By Jody Drake

On May the 6, 2004 The Sharlot Hall Museum's Blue Rose Theater will celebrate its tenth birthday. Ten years of learning to teach history through theater. Ten years of entertaining audiences through live history-based plays. Ten years of creating living history characters, characters like Sharlot M. Hall, Grace Sparks, Viola Jimulla, Kate Cory, Charlie Genung, Paulino Weaver, George Ruffner, Morris Goldwater, and Buckey O'Neill. Ten years since the idea began.

It was simple really, friends who were intrigued with history and wanted freedom of expression, joined by other friends of like mind. Marlyn Kurkindall, owner at the time of Reata Pass Steak House, hired us to do dinner theater. At that time our theater company's name was "Cold Turkey". The name came from a poem written by Sharlot Hall. But our first job was at a bar and maybe cold turkey wasn't the best name. So the Blue Rose was born. It was named after a pinecone shaped like a rose that fell in a bucket of blue paint. There was Jody Drake, Katharine Gosney, the Sherman girls and their Mom, Becky Bellgreenstreet, the wonderful cast of Full Moon Follies, Hank Gieseke, Parker Anderson, David Haynes, Daiton Rutkowski, Tom Thomas and almost all of the Fournier Family of the FX Ranch in Humboldt. To say the least, it was a modest beginning. But then..... 

Sharlot Hall Museum built an amphitheater. Jean Jeralds and Janet Maissen brought together Jody Drake and Karla Burkitt in that theater. That is when "History Under the Stars" was born. Jody Drake sort of knew Warren Miller, the Museum's curator of education, and that was close enough. Jody met with the Museum Board, with Warren as liaison. 1994 was the first Summer Season. "Stories That Should Be Told" by Janet Maissen, "Voices from the Past" by Parker Anderson and "Soul of Yesterday" by Karla Bukitt. From that first summer the Blue Rose Theater has done nothing but enlarge and excel. Our members have included the entire Burkitt family (new ones as they came along), Janet Maissen, Jean Jeralds, Richard Shanower, Jill Hail, Loring Snyder, Melanie and Errol Reed, Al Carr, Rita Cantu, Lauren Millette, Bob Wright, Tom Kayn, Richard Wolfe, Sandy Moss, Karen Churchill..... Well, this article would be five pages long if we listed everyone. But it is everyone who has made this company live for ten years. 

Blue Rose Theater has been a center for the cultural arts. Performers have included, Prescott Stage Company, Arizona Classical Theater Company, Baul Theater Company, Living Folklore History Clowns, Comedia Del Arte, Prescott Area Poets Association, Prescott Fine Arts Scholarship Competition, Actors Workshop of Prescott, Prescott Collage, Wyatt & Terri Earp, and Chautauqua performers Al Carr as Aldo Leapold and Mark Raddatz as John Muir. Music performers have included; D-Squared, Alexa MacDonald, Sue Harris, Pat & Rosie Maloney, Wilson & McKee, and harpist Laurie Riley. We have hosted acting classes taught by Bert Ijams. "Talking to the Trees" featuring Don Charles & Deb Gesner and "Very Very Old Fitzgerald" featuring Pat & Rosie Maloney, are integrated arts projects using music and theater. We have hosted lectures, CD releases, and book signings. The Blue Rose has extended its friendship to all who crossed our paths. Our shows have traveled to Lake Havasu, Flagstaff, the Verde Valley, the Arizona Historical Society in Phoenix and many rural schools. We like to call it "Preservation through Presentation: bringing the arts to the people." 

A theater company within a museum is a rare thing. Blue Rose has pioneered groundbreaking territory writing as well as producing history-based plays. As of 2004 Blue Rose has produced forty-six original scripts. With authors among whom are Karla Burkitt, Jody Drake, Parker Anderson, Katherine Gosney, Patricia Matthews, Jean Lippincott, and of course our own melodrama king Larry Schaeder. Larry's wife, Nancy, is queen of the backstage intricacies. 

What would we do without our backstage support? Mary Kay Manderfield for all the wonderful costumes, Ruth Miller for never saying no, Kay Gosney with her ever open ear, Johanna Kelley for hours of set work, Richard Shanower for climbing any ladder we asked him to, Al Carr always willing to pick up a screw gun, every actor for hours of set up and tear down, and of course the entire staff of The Sharlot Hall Museum. 

Theater of the Heart is the youth component to complete the Sharlot Hall Museum's Blue Rose Theater. This last year these young performers have written and produced their own original script imparting the history of Prescott Public Library. "So Many Books, So Little Time", authored by theater member Bud Garso. Our young professionals also produce the Museums annual Christmas Walk. Our Pride list: Wells Vaiana, Keaton Snyder, Elizabeth DeLozier, Chase Hinton, Mary Alice Sandberg, Neka Pike, Kaileena Martin, Michelle Parent, Kelsey Olson, and Tara DeFreitas. On living history weekends you may engage one of these talented interpreters. Each Museum festival will also find them hard at work. They play an important role in our Museum Theater. Each summer Blue Rose nurtures new talent in the Youth Tender-Foot History Theater workshop. It is a wonderful way to keep new blood flowing. . 

Ten years has passed quickly, we look forward to the next ten years with anticipation of higher levels. We thank all who have been involved and look forward to future work. In late September watch for the opening of our new theater and gallery located in the Museum Center. We are in the process of creating many new Theater projects and original scripts. Our tenth History Under the Stars summer Amphitheater season is ready to open in June. "Annie's Fallen Angel" will premier May 27, 28, 29, & 30 at the historic Elks Theater. This play was written for the Granite Street archaeological dig by Jean Lippincott, it is sure to be a pleaser. Tickets on sale at the Sharlot Hall Museum Store. So get out there and support your history based theater. 

Happy Birthday Blue Rose, look out Prescott, our best work is yet to come. 

(Jody Drake is the Director of the Blue Rose) 

Illustrating image

Sharlot Hall Museum Photograph Call Number: (staff image). Reuse only by permission.