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UMaine School of Performing Arts opens season with How I Learned to Drive'

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ORONO - The University of Maine School of Performing Arts theatre department opens their 2012-13 season with the award-winning play 'How I Learned to Drive,' written by Paula Vogel. The play opens on Friday, Oct. 19 at 7:30 p.m in the Cyrus Pavilion Theatre. Additional performances are Oct. 20, 26, 27 at 7:30 p.m. , Oct. 21 and 28 at 2 p.m. and Oct. 25 at noon. Tickets are $15 (or free with a student MaineCard) and are available online at http://www.umaine.edu/spa or at the door.

The play follows the strained, sexual relationship between Li'l Bit and her aunt's husband, Uncle Peck, from her adolescence through her teenage years into college and beyond. Using the metaphor of driving and the issues of pedophilia, incest and misogyny, the play explores the ideas of control and manipulation.

Director Marcia Douglas describes her choice: 'The subject matter of this play is something we would all rather avoid. Insidious as alcoholism and emotional abuse, pedophilia and incest are dark secrets in many families. Vogel handles this topic with humor and insight, and leads her heroine to a place where forgiveness is possible. Can we learn to find compassion for the perpetrator while abhorring the act he commits? If Li'l Bit can do it, then there just might be a way to stop the cycle that has been put into motion. This play is both touching and disturbing at once.'

Audiences will notice that the Cyrus Pavilion Theatre has been transformed into nearly a full theatre-in-the-round for this production. Douglas explains her reasoning for this change, 'I have chosen to stage this play in the round so that the audience is unable to look away from the complexity and pain of this family. This kind of staging puts each of us in the midst of the action rather than on the outside looking in as does the more typical picture-frame staging does. For me the play is about forgiveness, and I am hoping the audience will come to a new understanding and appreciation of the possibility of hope.'

The roles of Li'l Bit and Uncle Peck are played by theatre majors Allison Smith and J.B. Lawrence.

Allison describes the challenge of the role of Li'l Bit as 'Mind-opening. It has helped me improve my craft in the arts, while also teaching me valuable lessons in resiliency and forgiveness.'

Costumes for the show were designed by Kathleen Brown. Scenic and lighting design by School of Performing Arts Assistant Professor of Theatre, Dan Bilodeau.

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