I met Quinten this summer doing Singin in the Rain and we quickly became best friends over our mutual affection for Zumbach coffee and Miranda Sings impersonations. I chose Parkview to meet for cappuccinos and brunch because it was the midway mark between our apartments, and they play Jazz music on the reg. We agreed on beautifully brewed cappuccinos to sip on…and quickly snuggled into a cozy nook against red brick walls to chat about the highs and the lows in NYC.
*Ideal cup of coffee: Espresso with a tiny bit of sugar
AF: So what are you drinking right now?
QB: So fun fact… it’s almost been one year to the DATE… that I started drinking coffee. January 16th. So in ten days… I will have been drinking for one full year.
AF: That’s a reason to celebrate! Welcome to the club!
QB: It is so good.
AF: What made you decide to join the addiction?
QB: Well first of all… I want to be cool. Everyone who drinks coffee is cool. But really what started it is that I was on the committee for my five year reunion for college and it was all coffee dates.. Every time we would have meetings they would be at coffee places and I would be so nervous thinking, “Well… I can’t not get coffee at a COFFEE place…everyone’s gonna judge me.” This was my mindset.
AF: People can be coffee snobs.
QB: So I asked people how to start drinking coffee.
AF: Really? What did people say?
QB: People said start drinking drinks that are really sweet like vanilla lattes, overly sugar stuff… so I started with that and that lasted like two seconds because it was too sweet for me. So then I slowly started adding less and less sugar and now I’m like just give me espresso with a tiny bit of sugar!
AF: So you’re drinking a cappuccino with just a little bit of sugar. What’s your go-to coffee drink?
QB: I’ve been pretty seasonal honestly. During the summer I’m all about an iced latte, iced coffee….
AF: -From Zumbach! New Canaan, CT! Sponsor us!
QB: So good! I have a lot of Starbucks gift cards so if I’m there I get a shaken espresso, which is two shots espresso with a splash of milk. But now that it’s cold… I’m all about this cappuccino.
AF: Me too.
(We stopped the interview for a moment to order brunch…)
QB: Side-note… when do you think it’s appropriate to stop saying “Happy New Year”?
AF: I say it for at least the first month.
QB: When does it stop?
AF: I don’t know… I’m so excited about the new year.
QB: Me too.
AF: So… the question I always ask is what is your backstory… how did you discover your love for performing, where did you go to school? Lay it on me.
QB: I was born and raised outside of Memphis, TN. I started taking Piano lessons and then those lessons turned into Voice lessons and that turned into my Voice teacher telling me they were doing a children’s musical and encouraged me to should audition! Long story short I auditioned for it, got it, and was HOOKED.
AF: A star is born.
QB: That was in eighth grade… I had never really taken dance lessons or anything. I never took dance lessons until college… so in eighth grade… I’m hooked right? A community theatre was doing Thoroughly Modern Millie and you had to be able to Tap dance so I thought, “That sounds like fun… I want to be able to do that…” so I started learning Tap dancing so I could audition for it.
AF: That is amazing.
QB: And then obviously Tap dancing has become my favorite thing in the world- (follow me at Pull Back Productions!) I did that, realized you could get a degree in Musical Theatre, and went to a small college on Staten Island called, Wagner College. I loved my school. They taught me how to dance and all the stuff you need to be successful in the city. I graduated, moved to New York City, and I’ve been auditioning ever since! Some years are much better than others but like… still here doin’ it!
AF: You’re still here.
QB: Still here.
AF: That’s the biggest challenge sometimes… to just stay and take what comes at you.
QB: One hundred percent.
AF: So what did your first year in NYC look like?
QB: I am a very rare case where my first year was amazing. It was the only time in my life where I paid all my bills because I was an actor. I was working constantly. It was because I could dance well, I was auditioning for companies that were a little lower down on the totem poll and then I got to work at Arizona Broadway Theatre and I was lucky enough to work there for over a year and a half! But if we go past the first year… we get to the second and a half year and it got really bad. I started becoming more choosey about what I would say “Yes” to. So my advice on that is first of all, listen to “A Balancing Act.” You should surround yourself with only positive people… end all be all… and then you just need to find ways to inspire yourself. Do something outside of Musical Theatre. Love something outside of it. It doesn’t have to be as much… but if you do find something you love more than Musical Theatre, do that!
