SARASOTA, FL – Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe concludes its 2015-2016 season with the comedy-drama Driving Miss Daisy, which runs April 20 (with three additional special previews added on April 16, 17 and 19) through May 28. The play won a Pulitzer Prize in 1988; in 1989, it was adapted into a film that was awarded four Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
Driving Miss Daisy shows what happens when you pair a feisty Jewish widow who lives by the rules of social etiquette, Daisy Werthan, with a proud, hard-working African-American chauffeur, Hoke Colburn. In 1948 Atlanta, it’s a hostile clashing of wills. But as the 25-year relationship evolves, the two navigate the bumpy road of bigotry and Civil Rights together, and a profound, life-altering bond emerges.
“This production offers us a unique opportunity not only to look at race relations at a time prior to and during the Civil Rights movement, but also encourages us to reflect on the state of race relations today,” said WBTT artistic director Nate Jacobs. “Daisy is a proud, proper woman who never thought to examine her own privilege in society – she took it as her right. But an act of anti-Semitism awakens her to the devastating reality and impact of prejudice and opens her to seeing Hoke as an equal – and, eventually, as her dearest friend.”
Carolyn Michel is “Daisy”; Taurean Blacque plays the chauffer, “Hoke,” and Kraig Swartz plays Daisy’s son, “Boolie.” Renowned director and former Producing Artistic Director of the Asolo Repertory Theatre, Howard Millman – who is also a past president and current board member of WBTT’s board of trustees – is directing.
Millman noted that he has wanted to do this show with Michel, to whom he has been married since 2000, for a number of years. “With a cast this small, you have to have all of the pieces,” he said.
He found his “Hoke” – Blacque – while directing Whipping Man at WBTT a few years ago, and had worked previously with Kraig Swartz, who agreed to be a part of “Daisy.” “I knew then that I had the puzzle solved,” Millman said. “I am so excited to work with all of them. Directing this cast will be sheer joy.”
“We are thrilled to have actors and a director of such a high caliber for this highly-anticipated production,” said WBTT executive director Julie Leach. “It is especially meaningful for us as Howard and Carolyn have been such steadfast supporters of and believers in our company. Our hope is that audiences will leave the theater deep in discussion, feeling uplifted yet also challenged to reevaluate their perception of race relations today.”
Scenic design by Rick Cannon, costume design by Cristy Owen, lighting design by Jim Sale, property master is Annette Breazeale, production manager is James E. Dodge II, and production stage manager is Juanita Munford.
Performances, which take place at the WBTT theater (1646 10th Way, Sarasota) are 8pm Tuesday-Saturday with 2pm matinees on Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $36/adults, $27/special previews on April 16, 17 and 19; $22 students or active military with valid ID. Call the Box Office (941-366-1505) or go to westcoastblacktheatre.org.
About Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe:
The Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe of Florida, Inc. is the only professional black theater company on Florida’s West Coast. The mission is to produce plays that promote and celebrate the African-American experience, attract diverse audiences, while using its productions as a vehicle for supporting African-American artists and building the self-esteem of African-American youth. For more information on WBTT, visit the website at westcoastblacktheatre.org or call (941) 366-1505.