UW-Stevens Point’s Theatre and Dance Department closed
their production of Paula Vogel’s “How I Learned to Drive” under the direction
of Professor Jeffrey Stephens this past Saturday.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning play was written to seduce
the audience by taking them on an unfamiliar ride and have them, in Vogel’s
words, “view the world in a new and unexpected way.”
“Since I started here at Point, I’ve taught the play
both in Script Analysis and Theatre Appreciation. The more I taught it, the
more I realized we needed to do it because after discussing it in class, we
need to see something move from the page to the stage,” Stephens said.
“How I Learned to Drive,” as explained by Jordan Krsnak
who played Uncle Peck, is a memory play, a coming-of-age story and a love
story. Through a series of scenes flashing back and forth in time, Li’l Bit,
played by Kate VanderVelden, reveals the nature of the relationship between the
“It’s about a man who deeply loves his niece, a girl’s
personal journey as she navigates the complex road of life, and the
inappropriate, uncomfortable, unnatural—yet still loving—relationship between
the two,” Krsnak said.
“The structure of the play is disorienting by design,”
said dramaturge and English professor, Laurie Schmeling. “Sad, irreverent, provocative,
and often surprisingly funny, it is an intentionally discomfiting play.”
The structure of the play is mostly non-linear because
it is a memory play. The production crew wanted to format the show in a way
that gave the impression of a memory. The tone and clarity of any given moment
can shift suddenly.
“We felt it was important that the entire production
reflect that fluidity, that it not be encumbered by overly realistic design
elements. The stage is bare—just a series of ramps and playing spaces defined
primarily through light,” Schmeling said.
Krsnak explained that the cast and crew did everything
they could to create a specific interpretation of the show itself, one that was
uniquely their own but staying true to Vogel’s script and how she envisioned
“Educationally, the structure of the play offers unique
challenges and rewards to student artists,” Schmeling said. “Most importantly,
it opens up important discussions about familial relationships, about the way
our popular culture eroticizes young children, about the ways forgiveness can
empower us, can help us heal—a whole host of deeply human issues.”
Krsnak and Schmeling agreedon on what they would like
the audience to take away from this production. They both explained that, if
anything, they want audience members to leave with something to think about and
something to talk about.
“I do think it’s possible to make an emotional
connection to a text just by reading it, but for a play to really colonize your
head and heart, I think you need to see it move from the page to the stage and
you need to trust it and not be afraid of it, whether because of the
performance challenges or because of the subject matter,” Schmeling said.
“I gained a lot from performing in this production,”
Krsnak said. “This play is a dream for an actor. It’s provocative and poignant,
it’s challenging, it’s beautifully written, and it’s all about the acting. This
has been an amazing and beneficial opportunity, one I’m very grateful for.”