Who are you and how did you first get involved in the community?
I’m John Duncan, founder of 4AM Productions, which brings drag shows and other entertainment to Prescott. I was raised in Prescott. My family has been here since 1972. My first involvement with the larger community coincided with my first involvement in the gay community in Prescott. That was National Coming Out Day at Granite Creek Universalist Unitarian Congregational in 2014. … Leading up to that, I’d been focused on the arts here and lamenting a huge void of artistic and creative outlets. What’s here is amazing, but there are holes. So, my friend Joe told me, either do it or don’t do it. So I started 4AM Productions. There was a lot of preparation and a lot of trepidation about whether it would come to fruition. In October of that year, we decided to put up the money to pay for the rental, and in December we did the first show. I was really surprised because it was exactly what I was expecting. I was open-minded, did radio interviews, advertised in small rags, advertised in the paper, trying to reach as many people as possible, so I had a level of expectation. Getting exactly what you asked for, though, is surprising and exciting. We got a diverse audience that enjoyed an art form that hadn’t been seen here in a long time. That really helped me look at how an audience could and should be. It also helped me make other connections. You get support from the community when you — well, not so much question the boundaries, but push the limits of what people are expecting.
And do people expect that kind of entertainment in a Western-themed town?
Prescott has always been ready for it. We’ve been starved for any kind of entertainment that takes us out of the chaos of daily life. And I think when people come from across the shore, say from England, they’re wanting to see the Western world of Whiskey Row, and it never quite lives up to that expectation. This, at least, is a bit more reminiscent of that idea. There are people who move here from larger areas and want theater and art forms, and we have some of that, for sure — the Prescott Center for the Arts is definitely filling a niche, and the Yavapai College Performing Arts Center is trying to bring in things that are current and relevant — but nobody is really pushing the boundaries enough to grow their audience. That’s what I’m trying to do with 4AM Productions.
What’s the story behind the name?
I suffer from insomnia, so a lot of my ideas come from staying up late. … I see creating a name for it and pushing the limits of what people feel is acceptable to have in Prescott. I think within the next year, we’ll branch out to plays and add a cabaret show. I want it to be an entertainment company that gives people a break from the chaos of daily life.
Why represent things that are considered fixtures in the gay community in Prescott at large?
Matthew Shepherd’s death in 1997 really affected me. It caused me to be open about myself and to lead the kind of life he could’ve lived if he hadn’t been brutally killed. He inspired a lot of other people to do that, to not live life apologetically or shy away from any type of expression of themselves. … Harvey Milk, who’s another huge inspiration, is famous for saying you can move out of your community to a greater community that supports you or you can stay in your community and make changes. The line is something like “Either you move to California or you stay in San Antonio and do the hard work.” I think you can paraphrase that and put Prescott in the place of San Antonio.
How else have you been involved with the community at large?
I’ve been involved with GYCC, which stands for Greater Yavapai LGBTQ Coalition, for almost a year now. Its primary focus is bringing together all the communities within Yavapai County together and bridges the gaps in services and support, and have a common goal. Working on consistent and reliable yearly events is also what we are focusing on. One of these events is the annual LGBTQ family and friendship picnic. Last year we had over 150 people show up. This year the event will take place at Watson Lake on May 28th. The picnic gives a great time to celebrate the diversity of the Prescott area.
What value do you see in those organizations? Why get involved?
You do things like this so that there isn’t another shooting like in Orlando or another Matthew Shepherd killing. The idea is to be proactive. The last thing we want to be is reactionary after something’s happened. You build a foundation so, if anything happens, there’s some support already in place. Discrimination in all its forms — homophobia, antisemitism, racism — has no place in Prescott. … Honestly, I’m a little surprised I was asked to do this interview. I’ve always seen myself as someone behind the scenes who facilitates things. I’m surrounded by so many people who inspire me and are doing good things in the community. We’re all lucky to be here in Prescott.
4AM Productions’ next event is “It’s Drag Time,” featuring Aimee V. Justice (host), Aubrey Ghalichi, Piper M. Shay, and Persephone Hardbroom Kyng, with shows at 7 and 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, March 31 and April 1 at Stage Too, alley between Cortez and Marina streets behind Peregrine Book Co. Tickets are $15 in advance, online at DragTime.BPT.Me, or $20 at the door.