By Joseph Pabst (Director of Driving Miss Daisy)(Note: Driving Miss Daisy runs through November 2, 2008 at the Barksdale at Hanover Tavern. Over the last several weeks, we have highlighted the other two members of the cast – Garet Chester and Joy Williams.)
If you attend a performance of Driving Miss Daisy, you may find yourself wondering, “Why does the guy playing Hoke seem so familiar to me?” Depending on your familiarity with & experience in the Richmond area, the answer may be, “From TV.” Jim Bynum was one of the regular spokespersons (spokespeople?) for “The” Grocery Store, when it was still in business. Along with K Strong, another Richmond theatre favorite, Jim came into everyone’s living room on a regular basis (via television, that is) to let Richmonders know about the specials on “The” Grocery Store’s shelves. For a time, Jim & K were firmly seated in Richmond’s pop culture, although Jim concedes, “K is prettier, of course, and was the real star of the ads!”
But Jim is no stranger to live theatre by any means. He has enjoyed a rewarding on-stage career playing many diverse and challenging roles. He’s played senior citizens (Do Lord Remember Me, Driving Miss Daisy), the mentally challenged (The Boys Next Door), the physically challenged (Shadow Box), the psychologically challenged (Fences), and even the musically challenged (Mayor Shinn in The Music Man).
The most exciting roles of his career have come about as the result of “blind casting”, casting without regard to race or physical type. These highlights include Mayor Shinn in The Music Man, King Duncan in Macbeth, and Troy in Fences. “Troy is listed because the role called for a much larger man,” says Jim. “As a rotund citizen, I need to restate that. Fences called for a much TALLER actor. The director felt that my loud mouth would make up for loss in size.”
This production marks Jim’s second opportunity to play Hoke. He first chauffeured Miss Daisy around in a production staged by the Swift Creek Mill Theatre (or Playhouse, as it was known then) in 1991, playing opposite Betty Ann Grove as Daisy, and Joe Inscoe as Boolie. So what brought him back to the role this time? “I was drawn to Driving Miss Daisy because I love everything about the show. Actually, I would have missed the audition had Alice Shreiner not called to inform me. Thanks, Alice!”
Life off stage is very busy for Jim. Or “as Hoke would say, ‘… a mess.’” He has a strong background in education, even having served as the spokesperson for Richmond City Schools. “That was an exciting job, except the times when unpopular decisions caused some to want to shoot the messenger – and not with a camera!” Now, on any given day, he can be found teaching in a university classroom, conducting a workshop for educators in another city, editing dissertations, or delivering food to those who can’t get around. The work and service he provides through the Rotary Club of Richmond is enjoyable and very rewarding. His greatest joy is interacting with his grandchildren, Justin and Jayla. He’s also kept busy “loudly saying ‘yes’ to whatever my wife tells me to do around the house, around the car, around the neighborhood. (That’s what Hoke and I really have in common!)”
While Jim’s character spends most of his life driving as a career, Jim has spent most of his adult life traveling for the fun of it. He’s been to every state in the Union, and even visited five continents. “That’s right! Plans are in the works for Antarctica!”
It’s a good bet he won’t be driving to get there…