Natchez Little Theater set to present ‘Driving Miss Daisy’

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 27, 2001

Three actors, a spartan set, a great plot and little imagination will likely bring a lot of laughs and maybe a few tears next weekend at the Natchez Little Theater. Director Sam Jones will present NLT’s first performance of &uot;Driving Miss Daisy&uot; Friday through Sunday.

Miss Daisy will be portrayed by NLT veteran Jane Calhoun. Hoke will be played by a newcomer to NLT, Darrell White. And NLT and Southern Exposure veteran Randy Laird will play Boolie.

Though new to the NLT stage, Jones and Calhoun performed the play as dinner theater in 1993 at the Natchez Eola Hotel.

&uot;We just had a marvelous time with it,&uot; Jones said. &uot;(And) it had been a while since we’d done it … the play itself is so profound – I think that’s probably the best word.&uot;

The Pulitzer Prize-winning play, written by Alfred Uhry, was turned into an Academy Award-winning film in 1989.

Like many people, Jones first learned about the story when he saw the film.

&uot;When I found out it was a play I said, ‘Oh, my gosh. I want to read this,’&uot; he said.

The play features Miss Daisy, an aging, wealthy Jewish widow, whose failing health and mind sparks her son, Boolie, into hiring a driver for her.

Pride and a little prejudice makes Miss Daisy dislike Hoke, the older black man her son hires, but as time passes the two become the best of friends.

&uot;This play is about prejudices,&uot; Jones said. &uot;The issues of prejudice permeate the play, and it’s not all black and white prejudice either. It’s religious, it’s old people and it’s money.

&uot;You’d probably have to watch the play several times to pick them all up,&uot; he said.

The play follows Miss Daisy and Hoke’s relationship over a 25-year time span initially set in 1948.

&uot;She’s 72 at the time,&uot; Jones said. &uot;By the time you see the last scene she’s 97.&uot;

Jones said the relationship between the characters changes before the audience’s eyes.

&uot;Watching these two go from ‘no I don’t need you’ to being best friends – it’s a wonderful story. All the differences between the two just melt away.&uot;

The play isn’t all serious either, Jones said.

&uot;I don’t want people to think this is all a really depressing thing,&uot; he said. &uot;It’s also really funny at times, and it is entertaining.

&uot;It’s amazing that you can mix those and get such a profound statement with it.&uot;

Jones said the audience may be surprised by the spartan nature of sets, and there’s a reason for them, he said.

&uot;The sets are very sparse,&uot; Jones said. &uot;It’s meant to draw as much out of the actors as possible and the audience too.

&uot;The car is four chairs for a reason. And by the middle of the play we will make you believe the car is there.&uot;

And that lack of showiness is what Jones said makes the play so great.

&uot;Actors and directors dream about plays like this, something you can sink your teeth into,&uot; he said.

If 1993’s performance is any indication, Jones expects the audience to be emotionally moved by the play.

&uot;Last time we did this, it was my job to stand at the door and thank people for coming,&uot; Jones said.

&uot;The men had a look on their face that they’d seen something profound, and the women were crying.&uot;