MTSU Theatre students will bring the intimate, “immersive” Pulitzer Prize-winning play “How I Learned to Drive” to life for an eight-day run in the Deborah Anderson Studio Theatre beginning Thursday, Oct. 5.
The drama, which features a cast of five, focuses on a woman’s deeply complicated relationship with her uncle and how she comprehends it as an adult. It’s recommended for audiences ages 18 and up.
“The themes are heavy, but the play is funny,” explains director Halena Kays, an MTSU Theatre professor. “It takes a look at what it’s like to come of age in this country. It’s about what kind of culture we have that allows and accepts this behavior as normal.”
Advance tickets, available at www.mtsuarts.com, are $10 general admission and $5 for K-12 students and senior citizens 55 and older. MTSU students will be admitted free with valid IDs.
Curtain times are 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, Oct. 5-7; 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 8; and 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, Oct. 10-13.
The Anderson Studio Theatre, located in Room 101 of the Boutwell Dramatic Arts Building, 615 Champion Way, seats 80 guests, so tickets for each performance will be limited.
Playwright Paula Vogel won the 1998 Pulitzer for drama for “How I Learned to Drive,” which tells the story of a woman nicknamed “Lil’ Bit” and the sexual abuse throughout her adolescence by her aunt’s husband, “Uncle Peck.”
Lil’ Bit recalls a series of incidents — happy, terrifying, confusing, funny — that usually occurred while she was riding in a car, or learning to drive, with Peck.
“I thought it was a really important story with a lot of relevance to situations that are going on right now,” says Dallas Boudreaux, a Knoxville junior who’s portraying Lil’ Bit and who was most recently seen in the MTSU Theatre production of “Next to Normal.”
“I wanted the opportunity to work with Halena, and I’m also always looking for the next role to challenge me as a performer,” adds Memphis junior Donovan Hughes, who’s portraying Uncle Peck. He also was in “Next to Normal” last February, playing Boudreaux’s character’s boyfriend.
The pair spend most of their time on stage sitting as they would in a vehicle, while a Greek chorus of three castmates — Knoxville junior Brianna Smart (“Teenage Chorus”), Murfreesboro senior Blake Holliday (“Female Chorus”) and Nashville sophomore Laura Pickard (“Male Chorus”) — portrays the other characters in their lives.
“The audience is almost integrated into the show, because they’re sitting about 11 feet away from us,” says Hughes.
“It’s going to be immersive for all of us, definitely,” adds Boudreaux.
Kays has high praise for both the play and the MTSU students creating this production.
“This is one of the best-written plays I’ve ever worked on,” she says. “Every time I go through it, I find more subtleties. I want our audiences to make sure to see this production. It’s more than one person’s story; it’s not just about one guy who’s gone off the track.”
Tickets also will be available at the Tucker Theatre box office one hour before curtain times. For more information about the show, visit www.mtsuarts.com.
— Gina E. Fann (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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