By Joseph Pabst (Director of Driving Miss Daisy)
(Note: Driving Miss Daisy has been extended through November 2 at Barksdale at Hanover Tavern. This is the second in a series in which we shine the spotlight on each of the three members of the cast. Part 1 is available here.)
If you were to see Joy Williams on the street or in the grocery store, you would hardly confuse her for a 72-year-old woman. She is a tall, strong vibrant woman with a friendly smile, infectious laugh and a full head of blond hair. And she runs marathons – literally!
Still, Joy transforms herself into the elderly role of “Daisy Werthan” for each performance of Driving Miss Daisy. She starts the play at an astonishingly convincing 72 years old, and then continues to age over the course of an hour or so until she reaches 97. Because of the time constraints and fluidity of the play, this can only be partially accomplished with wigs, clothes and make-up. The real transformation is in Joy’s acting, her body, her voice. Before stepping on stage, Joy is well aware of the age she must portray, and fully inhabits the character at that age.
Joy is no stranger to Richmond stages, performing steadily at Barksdale at Hanover Tavern, Barksdale at Willow Lawn, Theatre IV and the Swift Creek Mill Theatre since she moved back here 18 years ago. Some of her personal favorite roles include: Bella in Lost in Yonkers, Charlotte Hay in Moon Over Buffalo, Edith Banks in Barefoot in the Park (welcoming Barksdale audiences back to the Hanover Tavern in 2006, after 10 years), and now, of course, Daisy Werthan. She is also a resident actor in the Swift Creek Mill’s youth theatre season. Younger audiences may know her (if they don’t recognize her) as Drifty the Snowman, a character created and written by Paul Deiss.
With two boys (Cory, 12; and Sean, 9), the Williams’ house has become the hub for neighborhood kids – always busy, loud and a little crazy. Joy is very active at Sean’s school, serving on the PTA Board, helping out in class, taking charge of the after school enrichment program and talent show. “I’d like to help out at Cory’s school,” Joy says, “but he won’t let me anywhere near his school!” Joy also has the good fortune to be the stepmom to two wonderful young men: Arle, almost 24, and Michael, nearly 21. “They came into my life when they were 7 and 4 … hard to believe.” Now they are both in college, and she and her husband, Eric, try to see them as much as they can. Besides taking care of all her boys (Eric included!), Joy gets a real kick out of gardening as well. “Roses are my favorite flower. Over the years, I’ve planted over 100 rose bushes in the garden and around the yard.” And in the midst of it all, she and her wonderful husband “try to eke out moments to be together!”
Joy shares a great sense of humor with her character. And like Daisy, she is very strong willed and independent. As Daisy says, “I was brought up to do for myself.” That “do-it-yourself” philosophy is part of Joy’s personal mantra as well. But while both the actress and the character are mothers, Joy is far more demonstrative of her affections than Daisy. “I’m a very touchy-feely, huggy person. The sun rises and sets with my kids. I make sure they know it, too.” Joy has a very close relationship with her mother as well, which is also very demonstrative. Daisy’s relationship with her son Boolie is more reserved, though they know how to push each other’s buttons and do so often. (Joy gets a real kick out of playing those scenes with Garet Chester.) “My kids know my buttons also, but I’m forever hugging them, kissing them… they have to ask me to stop!”
The parent/child dynamic in Driving Miss Daisy really speaks to Joy. “It’s a show that everyone can relate to on some level, whether you’re in the position of watching a parent age and faced with those challenges, or you’re the one aging and having to come to terms with giving up some of your independence.” Then there’s the unlikely friendship that develops between Daisy & Hoke. “I love the way their relationship remains throughout their entire lives. I love the humanity and the realness in the play. I love their friendship. And it’s a gift to be able to play this role with Jim Bynum.”
Oh, and about those marathons: She’s run 3 full and 5 half marathons. “I like the personal glory of running the full marathons, but it takes an amazing amount of time to train for them. And right now, I don’t have the time to devote to the extensive training.” She’ll be running her 6th half marathon in November. So marathoners beware: You may be outrun by “little ol’ Daisy”!
Tickets to Driving Miss Daisy are available online. Many performances have sold out, so please reserve early to avoid disappointment.