(STILLWATER, Oklahoma) – The OSU Department of Theatre is driven by a vision for the community as it presents the Pulitzer Prize-winning play, “How I Learned to Drive,” by Paula Vogel, Feb. 22-24 at 7:30 p.m. and Feb. 25 at 2:30 p.m. in the Vivia Locke Theatre at the Seretean Center for the Performing Arts. For this production, the theatre department has collaborated with Payne County Youth Services to provide support for the youth in the community.
“How I Learned to Drive” premiered in 1997 and quickly earned critical acclaim as well as many awards. By 1998, the play won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and was the most produced play in the U.S. that same year. On its 20th anniversary, OSU Theatre presents a revival at an uncanny time. The themes seem more relevant today, especially in light of the “Me Too” Movement. “Drive” presents a compelling picture—often with disarming humor—of an inappropriate relationship between the teenaged Li’l Bit and her Uncle Peck. Through its provocative subject matter, the play introduces one victim’s journey to healing and forgiveness.
OSU Theatre invited Dallas Shakespeare’s Artistic Director Raphael Parry to guest direct this New York-quality production. He aims to stage the play with an adherence to the author’s original intent. “Drive” invites audiences to reconsider who the real villains and advocates are in our own lives.
Oklahoma State sophomore theatre major Ellie Collier, who performed in last year’s musical “Spitfire Grill,” stars in the leading role. Her portrayal of Li’l Bit is not from her personal experience, but from a collection of experiences gleaned from the memories of real survivors.
“I had some reservations when I heard about the content.” Collier said. “However, I work at Wings of Hope, and I was inspired by real victims to tell their stories. I wanted to take the things I was learning there and put it in a character that honestly portrays what some victims may go through. I want people to see a performance that will impact them. It’s something real, and it happens here, even in Stillwater. That’s why it’s important this story gets told, and it’s even more important for it to be heard.”
The entire theatre department shares Collier’s compassion for victims of abuse, and seeks ways to connect the larger community. One way is simply by producing the play.
“We hope this play will encourage people to open their hearts and minds to everyone in our community,” said OSU Theatre Department Head Andrew Kimbrough. “Our department was certainly motivated by Paula Vogel’s script, which is why we’ve collaborated with Payne County Youth Services. We hope to encourage a change in perspective in a thought-provoking way, and we hope to stimulate change in our community in a way that benefits us all.”
For this production only, the OSU Department of Theatre provides an opportunity for all Payne County community members to donate to PCYS for a discount on their theater ticket. Tickets for “How I Learned to Drive” are on sale now, and they are selling quickly. To reserve your tickets, call (405)744-6094 or purchase your tickets online at theatre.okstate.edu or at the Theatre Box Office in 121 Seretean Center for the Performing Arts.
Oklahoma State University is a modern land-grant university that prepares students for success. OSU has more than 36,000 students across its five-campus system and more than 25,000 on its combined Stillwater and Tulsa campuses, with students from all 50 states and around 120 nations. Established in 1890, Oklahoma State has graduated more than 260,000 students who have been serving Oklahoma and the world for 125 years.