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Theatre / How I Learned to Drive

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A woman, known to the audience only as L'il Bit, tells a story of her complicated relationship with her uncle. Uncle Peck taught Li'l Bit to drive, as well as a few other things. According to the playwright, Paula Vogel, How I Learned to Drive is "a play about the gifts we receive from the people who hurt us" — and about control and manipulation. It is possibly the most heartbreaking play about pedophilia and incest you'll ever read or see.


It won the Pulitzer Prize in 1998 and was revived Off Broadway in 2012. It is set to open on Broadway for the first time in 2020 with the original leads from 1997, Mary-Louise Parker and David Morse, reprising their roles alongside their original director Mark Brokaw.

How I Learned to Trope:

  • The Alcoholic: Uncle Peck is a recovered drunk, who falls off the wagon and drinks himself to death after Li'l Bit refuses him.
  • Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: As well as grandparents. Li'l Bit's breasts are a regular dinner topic.
  • Creepy Uncle: The plot hinges on Peck molesting his niece.
  • D-Cup Distress: L'il Bit compares her emerging boobs to parasitic aliens who have latched on to her.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: Li'l Bit, Uncle Peck, and many other members of the family are given nicknames that refer to their genitals.
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  • Fille Fatale: Averted, though Li'l Bit is accused of being one by her uncle's wife.
  • The Jail Bait Wait: When Li'l Bit moves away to college, Peck sends her letters... counting down to when she turns eighteen. She's understandably creeped out.
  • Not Blood Siblings: Peck married into Li'l Bit's family. But still.
  • Off the Wagon: After Li'l Bit rejects him, Uncle Peck eventually drinks himself to death.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: We never find out Li'l Bit's real name.
  • Sympathy for the Devil: Though immoral behavior is not presented as being moral.
  • Thanks for the Mammary: A middle school classmate fakes an allergic reaction, and when Li'l Bit asks what he's allergic to, he grabs a handful and yells, "foam rubber!"
  • Umbrella Drink: Lampshaded, in a way: Li'l Bit is strenuously warned against ordering one of these.


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