Driving Miss Daisy

Ashley Hunter
ECB Publishing, Inc.

An iconic tale of pride, changing times and the transformative power of friendship has warmed the hearts of millions worldwide.
Driving Miss Daisy has become one of the most beloved American plays, and is coming to the Monticello Opera House tonight, Friday, Oct. 18, through the next week until Sunday, Oct. 27.
Written by American playwright Alfred Uhry, the classic production tells a timeless tale that is both sober and playful.
This timeless tale will be told in the Monticello Opera House downstairs banquet hall, with actors Donald Thomas (Hoke Colburn), Donna Mavity (Daisy Werthan) and Tim Nettles (Boolie Werthan) bringing the production to life.

Donna Mavity as Daisy Werthan

Striding onto the stage with all fierceness and elegance of the titular Daisy Werthan is actress Donna Mavity.
Mavity's exemplary performance as Miss Daisy draws from Mavity's own theater training and experience. During her years as a college student, Mavity had dreams of achieving a celebrity status as an actress and obtained a degree in theater. Despite her training, Mavity says she never pursued theater professionally – at least, not until she moved to Thomasville, Ga. nearly 30 years ago.
Since then, Mavity says she has worked with several community theaters and local acting societies in Thomasville and Bainbridge, Ga. This performance as Miss Daisy, however, will be Mavity's debut into the Monticello Opera House.
When it comes to the core of her upcoming performance, Mavity draws inspiration from the message that the compelling story provides to its audience.
"In many of us, we don't realize it the degrees of prejudice that we have, and Daisy discovers her own prejudice through her friendship with Hoke," says Mavity.
The story of Driving Miss Daisy has become a classic due to the way it approaches hidden prejudice and holds both its characters and audience accountable for their hidden feelings towards others. The play is poignant due to the way Daisy Werthan comes to face her own bias and preconceptions.
"At age 72, its an awakening for her," says Mavity. "She overcomes her prejudice, which is something that she never thought she had until she lives in a close way with this man."
While the show's themes focus on prejudice, racial bias and the shifting world of the early 20th century, it is also the tale of an older woman who refuses to age disgracefully.
"I connect with her not wanting to accept that there are limits of age," says Mavity. "I, too, don't want to be told someday that I'm 'too old' to do something."
The spirit that causes Mrs. Daisy Werthan to push back against the need for a chauffeur is the same spirit that keeps Daisy Werthan an independent and stalwart female figure on stage.
Daisy Werthan's spirit is an aspect that, Mavity says, the audience will see from the moment she first strides on stage.
"She's not a person to give in to aging, and I feel that way myself," adds Mavity. "She's an older woman, but she is feisty."
For the next week, Donna Mavity will be bringing the fiery Daisy Werthan to life, but during the day, Mavity keeps a different type of story alive.
After obtaining her degree in theatre, Mavity went back to school and received a degree in library science. Currently, she is semi-retired, but can still be found preserving stories and textbooks at the Southern Regional Technical College library, in Thomasville.

Donald Thomas as Hoke Colburn

Starring opposite Mavity's Daisy Werthan is Tallahassee's Donald L. Thomas as Hoke Colburn.
Thomas is an experienced actor whose most recent performances have included several film productions.
His two most recent movies have made Thomas rely on his ability to deliver a comedic line, as well as the impact his words can carry in a dramatic production – both talents that are honed well for his portrayal of Hoke Colburn.
While Colburn is known for his patience, as well as his noble and compassionate features, Thomas aims to remind his audience of the trials that existed for men of color during the 1940s era in which the play is set.
"Hoke Colburn is an out-of-work chauffeur," explains Thomas. "This is just before the civil rights movement, so finding a job is not easy for all black men."
Set in 1948, a short time after the end of the second World War and placed in the deep south of Atlanta, Ga., Hoke Colburn undoubtedly faced racial tension and prejudice before even arriving on stage to chauffeur the sharp-witted Daisy Werthan.
Hired by Boolie Werthan to drive Daisy around, Thomas says that this event serves as the catalyst for the eventual friendship that would bloom between the two leading characters.
While Thomas relates to the good-naturedness of the character he portrays, saying that he identifies with Hoke Colburn's ability to "turn lemons into lemonade," it isn't just the character's joviality that Thomas admires.
Thomas identifies with Hoke Colburn's resolve and determination.
When applying for the job of being Daisy Werthan's driver, Hoke Colburn stands resolute and determined, even while knowing that the task will be no simple or easy one.
"I would wrestle hogs during killing time, and there ain't no hog that ever got away from me yet," is the line from Colburn's playbook that Thomas says he most admires.
The line shows that while Hoke Colburn is kindhearted, gentle and patient with the stubborn Miss Daisy, he is also her match when it comes to remaining resolute and refusing to back down from adversity.
Donald L. Thomas will be a new face to the Monticello Opera House, but students from Tallahassee's FAMU might recognize him – when Thomas is off the stage and out of the spotlight, he works as a library technician at the FAMU Science Resource Center's library.

