by Daniel Coston
from the May 2016 issue of Tangents Magazine
If you’ve been anywhere near a stage in Charlotte over the last ten years, chances are that you saw, or saw the work of Quentin Talley. Actor, poet, director, producer. Founder of OnQ Producutions, which has brought new and classic stories of the black experience to Charlotte since 2006. Need a ryhme at a poetry slam? Quentin has got it. Need someone to host a gala, complete with dance moves? Yes, Quentin’s done that, too. Quentin has also begun to be recognized for his work. Johnson C. Smith University recently honored Talley as one of this year’s Arch Of Triumph honorees, a recognition usually only given to those with decades of work behind them. For all that Talley has done in the last ten years, his focus is now on the work ahead of him, and the possibilities that can come from theater and performance.
Tangents Magazine: What productions are you working on now?
Quentin Talley: At this moment, we have multiple projects in progress. we are participating BOOM, charlotte''s first artist led annual showcase of experimental/contemporary performance & visual art. OnQ will present a new work, entitled Mo’ Betta (a new age blues cabaret). Mo’ Betta is contemporary take on classic cabaret, vaudeville, and variety shows popular in the 30’s and inspired by the Spike Lee original film of the same name. This OnQ original is an eclectic mix of poetry, dance, film, comedy with the best in live music orchestrated by our music director Tim Scott Jr. and hosted & directed by myself. We will premiere this week April 8-10 at Petra's. Also, we recently wrapped auditions and callbacks and started preliminary production meetings for our last show of this season, Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye, adapted by Lydia Diamond and directed Kim Parati. The show runs June 1st-11th at Duke Energy Theater at Spirit. All of this while planning our 10 year anniversary season, which will begin in August.
Tangents: Talk about theater, and your company, as an outlet for talking about what is going on in Charlotte. Or for matter, the world at large.
Talley: Theater for me has always been a place for self expression and is the ultimate platform of creativity to tell a story through multiple mediums of art (i.e. from costume designer to scenic to lighting, video, dramaturgy, history, etc.) theater encompasses so much. as far as the work that the company does, I feel its truly important. We are the only theater arts non-profit organization in the city that educates & produces professional theater that reflects the black experience. Culture and history live through stories. One of the most dangerous things that can occur for a people is failure to tell their own stories. It is at the peril of being falsely depicted and virtually erased from history that we fail to tell and re-tell,celebrate and preserve stories from our lives. Comparable to none other, the story is too vivid, too varied, too vibrant and too vital to American history ever to be forgotten. OnQ has helped transform the Charlotte Arts Scene by filling a void in the cultural landscape by telling compelling stories, dedicated to lifting up black voices and viewpoints, authentically and artistically, through theater.
Tangents: Is there a dialogue that can happen with people throiugh art and theater?
Talley: Oh definitely. Theater has always provided a safe space to reflect and address issues that plague our society. Its an artform that is a timeless natural conduit for conversation.
Tangents: Are there more creative possibilities in working with a company of performers, as opposed to being a solo act?
Talley: Another definite. The more creatives in a room the better. Usually, it makes the project/performance. Even when im working on a solo project, its not done in a vacuum, as i reach out to artist i trust, to provide their critiques/ideas/opinions to make the project stronger.
Tangents: What do you hope that people get from your solo works, or your larger company productions?
Talley: Whether solo or as the company, I hope audiences will see high quality, authentic work that speaks to the resilience of humanity.