The Rebirth of Cool

by Quentin Talley

in Leadership U

Post image for The Rebirth of Cool

Dear Group,

This ain’t your regular Theater Communications post. This is music. Something like trying to explain jazz. Yes, there is structure; but at the end of the day, ya just got ta catch da feelin’ and



the experience.

This is an ode to rhythm; a work song learned from a producing elder of the movement. It’s capturing each beat from a wise professor of ethnicity, ethics and implementing black back into the mainstream before it was the thing.

This for the know-how, the to-do and the hoodoo. Magic will happen if you’re paying attention. So this is I, watching him work by the edge of the light. Creating symphonies in rain, sleet, but mostly snow, in below zero temperatures and though it is almost, nearly shadow, the sun is always shining on integrity. A lesson before dying in dignity. For the ancestors who practiced community before the masses realized their audience might be passing away.

This is for future generations defining what exactly being in the black means. That’s why these movements are poems in journal form; a suite transition composed by QT about LB for you to digest. If you can’t catch the mood, then rest your preconceptions while I acquaint you with what agency sounds like when cultural frequency is in tune.

This is the rebirth of cool.

Movement I – 

fences9/17/12 – in the beginning

Remember this moment-

Hanging with the brothers,
Where we are unapologetic
When referencing one another
In nigga endearment,
For we say it with reverence
never disdain and those
of the fold know what I mean.

But I digress…

Day three in Denver,
Standing with back to Phi,
After Bellamy built
rhythm in blues
in Wilson’s fences.

Talking to me
like uncle L.C.
In plain English,
U have to lean into
this to understand it.

I’m already a doctoral graduate.
Check Cannon Drive.
And you’ll know,
It takes a village to raise
A cultural southern
front porch gentleman.

I am him.
Wilson, Baraka,
Wolfe, Bullins
Glover, Savion and Danny, Lee
and every other brother and sister…

Just trying to tell my side of the story…
Respect that.

So if you ain’t goin to laugh with,
Thine better not laugh at -
Otherwise it’s a mutha-sap-sucka
with a country-grill-bottle-pop-up

The note @ the end of the night…
Don’t fuck up the idiosyncrasies
in the rhythm…
For there are layers.

Set your self and find
time to ride inside the beat.
Plant your feets and enjoy the ride…

Movement II - 


3/20/13- Will (everything that can go wrong…) or

              Forest (if a redwood falls, can you hear the sound…)  

exactly 6 months after my leadershipU official start date, while meeting with Lou in a mountainside Starbucks. i felt overwhelmed. shit falling apart at the seams at home, got me rethinking this life as an artist, again. Again, we’re in the red, deeper than usual. for real, broke. again. The story of my life for almost a decade.

before it was all on me but now that we’ve transition to a not for profit, the entire world knows. shhhh… it happens.  Before, before, when I pulled 20 shows out my ass with no budget, for the love of, it was me dealing with the fallout. decided to officially go they way of the theater trend, cause this is bigger than me, this is a company for the community Professional theatre from the black experience, something Charlotte hasn’t seen in a long time, so I just can’t dip out.

being a “leader” sucks sometimes. Constantly checking your conscious. So with guidance and support from the community we became a non profit and became more stable through checks and balances. Or so I thought; but like these thoughts, things were still uneven, unsteady, imbalanced and im responsible. And frankly, things are falling apart.

All that to say…
This was what I rambled off to him when he simply asked…

“so what’s wrong?”

I took a breath finally and looked over my hot chocolate with a shot of espresso and I saw a face that look like mine in 40 years giving me that, “brother-I-been-there-before-look”… Our conversation bringing back memories; some more recent than others. And he began to share stories of similar ilk and after he let me know he was actively listening, that he understood; he pulled out his infamous handkerchief, blew his nose, paused, then looked me squarely in the eye, and said…

“man, you don’t have to get up twenty more times, just one more time. Just get up one more time and do the work… put your best foot forward, that’s all you can do.”

his emphasis on just one, hit me like a punch to the gut, seemingly letting all the air out my chest, and I could finally breath. And from that moment forward, I’ve been living by those words and I’ve been cool ever since. Of course I still have moments. Yea still, I get frustrated with Myself, with my city, with I, with the audience, with Me, with the board, with myself, with artist and their egos, with Me, myself and I, with the process, cause it’s all a process.

And I’m finding space… like the time to be thankful in pauses between breaths. or like being in this place, a well oiled machine as in OSF, operating on a level every theatre kid dreams to be a part of.  I call this the Disneyland of regional theaters, art pouring out of the seams with respect for the craft in every aspect, making it the happiest place on earth.

Reminding me, we make up worlds from the real world and make you look at your self, and it’s back the process of making you a better you. Everyday you have breath you got to make the most of it. So you begin the reprocess and like Amiri Baraka said, “Dig Yo Self!”

Cause you are a movement from prose to poetry and back to an internal dialogue. You can do this. And it wont be easy all the time otherwise it wouldn’t be called business. Must handle it. Cause the art is God given and no one can take that away.

So remember the Oregon coastline  \ that you are the rock in middle of the ocean  \ the waves crashing against  \ trying to wear you down  \ but you are black sand and petrified wood still  \ soaking up in the light from the sun  \ you are a redwood so wide I can’t get thine arms around to grasp everything you have to give.

Just take it one day at a time and chill.

Stay Cool  (as the rules are always changing but the intent is still the same.)

Movement III – 

leadership u

9/17/12 – 2/12/14

a picture is worth a thousand words

So here is a 57,000 over the past 18 months…

Movement IV –


1976-present – On Being @ Penumbra


Walking down Selby
avenues etched in poetry
And history
And the blues
And jazz
Be boppin’
like forever

And you can still hear it.
When you bend the street
At the corner Of Kent

you can feel the gospel
in your Spirit when
heading North

as the soul knows
that you ain’t never seen
us like this before

for this climate
Builds character
And each player is
A part of this classic revival

A quaint sanctuary
Tucked off near Cathedral’s Hill
A family of legacy
Embedded in the walls
A Ramsey theater
attached to the future

Growin’ out of love,
For Chile
Where and how
you were raised
Stays with you
Always and a day

Like the mood
when the curtain closes

Some sit
and linger
to ask questions.

Most leave
and be talkin’ about
How we are the change.

All applaud
After the effects of what
Just happened.

Becoming a witness
To the art of rhythm

there are no shortcuts to
Social justice.

there is natural light
fading to black

Being human
Makes us rise to the occasion.

Movement V – 



An interview – #thejazz continues ß get into it.

Even after the end of our “official” time together, which ended back in middle of Feb., Lou has continued to give more than expected. He agreed to come to Charlotte to co-direct with myself, one of On Q’s original shows, Miles & Coltrane: Blue (.) by concrete generation. We even did an interview on our NPR affiliate station, WFAE, about this process. This experience. These movements. This music. The timing. The rhythm.

Did I mention, by this time we had fulfilled our required timeline? Lou has always gone the extra mile as a mentor and it is very humbling. It still trips me out… he’ll frequently say things like… “let me know how I can help” or “this is for you, let me know what you want to do”. And what he has done for my mindset, as theater professional is more than he’ll ever know. Take a listen and you’ll catch footnotes on cultural frequency, that I’ve been privy to from an American Theater Master of #thejazz, Lou Bellamy.

Quentin Talley 8x10Quentin Talley, acclaimed for multiple talents, is an accomplished actor, director, poet, and producer. Quentin is Founder & Artistic Director of On Q Performing Arts, a theater company based in Charlotte, NC, dedicated to producing classic, contemporary and original performance works that reflect the black experience.