Artist Q&A: Clarence Gilyard of Driving Miss Daisy

ArtistQ&A ArtsAlive

You are recognizable to many from your success on television (Walker, Texas Ranger). How did you get involved in doing a live theater version of Driving Miss Daisy?

During Walker, Texas Ranger we were on location up in Utah and my college friend Rick Bugg was a guest star on the show. He has told me way back then that he was going to start another theater festival in Cedar City which is the home of the Utah Shakespeare Festival. I was intrigued because after I finished the television series I knew I wanted to work in theater and go back to school and study theater away from television and film.

What intrigues you about live theater?
I get to explore the human condition over a period of time. I hadn’t had the experience to do that in television and film because it works so quickly. In television and film, you have to work quickly because it is so expensive. In theater, which is the foundation for television and film, traditionally you have to figure out if you are going to do it, then the production resources, then the creative, then the cast, then the rehearsal process and I think it is important to work with creative people to grow as an artist. I like working with theater artists to impact people in theater seats, the immediacy of it.

In what ways is the story of Driving Miss Daisy still relevant today?
Our experience around the country has been that it is truly a piece of impact. I think it is about the integrity of the human being, finding out even though we are complex and imperfect that we need each other. That entails learning how to be patient with people and gentle, compassionate and generous with people and that maturing process over time is part of the equation of answering the question of race. For audiences to be in the immediate space and watch it, laugh about it and cry about it and be challenged by it is important and that is part of what theater is about. The production is showing us what theater is about and showing us the truth about each other.

My favorite thing about my co-star (Charlene Tilton) is…
That she’s gifted. Charlene is highly gifted and unique and it’s apparent immediately. The great part about people is that if you have the opportunity to take the time you can find out how rich that person is and Charlene is really adorable in the part and she’s very funny and precocious and gifted.

I am most excited to visit Appleton because…
I’m a Midwesterner at heart even though I was a southern boy. I am an Aaron Rodgers fan. Wisconsin is a cool place.
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