A respected and versatile performer on the Winnipeg stage, actress-teacher-playwright Nancy Drake passed away at the age of 77 on Wednesday, September 9, leaving the acting community to celebrate one of her great unsung roles: ardent defender of her professional theater colleagues.
According to her family’s obituary, Winnipeg-born Drake won roles in 28 plays at the Royal Manitoba Theater Center and eight at the Prairie Theater Exchange. Drake has also appeared in films such as New in town, opposite Renée Zellweger, and at Guy Maddin’s The saddest music in the world.
But beyond her acting work, the mother of five has been an inspiration, according to Shakespeare in the Ruins art director Rodrigo Beilfuss, who remembers as a student playing Regan at Drake’s. Lear in a 2007 genre-shifting production. King Lear at the University of Winnipeg, headed by Christopher Brauer.
Beilfuss says he was intimidated after seeing Drake – who taught voice and diction in the U of W’s theater and film department from 2004 to 2008 – hold his own against winner Tony Len Cariou in a RMTC production of The dresser in 2005.
She has also proven to be a generous performer in many ways, says Beilfuss.
“She was so generous, because she worked so hard like Lear on stage, like you do,” he says. “But she was also working really hard behind the scenes, basically becoming this acting coach and stage mom for all of us, giving us all kinds of advice and being super generous in sharing her experience.
“(She) even allowed us to take a few of us home after rehearsals. We had the most amazing conversations driving a few of us home every night, telling stories. on the way home in the dead of winter. His ego never ran the show. ”
Local actor-director Debbie Patterson remembers Drake’s power as Anne Boleyn’s fool in a production of his play, Head.
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