Kingston takes on iconic role of ‘Miss Daisy’


Ellen Kingston figured every middle-age actress in the area would audition for the title role of “Driving Miss Daisy.”

Instead, only two other women auditioned at the same time, and she figured more people came to the second audition and she didn’t get it. But she eventually got the offer she wanted.

Civic Theatre will present “Driving Miss Daisy” March 15 to 30 at the Studio Theater at the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel.

“When I get a show even in community theater, (when) I’m not getting paid, I’m going to work just as hard as IRT or Beef & Boards when I’m getting paid because I’m so honored to have the role,” Kingston said. “I’m happy to have a role that is (in) my wheelhouse.”

The 68-year-old Carmel resident said it helped that she had memorized her lines before the audition, which impressed Civic Theatre Executive Artistic Director Michael Lasley, who is directing the show.

Kingston has only seen the film version with Jessica Tandy and Morgan Freeman, and the Australian stage version with Angela Lansbury in the Miss Daisy role and James Earl Jones as Hoke.

“It’s weird to see a Southern accent from Angela Lansbury,” Kingston said. “You think of James Earl Jones as so dignified, but he was amazing as Hoke. It was a small theater in Australia, and no one was on mics, so everyone yelled all their lines, which was awful.”

As Miss Daisy, Kingston seldom leaves the stage.

“There are two little scenes where I go off the stage for 40 seconds,” Kingston said. “There is no intermission. She wears the same dress the whole show with hats, gloves and a bathrobe at one point, but there’s no time to change. There’s a lot of lines.”

Kingston retired as director of creative events from the Center for The Performing Arts in February 2023. She does freelance projects for her own company called Ideal Talent.

Despite many years in community theater in central Indiana, Lasley has not previously directed Kingston.

“We have worked in proximity to each other before but I’m very much looking forward to the opportunity to direct her in this classic piece of American theater,” Lasley said. “Similarly, I have worked with Antione Demmings, who played Hoke on a number of occasions at Civic, but this will be the first time I have been the director. I have had the pleasure of directing David Wood, who is portraying Daisy’s son, Boolie, a number of times as well as working with him in other capacities. All in all, I am very excited to work with all three of these accomplished performers to bring this Pulitzer Prize-winning drama to the stage.”

Lasley said “Driving Miss Daisy’ is a terrific fit for the Studio Theater, and the three-person cast is the smallest cast since the initial Civic production in that theater.

“While the space is sort of automatically intimate by its nature, the chance to tell this very intimate story about family and friendship in this warm and open space is a real gift,” Lasley said.

Kingston suggested she and Demmings and Wood, both Indianapolis residents, meet before rehearsals started.

“We sat for two hours and talked and laughed and got to know each other, because I think it’s essential for that kind of a small cast,” Kingston said. “We just went into rehearsals feeling like friends.”

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