Civic Theatre Presents: DRIVING MISS DAISY

4.7/5 - (3 votes)

March 15 – 30, 2024

Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:00 p.m.

Saturdays and Sundays at 2:00 p.m.

Winner of the 1988 Pulitzer Prize and the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Off-Broadway Play.

The place is the Deep South, the time 1948, just before the civil rights movement. DRIVING MISS DAISY is a warm-hearted, humorous and affecting study of the unlikely relationship between an aging, crotchety white Southern lady and a proud, soft-spoken black man. A long-running Off-Broadway success and an Academy Award-winning film. (Dramatists Play Service, Inc.)

CONTENT WARNING: This production includes mentions of antisemitism, racism and provocative language.

Don’t wait! Purchase your tickets at thecenterpresents.org.

It’s always a privilege to engage with the talented cast and crew members who generously volunteer their time and skills to enrich our community. I recently had the opportunity to sit down with director Michael Lasley and the cast of “Driving Miss Daisy” to discuss the cast’s approach to performing these iconic roles. They emphasized their dedication to crafting unique interpretations of their characters, steering clear of imitating performances from some of the industry’s most distinguished actors.

Lasley and the cast also shared thoughts on the importance of live storytelling and the pivotal role directors like [Lasley] play in fostering a vibrant arts community through their dedication to authentic storytelling. Despite the unfortunate relevance of the themes in “Driving Miss Daisy” to the contemporary era, it’s crucial that we continue presenting and discussing them within the powerful platform of the performing arts.

Ellen Kingston – Daisy Werthan

I think of David, Antoine and I as a teepee, holding each other up. If one goes down, the whole thing’s going to fall down. We’ve really turned into a trio, and we feel like we’re supporting each other. That will just get stronger the more we rehearse, and we’re really excited about that.

Civic DRIVING MISS DAISY

I’m very linear in my thinking. I know where I’m going each day of the week. It’s not being inflexible…it’s just being prepared, and I think Daisy’s that way, too. She wants to plan, and maybe it’s a control thing, but for me, it’s the security of knowing what I’m going to be doing. So, in that way, I’m like her. I’m funny and she’s funny, so that’s another similarity.

[Playing Daisy] is such a blessing because I can really relax into the part. She’s older than I am, and she ages from 72 to 97 in this show. That’s been really fun because there will be no costume change at all. So, I emulate [aging] with posture, voice and hands. It’s not about drawing a lot of [age] lines on your face. In this case, the show goes straight through with no intermission, and that’s interesting [for] a longtime actor when looking for a new challenge.

David Wood – Boolie Werthan

Civic DRIVING MISS DAISY

I’ve seen the movie and the televised revival with Angela Lansbury and James Earl Jones. I certainly want to honor Dan Aykroyd and Boyd Gaines, who performed Boolie in the movie and the TV revival. I think my interpretation is closer to Aykroyd’s than [Gaines’], but I’m not trying to imitate either. It’s funny because Daisy reminds me a lot of my grandmother and a lot of how my dad would interact with her. They would do it by sniping at one another, and [that] was something that I saw modeled that makes [this role] really easy, but at the same time, not unlike Boolie and Daisy, my grandmother and my dad adored one another. So, there was always that loving aspect of it, and the [sniping], I think, some of it is release, and as we’ve talked a lot about the South, particularly as you roll back in time, they didn’t “look directly at it,” as Michael has said. They do a lot of “bless your heart.”

Antoine Demmings – Hoke Coleburn

For me, I don’t want to go out there and just be a copy of Morgan Freeman. I think about my granddad and the way that he talked when I was finding the space for this character. I think about his mannerisms, and I try to merge that into my version of Hoke. I try to be a little more energetic and as joyful and jolly as I can be, given this space. I try to bounce between those things while still paying 100% respect to the work that was done before me.

Civic DRIVING MISS DAISY

I hope that my performances seem genuine. I’m playing a character that is much older than me and from a different time. I want to be accurate to that space and time and to that particular character. I hope that the audiences take away the experience of seeing someone going through this story and realize how similar these conversations are to the conversations we’re having today. I hope that people 100 years from now will look back on us and say, “Those barbarians couldn’t figure it out, support each other, and do right.” I hope that the young people [of today] will make those changes and that this [production] will be a little piece of straw on that pile that leads to a conversation, and [that] eventually, these [issues] will be a thing of the past.

Michael Lasley – Director

The Center for the Performing Arts

We touch upon the struggles of African American and Jewish people, particularly in the Deep South. Finding the commonality between the two of them [Daisy and Hoke] and their friendship is great, but we’re also dealing with aging and “reverse parenting” and all that stuff that we deal with. In some ways, it’s mundane, but it’s also beautiful. It’s mundane because that’s what we all go through. We’re all experiencing these things rather in a microcosm or macrocosm. This is life, and these are the struggles of living.

CAST LIST

Daisy Werthan – Ellen Kingston

Boolie Werthan – David Wood

Hoke Coleburn – Antoine Demmings