Playwright Paula Vogel Profile & Biography

Real Name: Paula Vogel
Age: Born November 16, 1951 (age 68 yrs)
Birthplace: America
Profession: Playwright
Notable Awards Won: Pulitzer Prize for Drama (1998)
Partner: Anne Fausto-Sterling

 

Who Is Paula Vogel

Meet Paula Vogel a notable Playwright who has won the popular Pulitzer Prize-winning award.

Paula Vogel plays has won many notable awards,He was born on November 16, 1951 in Washington DC, Her father Donald Stephen Vogel, a Jewish advertising executive and Mother Phyllis Rita a secretary for the United States Postal Service Training and Development Center.

Paula has a longtime serving as a teacher, she spent the bulk of her academic life from 1984 to 2008 at Brown University, where she served as Adele Kellenberg Served Professor in Creative Writing, she was in-charge of the play-writing program, and helped established the Brown & Trinity Rep Consortium.

Throughout 2008 to 2012, Vogel was Eugene O’Neill Professor of Play-writing and department chair at the Yale School of Drama, as well as playwright in residence at the Yale Repertory Theater.

 

Education

Vogel is went to Bryn Mawr College from 1969 to 1970 and 1971 to 1972,had her graduate studies at The Catholic University of America (BA, 1974) and Cornell University (MA, 1976; PhD, 2016).

 

Career And Journey Into The world of Plays

Vogel since late 1970 has emerged as one of the world’s productive Playwright with most of her plays been produced by Second Stage, New York Theater Workshop, the Vineyard Theater, Roundabout, and Circle Repertory Company, Center Stage, Intiman, Trinity Repertory, Woolly Mammoth, Huntington Theatre, Magic Theater, The Goodman Theater, American Repertory Theater, Dallas Theatre Berkeley Repertory, and Alley Theaters to name a few. Harrogate Theatre and the Donmar Theatre have produced her work in England.

Her popularity and fame first came whens she took part in her AIDS related Seriocomedy titled “THE BALTIMORE WALTZ” in 1992, there after won the Obie Award for Best Play that year.

In the global circum Vogel plays have been produced in notable languages inludining: English in Canada, Great Britain, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand and in translation in Italy, Germany, Taiwan, South Africa, Australia, Romania, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Poland Slovenia, Canada, Portugal, France, Greece, Japanese, Norway, Finland, Iceland, Peru, Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Brazil and many other countries.

John Simon once remarked that Paula Vogel had more awards than a “black sofa collects lint.” Honors include induction in the American Theatre Hall of Fame, the Dramatists Guild Lifetime Achievement Award, the Lily Award, the Thornton Wilder Prize, the Obie Award for Lifetime Achievement, the New York Drama Critics Circle Award, the William Inge Award, the Elliott Norton Award, a Susan Smith Blackburn Award, the PEN/Laura Pels Award, a TCG Residency Award, a Guggenheim, a Pew Charitable Trust Award, and fellowships and residencies at Sundance Theatre Lab, Hedgebrook, The Rockefeller Center’s Bellagio Center, Yaddo, MacDowell Colony, and the Bunting.

She is particularly proud of her Thirtini Award from 13P, and honored by three Awards in her name: the Paula Vogel Award for playwrights given by The Vineyard Theatre, the Paula Vogel Award from the American College Theatre Festival, and the Paula Vogel mentorship program, curated by Quiara Hudes and Young Playwrights of Philadelphia.

Paula was playwright in residence at The Signature Theatre (2004-05 season), and Theatre Communications Group publishes six volumes of her work. Paula continues her playwriting intensives with community organizations, students, theater companies, subscribers and writers across the globe. She is the 2019 inaugural UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television Hearst Theater Lab Initiative Distinguished Playwright-in-Residence and has recently taught at Sewanee, Shanghai Theatre Academy and Nanjing University, University of Texas at Austin, and the Playwrights Center in Minneapolis. From 1984 to 2008, Paula Vogel founded and ran the playwriting program at Brown University; during that time she started a theatre workshop for women in Maximum Security at the Adults Correction Institute in Cranston, Rhode Island. It continues to this day, sponsored by the Pembroke Center for Women at Brown University. From 2008-2012, she was the O’Neill Chair at Yale School of Drama.

Paula Vogel Interviews With Victoria Myers Of The Intervalny.com

Dated: April 18th, 2017

As anyone who follows the theatre probably knows by now, the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Paula Vogel is making her Broadway debut at the age of 65 with the play Indecent. Indecent is about the turn of the century Yiddish play God of Vengeance by Sholem Asch and the controversy within the Jewish community of how Jews should be represented in popular culture. That, roughly, is the plot—Indecent is very much one of those plays where, if one could easily summarize what it was about, it wouldn’t need to be a play. Indecent had just started previews at the Cort Theatre a few days prior when we met Paula at the Algonquin Hotel, once home to the famous Algonquin Round Table. The table still stands, with a painting of its former occupants mounted on the wall behind it, while tourists buzz around it going about their day. A few tables over, I spoke with Paula about writing Indecent, legacy, ambition, and more.