Tim Nettles as Boolie Werthan

While Daisy Werthan and Hoke Colburn may fill the stage as the leading stars of Driving Miss Daisy, the show would not be complete without the necessary addition of Daisy's son, Boolie Werthan.
A third-generation businessman and Jewish resident of Atlanta, Boolie Werthan walks the fine line between retaining the values of his faith while fitting in with the Christian society of the Southern United States.
While juggling his family's business, Boolie also takes on the task of securing his mother with a driver and ensuring her safety after a vehicle accident leaves Daisy Werthan unfit to drive herself any longer.
Stepping onto the Monticello Opera House stage to take on the role of Boolie Werthan is veteran actor Tim Nettles.
Nettles is no stranger to the acting community of Monticello, as he starred in the opera house's production of Father of the Bride as Stanley Banks earlier this year and in 2015, played Elwood P. Dowd in Harvey at the opera house.
Nettles has also been a cast member for various productions in theaters that are scattered around the North Florida and South Georgia region.
It is Boolie's loyalty and affection for his aging mother, Daisy Werthan, that Nettles will fully shine a light on his upcoming performance as Boolie Werthan.
"At this point in his life, he has to take care of his mom," explains Nettles. "She can't drive anymore, but he loves her dearly and wants her to be safe."
So, Nettles adds, Boolie takes it upon himself to secure a driver for his aging mother, even if Daisy Werthan refuses to accept that she requires a chauffeur.
"He knows how hardheaded she is," says Nettles. "He knows the challenges that present and that he has got to find the right guy to work with his mama."
While playing Boolie, Nettles says he has realized that the role of the Jewish businessman and son shares a lot of similarities in his own life.
"I am also a third-generation business owner in Tallahassee, while Boolie is a third-generation business owner in Atlanta," says Nettles. "It's the same legacy of passing a business from grandfather to father to son."
He also feels a connection to his portrayal of Boolie due to the play's storyline of caring for an aging mother.
"There are similar stories there. There's a lot of coincidences between this play and my own personal life – just different stories, of course," says Nettles. "There are certain points of the play that seem fairly familiar to me."
Nettles, in his own personal life, has also had to care for his mother and see to her well-being as she aged. That experience, which he shares with his character, allows him to dig deeply into the character he portrays.
"I've really worked to know who Boolie is, just like any character you would develop."
Tim Nettles settles comfortably into the role of the Werthan son and business owner; while he has played the lead in his two previous Monticello Opera House productions, Nettles says he finds an individual enjoyment in slipping into the role of secondary characters.
"I really like secondary characters. I like the characters that offer support roles and ensemble roles. They are in every play, there are always one of those kinds of people," says Nettles. "I just like the process of building those types of characters."
A lifelong Tallahassee resident, Nettles owns Florida Roofing & Sheet Metal Works, which was founded by his grandfather. He also started a tour operation business in the capital city called Tallahassee Segway Tours.

Driving Miss Daisy will be playing at the Monticello Opera House for the next two weekends, from Friday, Oct. 18 through Sunday, Oct. 20 and from Friday, Oct. 25 through Sunday, Oct. 27. Friday and Saturday performances open at 8 p.m. and Sunday matinees begin at 2 p.m. Tickets range from $10-$20 per person.
Visit monticellooperahouse.org for ticket purchasing information.