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Driving Miss Daisy coming to Averitt Center
Local cast staging play Friday-Sunday
W Hoke and Boolie
Boolie (Alan Tyson) talks over an issue with Hoke (Mical Whitaker) in a scene from “Driving Miss Daisy.” The play opens Friday at the Averitt Center. - photo by Special


   Tickets: $10 for adults and $8 for children under 12, are on sale through the Averitt Center Box Office, open Tuesday – Friday from 1:00 – 5:30 p.m. or by calling 912-212-2787.

    Since the Averitt Center for the Arts opened in September 2004, the community theater organization, the Averitt STARs, has successfully encouraged local talent and provided excellent quality productions in the Emma Kelly Theater.
    This winter’s dramatic production is the highly acclaimed, Pulitzer Prize-winning drama “Driving Miss Daisy.”  Performances, sponsored by Citizen’s Bank, are Friday, Jan. 16 and Saturday, Jan. 17 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Jan. 18 at 2 p.m.
    “Driving Miss Daisy” offers historical introspection and social importance, yet plenty of Southern humor surfaces. Set in Atlanta from 1948 – 1973, the story deals gracefully with issues of racial and religious prejudice, ageism, independence and friendship.
    Author Alfred Uhry wrote musicals for 25 years when he wrote his first non-musical play, “Driving Miss Daisy.” Originally slated to run for five weeks at a small NYC theater, demand for tickets was so high that it moved to a larger theater and ran for three years.
    “I never dreamed this show would be so successful,” Uhry once mentioned in an interview. “When I wonder how this happened, I can come up with only one answer. I wrote what I knew to be the truth and people recognized it as such.”
    Indeed, most reviews are remarkably similar in their praise: the story is sincere, the characters have dignity and are true to life. Dealing with issues that plague all people, the appeal of “Driving Miss Daisy” is universal.
    Elderly Daisy Werthan, played by Carol Thompson, is a feisty, irascible, curmudgeon who resents the loss of her independence from being forced to give up driving. Her son, Boolie, played by Alan Tyson, hires Hoke Colburn, a middle-aged black man, as his mother’s chauffeur. Hoke, portrayed by Mical Whitaker, manages to be exceedingly patient, quiet and respectful, while maintaining his dignity and eventually develops a close friendship with Miss Daisy.
    Thompson made her stage debut as a high school senior.
    “That experience changed my life,” she said. “I went on to major in theater and performance, I’m also certified to teach theater.”
    Thompson’s husband was relocated every two – four years in their early marriage. Carol used the frequent moves as a way to build her theater experience and repertoire.     She has performed in community and professional theater across the south: Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and Florida.
    “Although I officially retired from performing in the 80s, Daisy is a role I’ve always wanted to play,” she explained. “When Mical (Whitaker) and (director) Gary (Dartt) started talking about this show, I decided to audition.”
    Alan Tyson’s first stage appearance was in the early 90s as Fezzywig in “A Christmas Carol,” directed by Whitaker and performed in the old McCroan Auditorium. Tyson was bitten by the acting bug and has enthralled local audiences with many varied characters.  His most recent stage appearance as Bruce Yawn was in the Averitt STARs’ production of “Erk Russell: A Life Done Right.”
    Tyson is thrilled to be working with the cast and Dartt as the director.
    “I appreciate the way Gary assists an actor in character development. He has let me work out who I think Boolie is, then spends time refining what I’ve brought to the character.”
    Mical Whitaker is a professional actor and Georgia Southern professor emeritus in theater. A Metter native, Whitaker’s career has taken him to theaters and radio in New York, around the country, and back to south Georgia. At the time of his retirement, Whitaker had directed and/or acted in over 100 productions throughout his 23 year Georgia Southern tenure. 
    His most recent stage appearance was as Lear in Georgia Southern’s Center for Art and Theater performance of Shakespeare’s “King Lear.”
    Whitaker was privileged to see one of the first stage performances of “Driving Miss Daisy” in an off-Broadway production.
    “I really identify with Hoke,” Whitaker said. “This character could be my father, so I feel as if I know him well.”
    Whitaker has studied Morgan Freeman’s classic portrayal of the character but “I don’t want to simply imitate Morgan’s version of Hoke, I want to put my own stamp on the role.”
    Whitaker agreed with both Thompson and Tyson about the casting of “Driving Miss Daisy.”
     “This is a dream cast,” he said. “We are all friends, we’ve worked together over the years – I’m working with people I’ve directed, for whom I’ve acted and Georgia Southern co-workers, it’s just a great group.”
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