Rosebud Theatre is 35 – Driving Miss Daisy
by Laureen F. Guenther
Rosebud Theatre opens its 35th anniversary season with the Pulitzer Prize-winning Driving Miss Daisy. The play will run April 6 to May 19, in Rosebud’s Opera House.
Miss Daisy is an elderly woman who’s just had a car accident, explains Morris Ertman, Rosebud Theatre’s artistic director. “Like lots of people that we know who are getting elderly, she doesn’t want to admit that she has a problem.”
Against her protests, Miss Daisy’s son hires a driver named Hoke, and he’s black. Miss Daisy is white, wealthy and Jewish. Set in Atlanta, Georgia, the play focuses on their relationship from the mid-1940s to the early 1970s, bringing to light issues during the civil rights era.
“It’s the story of a Jewish woman of wealth and a black man who wind up forging, over the course of 20 years, a friendship and a respect,” Ertman says.
“It’s the story about a woman that grows old,” he says. “And somebody who has the grace to take care of her and take care with her as she grows old. … It’s a story about the coming together of people that wouldn’t normally come together.”
Miss Daisy’s role will be played by guest actor Judith Buchan, whose Rosebud Theatre performances have included Outside Mullingar and Our Town. Resident actor Paul F. Muir, who also acted in Outside Mullingar, will play Miss Daisy’s son.
Tom Pickett, a guest from Vancouver, who’s playing Hoke, previously performed that role at Chemainus Theatre. “He’s also a man from the United States,” Ertman says, “who also understood the nature of the (civil rights) struggle at the time. And he’s a man filled with a lot of grace.”
Ertman is also bringing in Foley designer Matthew Golden, to recreate the sounds of the drives Hoke takes with Miss Daisy.
“We’re going to hear everything from the car starting, and we’ll swear that it’s absolutely real,” Ertman says. “There’s a point where they’re in a traffic jam. And he’s going to create the atmospherics that make us feel like we’re really in that traffic jam.”
Actor Judith Buchan says “This is the story of invisible people…Who in the world would specially notice an elderly Jewish widow? Or her illiterate African-American chauffeur? The playwright, Alfred Uhry, noticed them. He was writing about people he knew.
“Prejudice and racial tension were problems then,” Buchan states, “and lo and behold, prejudice and racial tension are still problems now. The play is a gentle rendering of these problems. But perhaps that opens the door for us to see attitudes and ideas of our own that are not as generous as they could be.”
“There is such kindness,” Buchan says.She hopes audience members will take away an openness to other people, no matter how different they are from each other.
“You know how parents say, ‘Can’t you two just be friends?’” she says. “Maybe they can. Maybe we can.”
Ertman states his wish for audiences even more simply. “I hope they take away love,” he says. “I hope they walk away from the theatre believing in love, that it really does carry the day.”
To reserve tickets or for more information, call 1-800-267-7553 or go to rosebudtheatre.com.