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The Subtext: Paula Vogel

The great playwright and educator talks about her ambitions for her own work and for the art form she loves.

The Subtext is a podcast where playwrights talk to playwrights about the things usually left unsaid. In a conversation that dives into life’s muck, we learn what irks, agitates, motivates, inspires, and ultimately what makes writers tick.

On this episode of the Subtext, host Brian James Polak speaks with the great Paula Vogel, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning How I Learned to Drive, Obie Award-winning Baltimore Waltz, and Tony-nominated Indecent (one of the most-produced plays this season).

Paula Vogel

Paula grew up with a passion for politics: Her dream was to be the first women senator from the state of Maryland. But when she began a relationship with a woman, she realized she would never be able to hold elected office. This realization set her on a trajectory toward theatre that she is still on 50 years later.

As Brian and Paula discuss the topic of success, she recounts a conversation she once had with Suzan-Lori Parks in which Parks shared with her an idea of success as a playwright: It can be achieved, but the time it will take is much longer for gay women and people of color. Vogel goes on to describe the various obstacles put the way of her own career and the people who told her she should stop writing. Paula’s steadfastness paid dividends, but as the math suggested, she didn’t find success until her 40s.

After building the Brown University playwriting program, Vogel moved on to Yale, where she continued to feed the American theatre with playwrights who would go on to acclaim (and even Pulitzers). When pressed about what makes her such a successful and beloved educator, she describes how her love of this art form is what fuels her teaching. She ultimately wants the theatre to be loved and carried on by others.

Download the episode here.

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