Paula Anne Vogel was born to a working-class family in Washington, D.C. After her parents’ divorce, she was raised by her mother. Vogel’s family life, education, and early career were not free of problems, but the challenges and failures she faced taught her lessons and helped her build the resilience necessary for life as a writer. She first became interested in drama in high school and began working as a stage manager for school productions. She began college at Bryn Mawr but lost her scholarship and finished her undergraduate education at Catholic University in Washington, where she earned her B.A. in 1974. She hoped to attend graduate school at the Yale School of Drama, but her application was rejected. She entered a Ph.D. program at Cornell University but left in 1977, not having completed her dissertation. By then her playwriting career had begun to experience some success.
Vogel’s first theatrical success came with Meg, a three-act play examining the life and martyrdom of the Catholic saint Sir Thomas More, as seen from the perspective of his daughter Margaret. The play won the 1977 American College Theater Festival award for best new play and was produced at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. Vogel’s interest in exploring traditionally male stories from the vantage point of women characters can also be seen in Desdemona, in which the story of William Shakespeare’s Othello (pr. 1604) is retold from the point of view of Othello’s wife. Vogel turns the innocent young woman of Shakespeare’s play into a wicked, deceitful character embodying Othello’s worst nightmares.
A major breaktrough in Vogel’s career came in 1992 with The Baltimore Waltz, a play inspired by the time she spent helping her brother Carl in his final battle with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). The play is a tribute to her brother...
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