Getting Her Act TogetherFor actress/producer Jody Drake, hitting the stage is as much about history as it is about applause. That's why she's been portraying a pioneer legend for more than a decade.
By Kendall Wright
Prescott Jody Drake prides herself on being a "child of the West." A lifelong Arizona resident, Drake, the creator of Blue Rose Theatre Company in Prescott, has spearheaded historically accurate productions of notable characters in Arizona history for more than 14 years.
An accomplished actress and director — responsible for researching, writing and producing 22 original plays with her theater company — Drake is perhaps best recognized for her first-person historical performances as Sharlot Hall, Arizona's famed frontier poet and historian. In her decade-long run as Hall, Drake has performed for former governors Janet Napolitano and Jane Hull, state Senator Polly Rosenbaum and retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.
"I think it subconsciously all started when I was 16 and working for the Sharlot Hall Museum," Drake says. "Something clicked that summer, and ever since, Sharlot and I have had this wonderful affinity going. Maybe it's all in the chin — who knows?"
Born, raised and still living in Prescott, Drake says that history has always been her passion. After studying theater in college, Drake knew she wanted to incorporate that love with her dream of creating a theater company. The name of her first company, Cold Turkey, was inspired by one of Sharlot Hall's poems. The company got its start performing historically themed dinner theater pieces for a local steakhouse, and that's when Drake decided to change the name to something more professional.
"I guess I got restless doing the same kind of conventional acting," she says. "There's nothing like the presence of reality [a historical piece]. There's nothing that fascinating or rich that I can make up."
The Blue Rose troupe has performed pieces statewide at such places as Riordan Mansion State Historic Park and the Jerome Historical Society. Since 1994, it has partnered with the Sharlot Hall Museum in Prescott, where the company keeps its permanent home.
For a woman whose love of history has come full circle, Drake says she stays energized in the hope that her performances give a sense of belonging to people who are just beginning to learn about their community's history, as well as those who helped shape it.
"An understanding of how far we've come has always kept me humble and able to appreciate today," Drake says. "I want to give people a sense of legacy with what I do, and to make them feel a sense of community and pride for the future of Arizona — no matter where they might be living."