Local veteran star to play title role in ‘Driving Miss Daisy’

June 19th, 2015 9:24 am

First Posted: 10/9/2014

Local actress Janet Loewe was involved in Actors Circle, now in its 33rd season, almost since its inception. So it’s no wonder the Clarks Summit resident lost track of how many of the Scranton-based theater group’s productions she performed in.

“I should count them up some day,” she said, laughing. “It’s probably up there between 20 and 30, I would imagine. Quite a few, over the years. And it’s really been a lot of fun. So many of the roles, they’re so different.”

John McInerney, also of Clarks Summit, who is directing the upcoming Actors Circle production of “Driving Miss Daisy” by Alfred Uhry, in which Loewe plays the title role, described her as “a long-time veteran star of community theater.”

Indeed, she began participating in community theater in 1966 and since then, in addition to her involvement with Actors Circle as an actress, 25-year board member, past board president and co-producer of the show “Any Wednesday,” she performed with The Abington Players, The University of Scranton and Scranton Public Theatre, SRO.

Her most recent roles with Actors Circle were Abbey Holsom in “Murder in the Manor House,” Mrs. Piper in “Busybody,” Mama in “‘Night Mother,” Mrs. Birling in “An Inspector Calls” and Martha Booker in “Mystery at the Masonic.”

Loewe’s past award-winning roles include Blanche in “A Streetcar Named Desire,” Amanda in “The Glass Menagerie,” Melissa in “Love Letters” and Madame Duvenet in “Auto de Fe.”

She also performed in “The Vagina Monologues” at the Scranton Cultural Center and serves as a volunteer tour guide at the Everhart and Anthracite museums.

McInerney is the current Actors Circle board president and an award-winning playwright. He is Professor Emeritus in English at The University of Scranton where he taught for more than 42 years and worked as an actor, writer and director with the University Players.

“Driving Miss Daisy” will be presented Nov. 6, 7, 8, 9, 13, 14, 15 and 16 at Providence Playhouse, 1256 Providence Road, Scranton. Thursday, Friday and Saturday performances begin at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Ticket prices vary and reservations may be made by calling 570-342-9707.

McInerney said although the role of Miss Daisy in the upcoming show is an exceptionally challenging part, Loewe, along with the rest of the cast, is a perfect fit.

“It calls for her to portray a lady who ages from age 72 at the start to 97 at the final scene,” he said. “The play itself is relatively short — it’s only 80 minutes — and it doesn’t have an intermission. The players really have to go right from one short scene to another. So that’s challenging, in terms of moving from one place on the set to another little set and back and forth, changing costumes very frequently and going straight through without any break.”

The story focuses on three characters and their relationships with each other over a 25-year span from 1948 through 1973. Miss Daisy is a Jewish woman who, although she lived in Atlanta all her life, is somewhat of an outsider there. When she wrecks her car in an accident, her son Boolie insists she is no longer able to drive.

Enter Hoke, a black man hired as a chauffeur by Boolie for the unwilling and independent southern-minded Miss Daisy.

“For her son to insist that she can’t drive anymore,” Loewe said, “is not a happy occurrence, and she is very resistive to the whole thing.”

But as the story progresses along with time, change takes root.

“I think what’s so beautiful about the play is that you see this relationship develop so that they really become good friends,” she said. “And it’s just a very touching play, really, it’s funny and it has a message. It has a lot of depth to it - I think that’s what I really like about it.”

The historical context adds another layer of depth, with the characters and their relationships with each other receiving only a portion of the focus on change. McInerney pointed out the piece also deals with “a rapidly changing south and a rapidly changing America during that time period.”

Perhaps this is why the play was such a big hit on Broadway, then later did so well when adapted as a film in 1989, with Morgan Freeman as Hoke and Jessica Tandy playing Miss Daisy. More recently, the play starred Angela Lansbury during an Australian tour.

In Actors Circle’s production, Boolie is portrayed by John Jacobs, of Nanticoke and Hoke by Donald Thompson, of LaPlume.

Loewe said it is always a pleasure working with McInerney, and this cast is a great one.

“Everybody gets along well,” she said. “We’re very supportive of one another, and I think that’s such a good thing.”

She also enjoys working with Actors Circle because everyone shares a common passion for community theater.

“Amateur means, ‘for the love of,’ and that’s why we do it,” she said. “It’s for the love of entertaining the community, and of course, it’s very satisfying when you feel like you’ve done a good job and people enjoy what you do.”