On a hectic Friday afternoon, the Cape Fear Regional Theatre is a bee-hive of activity. On the main stage, the stage crew is occupied with building the set for the upcoming production of Spamalot! In the lobby, everyone from the serious buyer to the looky-loos are perusing the wide array of props and costumes that are on sale during the theatre’s yard sale to clean out its costume and prop room. Volunteers are busy planning the upcoming fundraiser in the Cape Fear Botanical Garden and measur-ing actors for costumes. Orchestrat-ing all of this controlled madness is Tom Quaintance, the artistic director of the theatre.
Quaintance, who is in his third year at the theatre, takes it all in stride. He has earned a few more gray hairs since his arrival in Fayetteville, but the wisdom he has gained in those three years not only about the theatre, but also about the community makes them well worth-while.
“I’m as busy as I have ever been,” said Quaintance, who took a break from rehearsals for Spamalot! to sit down with Up & Coming Weekly. “I am better at the job now, but it’s still a lot.”
Quaintance, who moved to Fayetteville from the West Coast, tackled two big jobs when he arrived in Fayetteville. The first, of course, was take the reigns of a successful and growing the theatre. The second was becoming a dad.
“I look at those two as being a lot alike,” he said. “The responsibility of running a theatre and the respon-sibility of being a father are both extremely rewarding and exciting.”
They are both also both the hard-est jobs Quaintance has ever had to tackle — and the most rewarding.
Quaintance said the responsibility required for each is overwhelming.
“But at the end of the day, when it all comes down, I’d rather be the guy responsible,” he noted.
About two months into his job at the CFRT, Quaintance had his first “we’re not in Kansas” anymore mo-ment while sitting in a meeting at the Arts Council of Fayetteville-Cumber-land County.
“I was in a meeting with local and state leaders. They were talk-ing about the role of the arts in the state, and it hit me that I had to pay attention to what was being said, to what was going on. It was up to me to engage and be a part of this very important conversation,” he recalled. “I had come up with a way for the theatre to partner with these agen-cies. In the past, when I was teach-ing, I would go to a faculty meeting and kind of blank out because it wasn’t about me, but all of this is.
Quaintance is taking that role seri-ously and is working closely with local and state leaders to position the CFRT as a leader in not only the region, but the state and the nation.
His efforts are not going without notice, as the theatre has received two National Endowment of the Arts grants (the first for the staging of The Parchman Hour) and the most recent, an unsolicited grant to use to engage the local audience. The theatre also receive a national grant to stage the upcoming Voices from the Homefront.
The engagement piece is what Quaintance has being struggling with since coming to Fayetteville. His first observance was that the theatre served a limited part of the commu-nity, and over the past three years, through not only play selection, but also outreach programs to engage the community, he has tried to broaden the reach of the theatre by making it appealing to all members of the community.
“We have been working very hard to reach into parts of the commu-nity that we have not served,” he said. “And that will continue to be our focus, as well as bringing well produced, designed and acted plays to the stage.”
The theatre and its board is in the beginning stages of creating a strategic plan for the growth and success of the theatre. Quaintance is excited about the possibilities, and is encouraged by the increase in atten-dance to shows. All of which he at-tributes to the hard work of the staff, who he says has thrown themselves wholeheartedly into the changes he has made and who have worked tire-lessly to improve the theatre.
“This theatre will live up to its name, we will take some risks with play selections and we will tackle some tough issues, but we will continue to produce quality theatre,” he said. “And I believe, we will be a leader for the arts in our community, the state and the nation."
Photo: Tom Quaintance