The moment that Veronika Duerr steps out onto the stage as Daisy Fay in Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man, the audience becomes a part of a unique experience. Not many producers or theaters attempt to put on one-person shows. To pull off a strong production, it needs a strong star – think of Hal Holbrook’s Mark Twain. Tons of weight rests on the shoulders of the performer. Because of that pressure, not many venture into that territory. Even Duerr herself has had nervous apprehension and doubts, but she has proved herself wrong.
“The very first time in front of an audience, I was convinced, I wouldn’t get through it, that I would mess up,” she mentions. “Two hours is a long time for a one-woman show, and I was convinced that I would not captivate the audience that long. I just had to take the leap and do it.” After taking that leap, her perception has changed. “I realized that I am stronger than I think I am.”
If audience reception is any indication, then, Duerr handles the demands of the role well. Bolstered by witty dialogue and moving stories, she navigates the audience through an emotional journey much like a musical performer giving a concert. That aspect allows any returning audience members to get a slightly different performance since it allows her to tailor each performance to the crowd.
“Keeping energy up and knowing how to adjust the arcs of the story based on how the audience responds” creates a unique challenge for Duerr. “I make stuff up as I go along and change from audience to audience. I make decisions in the moment,” she says. “Each performance is different, the material is the same, but the performance is different each night.”
Duerr mentions one show in particular that showcases her ability to connect with the audience and think on her feet. The audience for that night was small, and she had to adjust the pacing of the show to accommodate that crowd. She explains, “I had to completely change the show. [The audience] got an intimate little show where it was just me and these four people. It was beautiful and completely different than if you had been there with a crowd of people.” She goes on to express that these audience members became so invested in the show that at the end they responded to her with a tearful, standing ovation.
Based on Fannie Flagg’s novel, the script, written by Ed Howard, strays from the book in a few ways, but the play stays to true to its themes and characters. “It is different. [Howard] did use dramatic license. The book spans so much; there’s like six plays in the book,” Duerr comments. “To make things make sense, he took bits and pieces to make the play.”
While Flagg has yet to see the play (at least at the time of the interview), she has given her blessing to it according to Duerr, and it was her visit to meet the famed author that provides a humorous anecdote. “She was nothing what I thought she was going to be. After reading her book, I thought she’d be a sweet, gentle older lady,” she comments. “Instead I see this fiery redhead, telling dirty jokes. I really didn’t expect it after [picturing her from]reading her books. She is a dame in every sense of the word – big, brassy.”
Produced by Howard and Kaffaty Inc., Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man runs in repertory with Spring Awakening at Actor’s Express until September 17. Please visit http://www.actors-express.com/ for more information or tickets. Duerr herself feels that it is “a beautiful little show and worth an evening out.”
By Kenny Norton