Elly Lindsay and Wilbur Penn star in Driving Miss Daisy.
If you’re a longtime watcher of North Texas theater, then there is little doubt that you’ve seen Elly Lindsay onstage, probably multiple times. She’s been working here for more than 30 years, ever since she moved here from Long Island to study with Paul Baker at the Dallas Theater Center in 1977. Among the recent shows she’s acted in are Snake in the Grass at Circle Theatre in Fort Worth and String of Pearls at Echo Theatre in Dallas, where she sits on the board.
Beginning Thursday, she takes on the title role in Flower Mound Performing Arts Theatre’s Driving Miss Daisy. Elly says she is especially fond of the Flower Mound theater because it, “is a very small theater committed to doing excellent work in one of the suburban areas that doesn’t have another theater. It’s run by people who are pouring their heart and soul into bringing theater closer to where people live so they don’t have to drive all the way into Dallas or all the way into Fort Worth.”
During a telephone conversation this week, the actress and theater teacher at Booker T. Washington High School discussed what it’s like to take on such an iconic role and some of her other favorite moments from her fruitful career.
Art&Seek: The role of Daisy in Driving Miss Daisy is a pretty plum one – you must be really excited.
Elly Lindsay: I feel very, very lucky to be able to do it – it’s a wonderful role.
A&S: Jessica Tandy won an Oscar for the role in the movie version and a lot of people coming to the play likely associate that role with her. How does that affect the way you will prepare for and then play the part?
E.L.: I’ll be honest – I try really hard not to think about it at all. I did see the movie, but it was quite a long time ago. So I would say there are four or five moments that I remember vividly, and some of them weren’t even necessarily her – they were of Hoke or somebody else. I’m not going to rewatch the movie until after the show closes, because I don’t want to worry or think about what’s the same, what’s not the same. The play is beautifully written, the writing is wonderful, and so the character is just really clear. I think with all wonderful roles, it ends up being a mix of who you are and your energy and the way your mind interprets things, so what comes out is going to be Daisy seen through who I am. So it’s bound to be a lot different of hers.
A&S: Between rehearsals and your teaching job at Booker T., that must be like having two full-time jobs. How are you able to make the time for it all?
E.L.: I have taught playwriting at Booker T. off and on since 1988 – I have a long association with them. But for many years I was what’s considered a part-time professional – I only taught a half day and then as my own child grew up and I had more mom things, I cut back. And I also taught at KD Studio in their career acting program for 15 years. So for a number of years I would teach at one school, drive to the other and had a pretty heavy teaching load but basically I was done by 1 or 2 in the afternoon and then I would do theater late afternoon and evening. This year is my first year to be a full-time teacher with DISD at Booker T. Washington, so I am teaching diction, playwriting and acting. Daisy is the first show for me to do with that kind of schedule, and it has been an interesting juggling act. Quite a lot of actors in the Metroplex juggle different kinds of day jobs along with live theater in order to make their lives work. My son is now grown and out of the house, so I’m only juggling work and acting, not work and mom stuff and acting.
A&S: In 30 years, you’ve have opportunity to play a variety of parts. Is there a role that you have always wanted to play but haven’t yet?
E.L.: There’s a ton of them, but I missed the opportunity [laughs]. I can think of a number of Shakespearean roles. I played Rosalind at the Dallas Theater Center in As You Like It and I love, love, love Shakespeare and would love to have done more, but there are very few roles for women my age now. What I have found interesting is to reread plays and go, “Oh, when I was 25 and read this play I wasn’t really looking at this character.” Now I’m looking at this character and going, “I’m old enough to play her!” So there’s a whole new range of roles that I am growing into. One iconic role that I would love to play if anybody does the play is Mary Tyrone in Long Day’s Journey Into Night.
A&S: Can you tell us about a favorite moment you’ve had onstage?
I can tell you two things. Last year when I did String of Pearls, we got to talk directly to the audience, and my first role was very out there. The character started old and then had a flashback to 20 years earlier in her late 30s and described a very sexual moment and I got to look directly into people’s eyes and say fairly out there lines and then sort of watch them jump. That was a lot of fun. And another one that was really fun was in Snake in the Grass, I died of a heart attack at the end of the play and it happened because I was being hit by tennis balls and there was a loud amplified voice of my dead father talking at me and I ran down into a gazebo where a woman I thought I had helped kill climbs out of a well. So I see this person climbing out and have this heart attack and die, and one night from the audience there was this very audible, “Well if that doesn’t kill her, I don’t know what will!”
A&S: Outside of theater, is there another area of the arts that you are particularly interested in?
E.L.: On and off for years I’ve had season tickets to the opera. I love going to the opera, and I just think the Dallas Opera is wonderful and I’ve seen some incredibly memorable productions. I also love going to museums – my husband and I are members of the Kimbell and the Nasher and the DMA. One of my great joys of life is to go to the Nasher and have lunch and walk through the sculpture garden and just be in that space. I think it’s one of the most exciting and serenely beautiful places in Dallas.
Driving Miss daisy runs Thursday through this Sunday and again next Thursday through Sunday at the Flower Mound Performing Arts Theater.
Photos by: Flower Mound Performing Arts Theater
The Art&Seek Q&A is a weekly conversation with a person involved in the arts in North Texas,.