Posted by Joseph Pabst (Director of Driving Miss Daisy)
(Note: Driving Miss Daisy runs from September 19 through October 26, 2008 at the Barksdale at Hanover Tavern. Over the next several weeks, we will shine the spotlight on each of the three members of the cast.)
Garet Chester has been on hiatus from the professional stages of Richmond theatre for nearly 15 years. But Driving Miss Daisy has drawn him back onto the boards. Why? “Because of its wholesome nature,” says Garet. “It’s a show that you can bring your teenagers to see. This show is not just wholesome … it’s warm, touching, thought provoking, and it will definitely make people laugh and smile.”
Portraying “Boolie Werthan” (Daisy’s son) has given Garet an acting challenge as well. He is a comedic actor at heart, but this character is written to be a bit of the straightman – providing some humor while basically being a thread that keeps the show level. Like Boolie, Garet is a very playful guy who loves to “get people’s goat” whenever he can. However, Garet is less concerned about keeping up appearances than his on-stage counterpart. “I don’t think I’m afraid of what people will think about certain unorthodox actions I may take. If I believe it, I do it. I don’t worry about the status quo.”
On the stage, Garet considers playing the Wizard in Theatre IV’s The Wizard of Oz among his personal favorites. Having grown up watching the movie, it allowed him to play a childhood fantasy role. It was also an acting challenge to play three different characters – the Wizard, Professor Marvel and the Emerald City Gatekeeper. In Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, Garet took the opportunity to stretch his acting skills playing Alfred, the young man who plays all the female characters in a Shakespearean troupe. He portrayed Allistair Spenlow in a production of Move Over Mrs. Markham, a mistaken-identity role which kept the audience guessing… and laughing a lot – a reaction he never objects to!
But rather than his stage work, Garet is probably best known to Richmonders for his voice. His career on Richmond radio stations as the “morning guy” made him a celebrity all over town, affording him the opportunity to speak in person at all kinds of events and to be the frontman for a number of charities and causes. On television, he has hosted telethons, appeared on interview programs, and even had his own show on Channel 8 for over 2 years: All Night Long. Garet describes the show as:
“… a cross between USA's Up All Night or Elvira and Saturday Night Live...with one cast member. It was a great experience in improv and quick-change comedy. Since it ran from 11:00 PM to 6:00 AM, my audience was ‘diverse’. My usual stream of fan mail included regular correspondence from several of Virginia's finest correctional facilities. That was quite interesting!”
This style of character comedy mixed with improv became Garet’s trademark. He was Chameleon Boy, making personal appearances in costume as famous movie stars, presidents or other crazy characters. And he continues his “impressionovisational” work to this day. Lite 98 listeners will be glad to know that Garet Chester and “Bubba Massey Valentine III” are one and the same! (Now you know why they never appear in the same room together…)
His life offstage is filled with a mixture of work and family. Most Richmonders may be unaware that Garet is a successful businessman in his own right, constantly ranking in the top 5-10% of Richmond Real Estate agents. Because his business is home-based, he is fortunate to spend lots of quality time with his wife and family. His daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren live with him; and his son and daughter-in-law live close by as well.
Garet considers his life a ministry, and his musical and comedic talents are his tools. He sings for seniors around Richmond, and performs slapstick for the underprivileged around the world. For the past twenty years, he has spent a few weeks each year on foreign mission trips.
“Bringing a smile to otherwise somber faces is my most rewarding pastime.”