Quentin Earl Darrington, a recent graduate of UCF’s master’s program in acting, will hit the New York City stage next month for his second Broadway show.
Darrington, 37, will play Old Deuteronomy in the revival production of Cats and has the opportunity to work alongside Tony Award-winning director Trevor Nunn.
“One of the main reasons [I auditioned] was to have the opportunity to work with Trevor Nunn,” Darrington said. “He’s a legend. He’s an artistic genius. He would be like the equivalent of Steven Spielberg in theater.”
Darrington, who hails from Lakeland, performed on Broadway once before as Coalhouse Walker Jr. in Ragtime. Additionally, he portrayed Delray in the 2011 national tour of Memphis and was also involved with touring productions of The Lion King and The Color Purple.
“I’m thankful for the huge Broadway contracts,” said Darrington, who went to high school at Harrison School for the Arts in Lakeland. “But for me, they really [just] set a platform [for me] to go and help more people. That’s where my passion truly, truly lies.”
Up until leaving for New York last month, Darrington worked at All Saints Academy in Lakeland as the artist-in-residence, a position created specifically for him.
He teaches theater classes, public speaking and led a show choir at the school.
Ashley Oplinger, a junior majoring in theatre studies at UCF and also a graduate of Harrison School for the Arts, said that Darrington remained involved with her high school well after his graduation.
“He initially came into my playwriting class ... he told us how he felt about each of [our plays], and he was nothing but gracious,” Oplinger said. “We got to ask him questions about life in the [theater] business ... over the next few months he would still come in every now and then.”
Although he enjoys professional performance, Darrington sees his goal in life differently than other performers.
“We have this narrow scope of Broadway and professional performance. You make a lot of money, there’s this huge applause by 3,000 people in the theater and that’s success. It is not success,” he said. “Success for me is skillfully developing your gift — whatever it may be — and from that moment forward, finding ways to help make peoples’ lives better ... [and] that’s what I teach my students.”
Darrington said his desire to help others manifested itself when he was performing across the country during national tours.
“The best part of that work was getting to go to San Diego and calling up a place that I had never been before, the nursing home or the shelter,” Darrington said. “I [would] show up and let my spirit take over and do what I do ... we laugh, we cry, we sing, we smile and then I leave, with more hope and more fuel and knowing — believing — that I hopefully have made a difference, at least in that person’s life for that day.”
Belinda Boyd, an associate professor with the UCF theatre program who taught Darrington, is excited to see him back on Broadway.
“Quentin is an amazingly gifted performer and he’s a pro, so it was only a matter of time before he was back on Broadway,” Boyd said. “Quentin was a joy to teach. Even though he came to UCF with an accomplished resume, he remained humble and was always appreciative of what I taught him.
“Quentin has a remarkable presence, [so] almost any experience with him is memorable. Watching Quentin sing is a real treat. He brings not only beautiful technique to a song, but he also supplies emotional depth and sings the song from his soul. There are typically gasps, tears, thunderous rounds of applause or all of the above while or after he sings. [It’s a] truly spiritual experience.”
Darrington graduated last month and credits Boyd, professor Kate Ingram and the rest of the UCF theatre program with influencing his current outlook on his art.
“Belinda Boyd [is] so full of motivation, encouragement, expertise and brilliance in the craft,” Darrington said. “The mentorship and guidance that I gained from her is invaluable.”
Darrington said that he eventually wants to build a teaching institute to teach a new generation of artists.
“That would be one of my legacies that I’d want to create and hopefully leave to my children and my children’s children and beyond,” Darrington said.
Darrington is married and has three sons: Oshea, 12, Magnus, 10, and Noble, eight.
Boyd thinks UCF’s theatre program is unique in the support it provides to students like Darrington.
“Our department has very talented faculty members who bring to the program an enormous of amount of professional, educational and business experience,” Boyd said. “We also care very deeply about our students’ futures so we all work way beyond the clock to set our students up for success.”
Last week, Darrington started rehearsals for Cats, which will open next month at the Neil Simon Theater in New York City. Previews begin July 14.
Alex Storer is the Entertainment Editor of the Central Florida Future. You can reach him at AlexanderS@centralfloridafuture.com.