By Dylan Deprey
It has been about 25 years since Andre Lee Ellis acted on a stage. He has done a little directing, and had his own theater group, but most know the bright eyed, easy going “Earth Father” for his WE GOT THIS community garden and 500 Black Tuxedo event for Milwaukee’s youth.
Ellis has taken on the role of driver and inspirer, Hoke, in the Village Playhouse production of the classic Pulitzer prize winner, “Driving Miss Daisy.”
“Driving Miss Daisy,” by playwright Alfred Uhry, tells the story of an elderly Jewish widow, Daisy Werthan, and her chauffeur, Hoke Coleburn. After crashing her car, her son Boolie hires Hoke to drive her from place to place. Though she exerts her independence, their friendship flourishes. Set in Atlanta, between 1948 to 1973, the play touches on deep-rooted racial tensions in the South and the friendship between a Black man and a Jewish woman over a 25-year span.
“I’ve never been this excited about theater,” Ellis said. “I would love to be arrogant and say it was easy, but I’ve got a lot of lines.”
While Ellis has had a long history as an actor in plenty of big cities across the United States, when he was presented the role, it was an old actor friend that solidified his decision. Ellis directed “Driving Miss Daisy” for the Acacia Theater Company in Milwaukee back in the late 90’s. The actor who played Hoke at the time was murdered shortly after.
“When this kind of came up it was like, this was a way to kind of give back to him,” Ellis said.
Village Playhouse will host its 40th Season with “Driving Miss Daisy” at Inspiration Studios in West Allis. The show is directed by Mary Breitrick, a longtime Village Playhouse member. Mary Buschel will take on the lead role as Miss Daisy Werthan and Scott Sorensen will play Ms. Daisy’s son, Boolie Werthan. Ellis will hop in the driver’s seat as Hoke Coleburn.
“I’m excited that even at my age, I’m still getting parts and not having to even audition,” Ellis said.
Before he was working in the garden on 9th and Ring, teaching work ethic and morals to youth in Milwaukee, Ellis spent a third of his life perfecting his craft on the stage. He said he has enjoyed introducing his past to his grandchildren and Earth children.
“I’ve been doing this for 30 plus years and I want them to see what that skill set looks like,” Ellis said. “It also reiterates to the young men that I work with to go make their dreams come true, leave, and get my age and still comeback to it. It gives them some fight, and to know to take care of yourself because when you get the call, you can still come back to it.”
General admission is $17 for Adults and $15 for students and seniors (55+). A special group rate of $14/ticket is available when ordering and paying for 10 or more tickets together. All performances at Inspiration Studios, 1500 S. 73rd Street in West Allis.
To reserve tickets, email DrivingMissDaisy@villageplayhouse.org or call (414) 207-4879. Tickets are also available online at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/3740038.