I went to the Garden Theater (160 West Plant Street, Winter Garden) to sketch a cue-to- cue of Driving Miss Daisy, written by Alfred Uhry, produced by Beth Marshall and directed by Aradhana Tiwari. The play runs from February 12th to the 28th. Beth Marshall asked me to sketch this rehearsal only days after she and her husband Chris Foster were in a head-on automobile accident with a truck that pulled onto the road without looking. Chris had a fractured wrist and both of Beth's legs were fractured. As Beth said in a Facebook status update, "We are blessed to be alive, have health care coverage, did not have any kids or animals in the crash and feel your love, energy and prayers. I write for him and he walks for me. True love."
When I got in the theater things hadn't gotten started yet. At first, I sat in the front row but then Aradhana said I should sit halfway back in the house so I would not looking up at the set. She IS the director so I obliged. The lighting designer, Amy, had bought in her baby, a small wide-eyed bundle who knowingly checked me out as I walked by. The director spent some time holding and playing with him before the rehearsal got started. Michael Mormon. who plays Hoke, recognized me from when I sketched the auditions and he walked over to shake my hand and flip through a sketch book. It turns out he is the face of Mardi Gras at Universal Studios, and he wouldn't mind getting more of this still photography work.
When the audience walks in to the theater they will be greeted by a starry night sky above the theater seats. Aradhana leaned back in her theater seat and looked up at the stars and said, "They are magical aren't they?" The stars then fade as they go to cue 2. A vintage recording of "Pennies from Heaven" filtered through the theater. One of the first scenes had the sound effect of an automobile accident and the sound was for me, jarring and unexpected. This is the scene where Daisy, played by Elizabeth Murff, runs her car off the road and thus the son, Boolie, played by Michael Lane, decides that she needs a driver. I couldn't hear that sound without thinking of Beth and Chris.
A cue-to-cue is when the actors are asked to go through each scene with lighting and sound being cued up. This is a grueling start and stop process for the actors who are sometimes just asked to stand around like mannequins while the lights are adjusted. Just as the actors get into the flow of a scene, they might be asked to stop while lighting is adjusted. Sometimes, the actors would joke around like when Michael repeatedly slammed the imaginary car door with the sound cue slamming every time. He had me laughing so hard I could not breath. After several hours of standing on stage, Michael Lane asked if there was a local who knew if the pizzeria was open. A booming loud voice came over the speaker system, "I think so." Michael said quietly, "Thank you, God." A half an hour later, everyone was enjoying the pizza on a well deserved break.
The house lights were always dark for the cue-to-cue so I had to sketch and paint in the pitch blackness. I discovered a new method of working where I turned on my tablet PC and used it as a light to work by. It is a rather high tech flashlight, but its glow worked wonders. The music that transitions from scene to scene in this show is wonderful. It sets a classic nostalgic feeling like I was experiencing the show in the 1930's. As I exited the theater with my sketchbook under my arm, Louis Armstrong was singing, "Heaven, I'm in Heaven." I had to pause before leaving. I sat down in the back row of the theater and leaned on the seat in front of me to let the music wash over me. I really didn't want to leave the theater's magic behind. I am going to try and get in opening night. I just hope it doesn't sell out.