Almost 10 years ago to the day, I was sitting in the balcony of the Emma Kelly Theater filming part of a dress rehearsal for the Averitt Center’s initial production of “Driving Miss Daisy.”
Shooting video for the Statesboro Herald’s Studio Statesboro show, Mical Whitaker as Hoke and Carol Thompson as Miss Daisy were rehearsing a scene where Hoke and Miss Daisy have driven out to the cemetery where her late husband is buried. Miss Daisy has brought a pot of flowers and asks Hoke to place the flowers on his grave.
But Hoke can’t find the marker because even though he’s 70 years old or so, he never learned to read.
This was a rehearsal, mind you, and, as I’m filming, tears are streaming down my cheeks and it’s all I can do to contain my sobs. Watching the extraordinary craftsmanship of these two actors conveying the emotions of incredulity, frustration and humiliation leading to compassion, empathy and determination led to an emotional response that I’ll never forget.
I’ll be in the balcony once again on Friday night, but this time as part of the audience watching Whitaker and Thompson, along with co-star Alan Tyson, under the direction of Gary Dartt, bring “Driving Miss Daisy” to the Emma Kelly stage for the third time.
Will the 10th anniversary show be the final one for this unique ensemble? I hope not. I hope they decide to do it again at some point in the near future. But Mical Whitaker, Carol Thompson and Gary Dartt may all decide to fully and truly retire. (Alan: If they are, talk them out of it!)
There have been many superb local productions staged at the Averitt Center since it opened in 2004. For me, “Driving Miss Daisy” is the high water mark. It is not flashy. It is not bombastic. It’s the beautifully poignant story of two people from vastly different worlds who come together at a time in their lives that makes their common humanity more important than the racial, economic and social lines that separate them.
But even beyond that, the talents of the cast and director make this particular production of “Driving Miss Daisy” a transcendent piece of theater. Acting that brings audience members into their world for a remarkable 90 minutes and leaves you marveling from such an emotionally satisfying experience.
There will be three performances this weekend — at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and at 3 p.m. on Sunday. If you enjoy live theater at all, please treat yourself to the artistry and magic of one of the weekend shows.
It will stay with you forever.