2016-04-19
DOUBLE REVIEW Dreamgirls. Trash 2016-04-19
Theater spotlight on Cabaret, Critics' Picks 2016-04-19
Upcoming: Black Playwrights Fest, PFP film fest 2016-04-19
Skin is in at the 'Naked Magic Show' 2016-04-19
Pride Films and Plays kicks off Pride 2016 with The Boys Upstairs 2016-04-14
THEATER REVIEW Hillary and Clinton 2016-04-13
THEATER REVIEW The 30 Year Gap 2016-04-13
THEATER REVIEW Jensen and Wit 2016-04-13
THEATER REVIEW Hazel: A Musical Maid in America 2016-04-13
Theater spotlight on Jabari Dreams of Freedom, Critics' Picks 2016-04-13
Strangeloop stages gay Southern play 2016-04-13
Duriel E. Harris' 'Thingification' at MPAACT May 4 2016-04-13
'Gender Fusions' features award-winning actress 2016-04-12
Rivendell Theatre Ensemble to present midwest premiere of Dry Land 2016-04-10
Matthew Morrison to perform selections from the powerful new musical Exposure 2016-04-09
Duriel E. Harris' 'Thingification' at MPAACT May 4 2016-04-08
Mitera characters continue to love those who hate what they are 2016-04-07
About Face to present Chicago premiere of The Secretaries by Five Lesbian Brothers 2016-04-07
SCOTTISH PLAY SCOTT Double bind 2016-04-06
THEATER REVIEW Kill Floor 2016-04-06
THEATER REVIEW The Life of Galileo 2016-04-06
THEATER REVIEW Adding Machine: A Musical 2016-04-06
Theater Spotlight on A Toast to the Queens, Critics' Picks 2016-04-06
THEATER REVIEW Mosque Alert 2016-04-06
NUNN ON ONE: THEATER 'Bullets Over Broadway' brings Zarr to Chicago 2016-04-06
'Charm' having run in Minneapolis 2016-04-06

Copyright © 2016 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.








About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group produces Windy City Queercast, & publishes Windy City Times,
The Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community,
Nightspots, Out! Resource Guide, and Identity.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.