published Friday, January 20th, 2012

'Driving Miss Daisy' steers into Cumberland County Playhouse

IF YOU GO

What: "Driving Miss Daisy."

When: Saturday through April 14.

Where: Cumberland County Playhouse, 221 Tennessee Ave., Crossville Tenn.

Admission: $12-$24.

Phone: 931-484-5000.

Website: www.ccplayhouse.com.

What to do with a proud, stuffy, prickly Southern septuagenarian who can no longer drive?

The way Daisy Werthan's son chooses to handle it in "Driving Miss Daisy," Alfred Uhry's Pulitzer Prize-winning drama, set in Atlanta in 1948, is to hire her a chauffeur. That provides the warmth, comedy and general appeal of the play, which will launch the Cumberland County Playhouse's 48th season on Saturday.

" 'Daisy' is a terrific story," said director John Fionte. "There are wonderful people in it. The characters are very well fleshed out. It's a very real, very human, sweet story. It also gives the actors a great opportunity to grow and stretch."

The three-person cast -- the Jewish widow Daisy, her son, Boolie, and her black chauffeur, Hoke -- move from 1948 when Daisy reluctantly accepts Hoke as her employee to 1973 when they have become close friends.

Fionte said the play is defined by the cast not only in moving the play forward but in convincing the audience as they age and draw closer as friends.

"It's all them," he said.

Fionte said a small cast, as opposed to a large cast in which "so much energy is spent in moving people," is a director's dream.

"It's a privilege to be able to take an enormous amount of time on the individual beats of a scene or on the character arts," he said. "I think the actors [like it], too."

The director said he was happy to receive the directorial assignment, his first for "Driving Miss Daisy," though the play has been staged twice in previous years at the Playhouse.

"One of my primary jobs as director is to look at the script and decide what the story is," he said. "It's an important step -- to figure out "what the author is saying to me [and] what particular events and story elements he is trying to convey. And then I want to present that story to an audience in a way that I hope is accessible, appealing, smart and engaging."

"Driving Miss Daisy," written in 1987, became an Academy Award-winning 1989 film starring Jessica Tandy and Morgan Freeman. It was recently revived on Broadway and in London's West End with Vanessa Redgrave as Daisy and James Earl Jones as Hoke.

about Clint Cooper...

Clint Cooper is the faith editor and a staff writer for the Times Free Press Life section. He also has been an assistant sports editor and Metro staff writer for the newspaper. Prior to the merger between the Chattanooga Free Press and Chattanooga Times in 1999, he was sports news editor for the Chattanooga Free Press, where he was in charge of the day-to-day content of the section and the section’s design. Before becoming sports ...

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