Student Alumni Series with Quentin Earl Darrington
As the Marcia P. Hoffman School of the Arts at Ruth Eckerd Hall continues to grow across our campus and into the community, we also look towards our alumni and their continued progress in the performing arts. In our new alumni series, we highlight the achievements of those who attended the Hoffman and find out what they have been doing since their time at the school!
The first in our series is one of the original Ruth Eckerd Hall success stories, Quentin Earl Darrington! After being awarded a partial scholarship from Ruth Eckerd Hall in the eleventh grade, Quentin has performed in multiple Broadway shows and tours.
Prior to taking the stage during The Revival of Cats in 2016, we got the chance to catch up with the leading actor!
Ruth Eckerd Hall: “After reading through a few articles, you mentioned getting the call that you got the lead in the revival of Cats. Can you describe how it felt when you first auditioned? I mean, you’re standing in front of Andrew Lloyd Weber and the creative team – ”
Quentin: “It was absolutely surreal from the beginning and the major reason for me was that I auditioned in front of Trevor Nunn, our director. Of course, it was nerve racking to be in front of Andrew Lloyd Webber because of his history and his contributions, but I’ve had a really significant connection over the years – through my training and my schooling – with Trevor Nunn. I have studied him for so, so long. He was a big component of my thesis, my study of him and writing about him for my grad degree. So to actually be in the same room with him – I never knew or expected or thought about that the day would come where I would be in a show directed by him. But you know, here I am.”
REH: “From your initial audition to the moment you received the called, about how long did you have to wait to hear the good news?”
QD: “Maybe about three weeks – three or four weeks. No more than a month… the process moves very quickly as far as casting. For the dancers I know that the process is much longer. For us they really kind of pinpointed and knew some of the people they were looking for, and what type and idea, and they wanted to, of course, see what the brilliant actors that they had in that small pool had to bring to the various roles that we were auditioning for. So we came in and we kind of really started to weed down right away and find it, so it was about… maybe a month, a month and a half’s time before I knew.”
REH: “This is a revival of Cats. In an interview you had earlier this year you had mentioned that you studied the character and you wanted to make a few adjustments. Can you describe what that process is and maybe some of the goals that you have for your character?”
QD: “Yes, absolutely. I love the text. I love the written word of any musical or play or even a song or a monologue. You know, there is so much that you can find within the written word itself. So anytime I am given material to ponder and to look over, I dive right in to specifically what’s written. I break down the structure of words and grammatical sentence structure. It has a lot to say about the type of person or the type of character – in our case, a cat – who is speaking or listening or moving. Just simply the way that a line is structured gives you more insight into the mind of the character. That’s the first thing that I began to do, but right before that I looked at the name – Deuteronomy. It’s such an odd name for a character – Old Deuteronomy. That’s where things jumped off for me… that was the first approach that I took to the character. I began to study Deuteronomy from the bible, and I began to unlock some gems. As I began to read the script, I looked for relation, looked for connections between Deuteronomy of the bible and our script to see the similarities of the stories that were being told, so that I could glean from the scripture and bring what was happening to Moses and with the children of Israel into this tribe of cats. (Laughter)
REH: “Did you ever imagine that one day you would be playing a cat? I mean, do you have cats at home?”
QD: “I don’t and I am severely allergic to cats.”
REH: “That is so ironic.”
QD: “I know it’s horrible. (Laughter) They are interesting little creatures. I have never been a huge fan of cats because I was allergic to them all my life. I could never really grow a beautiful love for them – I guess now I can because I’m not allergic to these cats. (Laughter) Part of me wants to be able to actually own a cat but I’ve never been able to.”
REH: “Did you have any influences growing up? Do you have a favorite actor or actress that you looked up to?”
QD: “Yes, I did actually. One of my favorite – I call them one of my pillars – one of my heroes is Paul Robeson. I really delved into his life and his study and the many doors that he opened. The many accomplishments that he was able to make throughout his entire career and life were just incomparable. He’s a great visionary and a great light for me coming up.
“I would say – in modern times – I tend to try to find and look for beauty and brilliance in everything and everyone. That keeps me so inspired on all levels. I mean, even if it’s just a child just learning to play the piano for the first time, you know Jesse, I find so much to pull from in that. In my pursuit of excellence in our craft, I never lose sight to the fact that in the simplicity of the smallest things, in growth and learning and training, there is always something to be valued and something to learn. So therefore I find inspiration in everything, unless it’s negative. That’s probably the only thing that I stay away from, you know, but if it’s beautiful, if it’s of note, if it’s about life, if it’s growing and productive…I truly get inspired by it. I say all of that to say that for me and my journey, there is not one iconic thing that always inspires me or that I need to hold onto that propels me forward. I find it every single day, all day.”
REH: “What have you been involved with at Ruth Eckerd Hall? Were you part of any traveling performances that came through Ruth Eckerd Hall?”
QD: “I was – that was a blessing – twice as a matter of fact. I came through once, performing Ragtime on the national tour. And then came back again with Memphis, the musical. Both times were incredible. There is nothing like performing for your hometown.”
REH: “Can you tell me about the scholarship program that you were a part of here at Ruth Eckerd Hall?”
QD: “At that time, the program was in its earlier stages, and various students from all over the state of Florida would audition from different schools. After they submitted their material, Ruth Eckerd Hall chose the finalists. The finalists came in and did a live audition for the panel of judges. From that point, there was another round – and then the award was given. Not only was it a partial scholarship to go off to college, but it was also the opportunity to perform on the Ruth Eckerd Hall stage, and to receive your recommendation letter and award from a current professional artist that was performing at Ruth Eckerd Hall during that season, and that was one of the highlights for me. I got to receive my award from Anthony Newley, who of course since then has passed on. But he was there for one of his final concerts – I was in the eleventh grade, and I got to meet the man and speak with him and shake hands with him and share that moment on stage. And a year later, I was performing in one of his shows. Sharing the stage with him was incredible.”
REH: “What show did you perform in?”
QD: “This one was The Roar of the Greasepaint The Smell of the Crowd.”
REH: “That is amazing. What a life changing experience. I have one last thing to ask – do you have any advice for young students that are just starting out?”
QD: “Oh wow. I will try to be as concise as possible. This is where my greatest passion lies. There are three things that come to mind first: 1) Listen more than you speak, 2) Love people and serve people, and… wait, there’s four. 3) Work extremely hard, even when others won’t. And the last one I think would be summed up in 4) Be kind. I want to say even more to that. We live in a world and social construct today where being negative is normal, it’s popular. For example, when someone comes in and says, “That traffic, I can’t stand it!” Immediately when people talk like that and offer that to a group, there’s this idea that you’re supposed to co-sign on that. There’s an idea that we’re supposed to hoard together in our misery, whatever level that misery is, whether it’s a one or a 10. I can’t stand that. I feel like if anyone brings that to me, it’s going to automatically be met with resistance, and met with positivity and love. I think the norm should be just the opposite. I would love for there to be a day where we don’t have to tear down other people to lift ourselves up. What I teach my students most often is to be careful of the words you speak and the company that you keep. When you meet negativity, give it some love.”
Stay tuned for more stories about our successful students! Interested in becoming a student? Learn more about our Classes and Private Lessons.