You’ve spoken about how Indecent was a collaborative process, and not your average experience of writing a first draft and then doing a reading or workshop with the director. I was wondering if you could talk a little bit more specifically about how the play was put together and how you found that affected your process as a writer?

I have to say that I think this whole play happened because of [director] Rebecca Taichman’s passion. I had read the play [God of Vengeance] when I was 22 years old. I thought it was stunning. I never forgot it. But Rebecca became obsessed with the play when she read it when she was 26. She held onto this notion of doing a play about the God of Vengeance for 20 years. Now when a really brilliant young artist is that passionate and pursues that dream, that was one of the first reasons that I said yes, I’d like to work with her. The second reason is that I’d already been seeing her work and she’s superb. She’s really an amazing director. I wrote 42 drafts, and every word that I wrote was discussed. When we had workshops, I would go off and I would write until two or three in the morning, and I’d come back in with the new pages and Rebecca would say, “Let’s try it. Let’s try it.” And, in a similar way, she was very open in terms of her process. I was in the room all the time. She would say, “What do you think about that?” And I’d say, “Oh, that was interesting. I’m wondering if we might want to try…” So there was a back and forth.

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The other thing that I think was extraordinary was that Rebecca and I designed our production team. I said, “I want a Klezmer band. I’d love to have a clarinetist, a violinist, and an accordion [player].” And we basically pursued the composers and musicians for over three years. We thought and talked about who the choreographer should be.

This is just the closest [collaboration] in my lifetime, and that kind of give and take, where you’re thinking of the entire room as collaborators, takes an incredible leadership from the director. It was the same thing of having basically the same cast for four productions and being able to make tiny little shifts. It’s a fairly complicated machine and it has to look like it’s effortless. That’s hundreds and hundreds of hours from all the artists together, and Rebecca manages to be a conduit for that entire team and she basically goes back and forth between me and everyone in the room. So it’s hard to say specifically. The interesting thing about it is over time we trust each other, and you just end up listening to the play more closely. It’s been an incredible experience.

Did you find that you had to adjust how you were writing, not only in terms of writing for specific actors, but also maybe in terms of writing more quickly than usual or more outside-in than you normally would?

I don’t know that I wrote more quickly. I have this technique called a bake-off where How I Learned to Drive was written in three weeks and The Baltimore Waltz was written in two weeks. So I wouldn’t say that I am particularly slow about it. What I had to do was have a restlessness that I felt Rebecca has [that] it has to be perfect, [that] I could make that a little better. The more that I started to love my troupe and love the artists, the more I wanted it to be the best that it could be. And that meant a patience in terms of going back into the scene and trying other things. That’s the main difference. I’m not working in a vacuum. I could look at actors. One day I was looking at Max Gordon Moore and I said to Rebecca, “I have a crazy idea. I need to disappear for 24 hours.” And I ran home with the collected works of Eugene O’Neill and his letters, and I crammed and came back in the room with a new scene because I thought Max would make a terrific Eugene O’Neill, which it turned out he could. Or having the privilege of working with Katrina Lenk and saying, “I bet I could change her into this character. I bet I could do this.” And the ability to use specific members of the cast who can play musical instruments, but also who can dance, means that you think about how to end the scenes differently. That really informed the writing. I’m writing for the troupe. It’s the way that playwrights used to work back in the 1600s, 1700s, they wrote for the troupe, and oh my God it’s heaven.

This is a piece that has a very strong interplay between form and content. Where in the process did you find the moments of content dictating form, and were there moments of form dictating content?

I pretty much saw the shape of the general play within the first couple of days. It’s why I said yes—I knew I could write it. So I knew where we were going. I knew where the turning point was going to be. I knew what the echoes were going to be. To me, form is content. So, it was a matter of making sure it was the right form. Very early on it was a two-act play. It didn’t work as a two-act play, which meant I had to go back in and make deep cuts. So, it was trying to make that end work; I knew where it was ending. And I don’t really think of [form and content] as divisible. I think they are the same thing.

I think one of the really amazing gifts I’ve gotten from 40 years of working with younger playwrights is that I think the younger generation has a fluidity of storytelling that older audience members may not have. We expect time to behave in a linear fashion. We expect that there’s going to be a beginning, a middle, and an end. But the more that you look at the way plays are being written by younger writers, time is fluid, it’s warping, it’s morphing. I really wanted the dimension of time to change.

