Drive

Lainey Drake as Li’l Bit and Ben Baker as Uncle Peck are in “How I Learned to Drive.”

Wake Forest University’s 2019-2020 Theatre Subscription Series will kick off Sept. 20 with the first of four shows.

The season ranges from a revealing, complex family portrait to equally complex accusations in a small settlement, a study of responsibilities between generations, and a sobering look at relationships across several classic fairy tales.

In addition to a subscription pass for all four shows, tickets are for sale for individual shows at the box office.

“How I Learned to Drive”

The season opener is Paula Vogel’s 1997 drama “How I Learned to Drive,” which won the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for drama.

The play frankly studies the relationship between young Li’l Bit and her aunt’s husband, Uncle Peck. From a young age, she has been abused by Peck — and that’s just the tip of her family iceberg. Moving around in time, the play touches on control and manipulation, along with related issues, that have measurably affected Li’l Bit’s life.

Brook Davis directs the play, which is not recommended for children.

“I am thrilled to direct this show, and have wanted to direct it for years,” Davis said. “When I first encountered the play, it angered me. I wanted a simplistic view of the relationship between abuser and abused. And as I have gotten older, I celebrate Vogel’s brilliant, funny play, her complex treatment of the trickiest of issues.”“The Crucible”

A partially-fictionalized study of the Salem witch trials, Arthur Miller’s 1953 play, “The Crucible,” will be staged in November.

Sharon Andrews, who directs the Miller classic, said “I always get an extra boost of enthusiasm when directing a play with powerful contemporary resonance. ‘The Crucible’ is a powerfully entertaining drama that, in my opinion, resonates just as deeply now as it did in the 1950s.”

“Ever in the Glades”

Brittni Shambaugh Addison, who holds an MFA in directing from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, returns to Wake where she earned her bachelor’s degree in Theater in 2010 to direct Laura Schellhardt’s 2018 play, “Ever in the Glades.”

In the play, on an isolated island deep in the Everglades, five young people struggle to survive in a place where the adults are as dangerous as the gators.

“So often, plays written for or about young people lack emotional depth and land in a place of one-dimensional and stereotypical characterization,” Addison said. “I love this play because it highlights very real young people going through very real struggles — for all of the characters, the stakes are extremely high. At the same time, the play allows for moments of beautiful and powerful theatricality.”

“Into the Woods”

The musical “Into the Woods,” with a book by James Lapine and music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, rounds out the Wake series in late March.

The 1987 Tony Award-winning production brings together a number of folk-tale characters, who interact during their well-known stories — and afterwards, when the results of their actions have some serious repercussions.

Director Cindy Gendrich finds a timeliness in this spring’s production of the musical.

“I just think ‘Into the Woods’ is a perfect musical for this moment in our country’s life,” she said. “It’s hopeful but bittersweet, funny and colorful, scary and dark. It talks about so many things we need to think about right now, and the music is transcendent.”

Gendrich also cited the last time “Into the Woods” graced the department’s main stage — when a short in a flash box caused a fire that destroyed its elaborate set just before the show’s second night.

That unfortunate 2004 incident turned into a true education in keeping the show alive. “And the 2020 version will be a wonderful way to end our first season in the newly renovated Tedford Theatre,” she said.

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