Steve Fenley can cross another play off his to-do list – and Lake Houston theater lovers benefit from it.

Fenley and the Texas Repertory Theatre bring the American classic, “Driving Miss Daisy,” to the Charles Bender Performing Arts Center for a six-night, two-weekend performance Nov. 12-14 and 19-21.

“This is a play I’ve wanted to produce for a long time, “said Fenley. “Even though it is more than 30 years old, it casts a fresh light on race relations.”

It helps, too, that Fenley found the perfect cast for the Pulitzer Prize-winner; Connie Cooper as Miss Daisy and Brandon Balque as Hoke. The Bender audience also will see Fenley perform as Boolie, Miss Daisy’s son.

“Connie Cooper is the consummate pro, an accomplished actor who has performed with Clint Eastwood, Goldie Hawn, Jack Nicholson, Shirley MacLaine, Kevin Spacey, to name just a few,” said Fenley who added that Lake Houston residents may remember Cooper from her role as the quarterback’s mom in the movie, “Friday Night Lights.”

And, when she is not in front of the camera in Los Angeles, Cooper is home in northwest Houston doing private coaching.

“Connie is my acting coach,” admitted Fenley. “When I need help with a part, I go to her. After all these years, I’ve never had a chance to do a show with her. She came to our Rosemary Clooney play, ‘Tenderly,’ and I asked her if she would like to play Daisy and she immediately said yes.”

Another Houstonian, Brandon Balque, plays Hoke Colburn, Miss Daisy’s driver and, as the play progresses, her best friend. Balque has a notable list of credits as well, having performed in multiple Houston Grand Opera productions and with Main Street Theater, the Wortham, City Theatre Austin and Fenley’s Texas Repertory Theatre.

“Brandon is a fine actor that I have worked with many times,” Fenley said. “Lake Houston is going to see acting of the highest order from Connie and Brandon. It is listed as a comedy, and it has great humor, but it is a play with a strong human message, too.”

“Driving Miss Daisy” casts a fresh, new light on race relations, Fenley said, “…friendship is powerful enough to overcome all boundaries. Theatre goers will discover this play is as timely now as it was when it opened in 1987 and won the Pulitzer Prize.”

Fenley says the play has humor yet serious moments and a serious message that underlines the entire play, “…it was recognized as a special story based on characters the author grew up with. We remarked in rehearsal how extraordinary the writing is.”

“This is the caliber of play and performance that the Texas Rep plans to bring to Lake Houston,” said Fenley, founder and artistic director of the Texas Repertory Theatre which now is the resident performing company of The Bender.

“There is no reason to suffer the ordeal of traveling to downtown Houston to see topflight professional theater,” said Fenley. “People who live in Lake Houston will have it right in their own backyard.”

“We are excited to have a nationally-known actor of film and television playing Daisy. It promises to be a fantastic show,” he said. “We also are bringing another production to The Bender next March, negotiating rights on several properties and will announce our selection soon.”

Fenley wants The Texas Rep to be “…theater with meaning, offering family entertainment that has real meaning for The Bender audience.”

And now that he can cross “Driving Miss Daisy” off his “to-do” list, Lake Houston looks forward to seeing what else he has on that list.

Jennifer Wooden, director of the Humble Civic Center and The Bender, is thrilled.

“Steven Fendley and his theater group are helping us achieve our goal to bring such compelling and entertaining plays to The Bender that Lake Houston residents will get into the habit of checking what is going on at The Bender or the Humble Civic Center before they make their weekend plans,” she said. “The City of Humble is so thrilled to present such a classic play, a Pulitzer-prize-winner, performed by seasoned and notable professional actors, and right on our Bender stage.”

Wooden already has fresh performances planned for the 2022 season beginning with a Night at the Ballet Jan. 15, Canadian blues guitarist and singer Sue Foley Feb. 11, and Houston’s own Ally Venable Band back at The Bender July 9.

The Bender’s 2021 season ends Dec. 11 at 7 p.m. with the City of Humble’s annual Holiday Concert, this year featuring gospel singer, songwriter and worship leader Vicki Yohe, backed by a live orchestra.

To purchase tickets for any of these events and to experience “Driving Miss Daisy” Nov. 12- 14 and Nov. 19-21, call 281-446-4140 or visit Tickets are $35.

Tom Broad
Author: Tom BroadEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Besides being a proud graduate of The University of Nebraska-Lincoln and, therefore, a Cornhusker, I am retired from Memorial Hermann. I am a correspondent and columnist for Lake Houston's hometown paper, The Tribune, as well as a director of the Lake Houston Redevelopment Corporation, a member of the board of the Humble Area Assistance Ministries, and Volunteer Extraordinaire for the Lake Houston Area Chamber.

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