Indecent is obviously in relationship to God of Vengeance, but do you also see it as being in relation to other plays and other works of art?
Absolutely, there’s always a homage in everything that I write, usually in every scene. I never have the time to write handwritten notes, so instead I write plays, and I tuck in little valentines within the scenes. Definitely there is a valentine to an astonishing Polish director, by the name of Tadeusz Kantor, who used his childhood in Poland during World War II to create theatrical sculptures about his memory of getting through the war as a child. An astonishing play called Wielopole, Wielopole. And he did a play called The Dead Class, where he remembered his elementary school classmates in this tiny village, but they were basically like Siamese twins, two mannequins of their childhood selves played by their adult selves, and they were all dead, and they come back to life in this classroom. I’ve never seen anything like that. When I told Rebecca that, she came up with the amazing visuals that begin and end the play. There’s a big valentine in this to him. Thornton Wilder, I think I write almost every play with a valentine to Thornton Wilder. The third act of Our Town with the members of the cemetery sitting in chairs in the rain is a huge part of it, and the stage manager, Lemml, is absolutely a valentine to the stage manager of Our Town. And there are many, many more valentines in this. We have an astonishing choreographer, and he’s making valentines to the dances and the dance makers he loves. Lisa Gutkind and Aaron Halva are writing original music looking over their shoulders.

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One of the things I found really interesting about the piece is it’s an ensemble piece, but there’s also this way where you have men looking at and writing about women, not just in the character of Sholem Asch, but also Lemml. What was your thought process for using the male gaze within the structure of the piece?

There were a couple of initial impulses that I had. One was that I wanted us all, at the end of the play, to feel that we were native speakers of Yiddish, and that we were in that last audience [of God of Vengeance]. But the second thing was that I wanted us all to recognize how amazing and beautiful female desire is in worlds in which the agency was given to men. The fact that the first scene in the salon, it’s men who are performing the women. I wanted the challenge of, how do I float women through this play and make them concrete and specific with material bodies, but also show men kind of creating a repository of their imagination and their desire?

I’m hoping the fact that women artists have created it makes that somewhat clear. It’s true of every play I write. If I write Baltimore Waltz, for example, I want every man and woman in the audience to think how beautiful the male body is. How could you not be in love with men? That’s a beautiful, beautiful thing. In this play, I’m asking the audience to look at the women in the way perhaps Sholem Asch looked at the women, which was revolutionary in how beautiful women are. The difference is that we’ve changed the characters in the original God of Vengeance, so that it’s not a passive younger woman with an older, more aggressive, experienced woman, but rather that the younger woman is acting on her desires. And that’s a fairly significant shift. How did these women become the agents of their desire, rather than get passively caught in the desire? It’s a beautiful play written by a young married man in 1906 with an astonishing love scene. But I do think it plays differently now, and I think we’re in the 21st century, and I think in order for God of Vengeance to come back into the canon, we have to look at female desire differently, particularly in this country. What’s terrifying is that we are, once again, in risk of policing women and the desire of women, both through things like cutting rights of abortion, control over our bodies, and policing sexuality. That’s where we are.

So in many, many ways, I feel like I’m on just the flip side of the coin that Sholem Asch was showing at a time when the policing was alive and well and extremely dangerous within the Jewish community. And I think of him—he’s a very brave and honest writer for his time. And I’m using him in the present tense because I think of him in the present tense; I don’t think of writers as dead. I don’t think of actors as dead. That’s very much a part of this play. I think the art continues their life force long after they’re gone.

Paula Vogel Awards & Honors

Vogel has won many awards all to her credit, she  received the Award for Literature from The American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2004 & also an Obie Award for Best Play (1992) and Pulitzer Prize in Drama (1998),

Paula Vogel in 1997 won a Robert Chesley Award.

She won the 1998 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for How I Learned to Drive. In 1999, Vogel received the PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater Award for a playwright in mid-career.

In 2003, the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival created an annual Paula Vogel Award in Playwriting for the best student-written play that celebrates diversity and encourages tolerance while exploring issues of dis-empowered voices not traditionally considered mainstream.

In 2013, Vogel was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame.

In 2016, Vogel successfully completed and defended her doctoral thesis at Cornell University, more than 40 years after she began her graduate work. She was awarded her Ph.D. in Theatre Arts in May.

In 2017 she recieved the Obie Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Notable Books Written By Paula Vogel

Swan Song of Sir Henry (1974)
Meg (1977)
Apple-Brown Betty (1979)
Bertha in Blue (1981)
The Oldest Profession (Hudson Guild, New York City reading, 1981)
And Baby Makes Seven (New York City, 1984)
The Baltimore Waltz (Off-Broadway, 1992)
Desdemona, A Play about a Handkerchief (Bay Street Theatre and Off-Broadway, 1993)
Hot ‘N Throbbing (American Repertory Theater, 1994)
The Mineola Twins (Perseverance Theatre, 1996)
How I Learned to Drive (Off-Broadway, 1997)
The Long Christmas Ride Home (Trinity Repertory Company, 2003)
Civil War Christmas (Long Wharf Theatre, 2008)
Don Juan Comes Home from Iraq (Wilma Theatre,
Indecent (Yale Repertory Theatre, 2015) (Cort Theatre, Broadway, NY, 2017 – nominated for Tony Award