Tony Award-winning play ‘Driving Miss Daisy’ opening in Newnan

Gerald Kemp “driving” Lamar Payne. Photo/Special.

Alfred Uhry’s “Driving Miss Daisy” opens April 11 at 8 p.m. in NTC’s Black Box theatre. This heart-warming story is directed by Tony Daniel and stars Susan Patterson, Gerald Kemp, and Lamar Payne. Daniel, Patterson and Payne have long been associated with NTC and have many shows to their credit. Kemp is a newcomer to NTC.

The story begins in 1948, just prior to the civil rights movement. Daisy Werthan, 72, has wrecked yet another car, and her son Boolie hires Hoke Colburn, an unemployed black man, to be her chauffeur. Miss Daisy looks down on Hoke, whom she doesn’t think she needs, and he resents her racial prejudice, which she denies. Spanning a period of twenty five years, the play consists of a series of powerful and often hilarious scenes that illustrate their growing respect and affection for each other.

Tony Daniel, associate artistic director, has directed five shows for NTC. Some of his recent acting accomplishments include starring roles in “Rumors,” “On Golden Pond,” and “November.”

“I jumped at the chance to direct ‘Driving Miss Daisy’,” said Daniel. “To me it is one of the most accurate portrayals of the modern South that there is. It takes you all the way through the racial divide and shows how that divide began to close when people started understanding one another. It’s a great story about two older people getting past some of their mutual prejudices. I also liked the idea of the story being told by just three people.”

Susan Patterson, playing Miss Daisy, has been with NTC for about ten years now.

“Unlike Gerald and Lamar, this is my first time doing this show. So they’re way ahead of me on lines. But I’m catching up. It’s fun to play a character that changes so much. It’s not just the aging – her attitude changes as well. She’s made of steel, but she softens.”

Kemp is enjoying retirement. He loves the character of Hoke Colburn so much that he has played it three times before. “I’m not a professional actor,” he said. “I do this just for fun. Hoke reminds me so much of my grandfather. Hoke is a hard-working, long suffering man who takes everything Miss Daisy dishes out. It’s a very sweet story.”

Payne has been a loyal supporter and participant at NTC for many years. He was awarded one of NTC’s rare Lifetime Achievement Awards after directing “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” in 2012. Payne is playing Boolie, Miss Daisy’s loving but exasperated son.

“I love the show,” said Payne. “This is my second time doing it – I also performed in it at the Legacy. I like Boolie. He’s a loving son, obviously. I believe he thinks his mother is annoying and overbearing at times, but he just adores her for the kind of person she is. I think he enjoys the interaction that they have.”

“Driving Miss Daisy” was performed for the first time off-Broadway in 1987. It was directed by Bob Farley and starred Dana Ivey and Morgan Freeman. Ivey won the 1987 OBIE Award for Best Performance, and in 1988 Uhry won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for the work. The play also won three Outer Critics Circle Awards: Best Off-Broadway Play, Best Actress in a Play,Dana Ivey, and Best Director, Ron Lagomarsino.

A year later, Farley brought the show to the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, staging the second production of the play ever. It ran for two seasons, from 1988-1990.

In 1989 Uhry adapted the drama into the screenplay for a film starring Jessica Tandy, Morgan Freeman and Dan Aykroyd. Uhry won the Academy Award for Writing an Adapted Screenplay in 1990. Incidentally, “Driving Miss Daisy” was partially filmed right here in Coweta County, in Senoia.

The play continues to enjoy popularity. The show will tour UK theatres from October, 2012 until April, 2013, and the Broadway production toured Australia early this year.

To purchase tickets, and for show dates and times, visit Newnan Theatre Company’s web site at or visit the box office before or after any performance. The theater is located in historic downtown Newnan at 24 First Avenue.

If you have questions regarding the content of any show, email Artistic Director Paul Conroy at

By Joan Doggrell

Special to The Citizen

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