Quentin Talley

Dawn Cauthen-Thornton | January 14th, 2016

Quentin Talley (Photos by Quentin Talley)

Quentin Talley, known around town as ‘Q’, has been performing since the 3rd grade, so it was no surprise to his mother that he would end up either on stage or behind it. She even pushed her son to choose Theater instead of English as his major in college. Her love and never-ending support solidified his decision and he hasn’t looked back since.

The South Carolinian has called Charlotte home for many years. After graduating from Winthrop University in 2003 he headed to the Queen City to get a taste of the growing poetry and spoken word scene. He considered it to be a stop-over, however, soon after arriving, he loaned his talent to a local slam team and they eventually walked away with slam championship and bragging rights for the next year. From there, his popularity grew and so did his interests.

He’s the first to tell you that he’s a big dreamer. Oftentimes he has to be reeled in from his gigantic aspirations. He could’ve made his way to New York City, the mecca of stage productions. Hitting Broadway is typically the goal for most lovers of theater, and while that was his original plan, he saw a need for the minority voice to be heard in Charlotte. Not to mention he was impressed with the loads of talent in the Queen City. It goes without saying that Charlotte has greatly benefitted from Q’s creative quests.

“The plan was to always have a company,” Q reveals. Since 2006, the company has been On Q Productions, primarily focusing on theater related to the black experience. With so many black unsung theater heroes, Q aims to tell the stories of August Wilson, Russell L. Goings, Aishah Rahman, and many others. He has even made it his business to connect with local writers to showcase their works. “Plays only become classics when they’re produced a lot. And if we don’t produce our experiences, they are forgotten.”

This year, On Q celebrates 10 years and can’t wait to let the city know. Continuing the season with shows like “Children of Children Keep Coming” and “The Bluest Eye” renders excitement and keeps the momentum going for the nonprofit. Though a bumpy road may be ahead with limited funding, Q is confident that Charlotte will rise to the occasion and continue its support.

“It’s been tough because companies aren’t giving to the arts like they used to. They tend to give to the organizations that are already established,” Q confesses. “With a small nonprofit, it takes time because we have to educate the community on how we operate and what we need.” In 2015, Q decided to incorporate open rehearsals so the community can have a first-hand look at what it takes to pull off a successful run. From rehearsal space, to lighting, to music, to costumes, there is a price for everything. “People want to know why we may charge $28 for a ticket, so we’re showing them what they’re paying for.”

Last year, The Knight Foundation awarded On Q with a grant that allowed them to operate for the entire year and Q hopes to renew the grant this year. When asked about the future, Q beams with hope. “I would love to see a Latino theater or an Asian theater. I would even love to have another black theater in Charlotte. We just need more of everything.” With the responsibility of an entire movement on his shoulders, Q takes it all in stride. He keeps a smile on his face but a serious mission on his mind; To raise enough money to continue producing plays for the entire city to enjoy.

During the season there are late nights, early mornings, and very few days off. In the face of a treacherous schedule, he tries to attend at least one performance a year, from each of Charlotte’s other theater houses. Support means everything in a growing arts community – from your colleagues as well as the community itself.

The economy is on the upswing so the optimism is high for an influx of arts and creative outlets despite Tremont Music Hall and The Chop Shop closing their doors. In the near future Q would like to find a home space for the production company, but of course that comes with a new set of bills – and because the budget is tight, it most likely won’t be anytime soon. For now, On Q will continue to call the stages inside Spirit Square, home.
Donning his driver’s cap and earbuds, he belts out an infectious laugh, “We’re not where we were, but we’re not where we could be.” That seems like an alright place in the meantime.

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