Jody Ingalls is the voice of a generation or, more accurately, many generations.
Along with portraying historic figure Jenny Lind for about eight years in the Charles W. Logsdon Historic Downtown Walking Tour, Ingalls is the woman behind Stories to Inspire Kentucky. The one-woman operation offers dramatic performances of figures from the 1850s, the 1920s, the 1940s, the 1950s and the 1960s.
One program is called “Women in History: Four Heroines Who Inspired Kentucky in the 1800s” and features portrayals of Sarah Bush Johnson Lincoln, Jenny Lind, Lottie Moon and a Civil War nurse named Martha.
Ingalls performs all the roles, making minor changes to her costumes, such as adding a shawl, without leaving the stage.
The important changes, she said, are in the characters’ accents and mannerisms, but she doesn’t have a problem keeping her characters straight.
“I think it helps that I write the programs,” she said.
Ingalls and her family attended the downtown walking tour for the first time in 2006 after moving to Elizabethtown.
“We were so impressed,” Ingalls said. “It was really fun.”
Following the tour, Ingalls’ mother talked to someone connected with the tour to ask if they needed volunteers, suggesting her daughter.
Soon afterward, Ingalls began working on the tour, subbing for the actress portraying Sarah Bush Johnson.
“I’ve just kind of filled in wherever I was needed,” Ingalls said.
Eventually, Ingalls settled into the role of Lind, who was known in the 1800s as “The Swedish Nightengale.” During the walking tour, she sings “My Old Kentucky Home” in the Cunningham Garden behind the Brown-Pusey House, but until 2014, she had no spoken lines.
Last year, for the first time, Lind got a speaking voice.
“And that’s a lot of fun,” Ingalls said, explaining she gets to speak in a “strong Swedish accent.”
The walking tour still requires Ingalls to be flexible, though.
“I think one night I played two characters,” she said.
For Stories to Inspire Kentucky, Ingalls has traveled to various locations, including public libraries, to present her programs. She said the Brown-Pusey House in downtown Elizabethtown is among her favorite performance venues because
the historic home offers the appropriate atmosphere for portrayals of historic figures.
It didn’t hurt to know Lind had performed at that very location, she said.
Twylane Van Lahr, director of the Brown-Pusey House, commended Ingalls on her work, having held a Dessert Theater in March for Women in History month.
“It was wonderful,” Van Lahr said. “The ladies loved it.”
Watching Ingalls transform from character to character right before her eyes, she said, was fun and an accomplishment for any actor.
“They have to be very captivating when it’s a one-woman show, and she certainly did that,” Van Lahr said.
Ingalls said she always enjoyed acting, performed in high school plays and did both acting and directing when she was attending a small college outside of Minneapolis.
Having attained a degree in English education, Ingalls home-schools her five children who range in age from 7 to 15. The youngest are boy and girl twins.
Along with portrayals of historic figures, Ingalls creates presentations of unnamed characters who are representations of past decades, such as the 1950s and 1960s. One program, for instance, includes Ingalls performing “The White Cliffs of Dover” in a USO-inspired presentation.
Audiences for the programs usually are middle-age and older, but she has performed for children as well.
“Kids are surprisingly interested,” she said.
A question-and-answer session after each presentation is one of her favorite aspects because she can respond as the character or herself.
Researching and learning about those she portrays is enjoyable for Ingalls. Feedback seems to indicate it is appreciated, too.
“She’s just a very talented lady and we’re very lucky to have her,” Van Lahr said.
Robert Villanueva can be reached at 270-505-1743 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
PRESENTING JODY INGALLS
- City of birth: Arlington Heights, Illinois.
- Family: Husband, David, and five children.
- Favorite music: Classical and country.
- Favorite movies: “Pride and Prejudice.”
- Favorite authors: Jane Austen, Charles Dickens and authors of classic literature.
- Hobbies: “We love traveling. We love seeing historic sites.”
- Special fact: Her twin sister, who was stillborn, was named Jenny Lynne.
- To find out more about Stories to Inspire Kentucky, call 270-763-8055, email email@example.com or go to the page on Facebook. The Charles W. Logsdon Historic Downtown Walking Tour, a free annual event, begins at 7 p.m. at 32 Public Square in downtown Elizabethtown each Thursday through September.