AF: I’m at the point now where I have a lot of friends shifting gears…
QB: Year 27, year of shifting gears! Okay so… I brought things I wanted to show you. These things keep me on track and focused. (Takes a gorgeous journal out of his bag) This is my inspirational journal. During my really bad year, 2014-2015, I started reading The Secret and now I have all these inspirational quotes… so whenever I’m feeling bad or like I had a bad audition I open it up and read one of these quotes…
AF: What’s your go-to quote?
QB: “A car’s headlight can only see two hundred feet in front of them but can still make a journey from California to New York.” So it’s like I can still go on a journey but I can only look two hundred feet in front of me because that’s all that’s important right now. Because looking to the far future for what’s going to be is… miserable.
AF: You can only control what is happening in the moment… in the present.
QB: So I have a lot of quotes and entries. I carry these around with me literally all the time.
AF: It’s like your little saving grace.
QB: Yes- and then to be even MORE positive… I have a passion planner.
AF: A what??
QB: It’s the best thing ever. So this is my quote for the year… “If you want something you’ve never had… you must do something you’ve never done.”
AF: So what does that mean for you Quinten?
QB: So for instance, my passion plan for this year is to get an agent. I think it’s a pretty solid goal.
AF: It’ll happen.
QB: So then you do things in order for it to happen. For instance I’m starting this Growing Studio Class on Monday… and I’m networking with friends, singing at open mic. nights, business cards… and then you plan that into your whole year.
AF: These things are all essential. It’s little things that we don’t realize… auditions are not always the way you book work.
QB: Yep! So yeah… I have this passion planner and everything’s color-coded and so at the end of the year I can see what color was my year…
AF: It’s great to have a visual and to approach each day knowing you’re sort of tracking your progress and moods!
QB: Not that I’m judging my moods…!
AF: But it’s good to be self-aware!
QB: My favorite thing is that I have a whole page dedicated to “what makes me happy…” So I write things like pretzels, Chili’s, birthdays…
AF: Do you have coffee on there?
QB: In like my first line…
QB: New York City… going to the movies… after today I’ll update it to brunch with Annabelle… so that is a long-winded answer… obviously you don’t have to be as intense as me…
AF: No but to make sure you are aware and intentional about your progress and your year… and being realistic about success. There is a time and place for everything.
AF: It’s easier said than done.
QB: Oh so much easier. That’s why I stick to that passion planner like it’s a Bible… because if I don’t it messes everything up.
AF: It makes you ask, what am I doing here? Do I still want to be here?
QB: Or get a bullet journal… you just use bullets.
AF: Well I do love lists, so… it’s just really wild to reread some journal entries…
QB: Oh yeah. I read some from two years ago and realized I was just so unhappy…
AF: So I have a question for you… as an actor and as a naturally positive person… do you feel obligated to always put on a happy face? Do you feel actors are held to a certain standard of “having it together?”
QB: I feel when I am on a contract I am always happier… because I am doing what I love and I never complain when something goes wrong because I am literally doing exactly what I want to be doing. But when I am in New York hustling and bustling I don’t feel the need to fake being happy. I’m going to embrace, “no this is what happened today…I’m upset by it…”
AF: But in a contract situation you feel a responsibility to be a leader and sort of set the tone?
QB: I mean yeah… there’s an artistic director in New Hampshire at the Palace theatre and his motto is, “Everyone is talented…I just want to work with nice people.” And it’s so great because every time I work there, it’s true… people are so nice! It’s so wonderful. It makes you want to work harder and it makes it more fun to perform with such nice people!
AF: It’s just good to remember in our career that sometimes it’s more important to be a good human and be kind than to be the most talented…
QB: Oh my God my mom would hug and kiss you if she heard you say that.
QB: Hey Florence!
AF: So what are you working on now?
QB: Starting next week I’m beginning my showcase class and I’m going to start choreographing something for my business to make another video!
AF: Amazing. And what inspires those choices?
QB: Okay this is a great segue. There’s a great podcast called, A Balancing Act. I’ve told SO many people to listen to it. It really does change your life. She talks about how we define an actor as somebody who is on a paid contract but she redefines it by saying a working actor is someone who is working on their craft; taking class, singing through their book, finding new monologues, reading a book about it… So I realized, Oh my God… I want to be working on something all the time. So I started a company because of that podcast and now I teach once or twice a month but now I’m into making these videos and choreographing. I’m exploring art… and using my friends.
AF: Putting your work on display.
QB: I love Tap dancing and I love sharing it with others.
AF: It’s so good! Everybody needs to watch it!
QB: So that’s why I started Pull Back Productions… because of that podcast. Full circle. It sounds cliché but it changed my life forever. Isn’t it funny that that podcast came into my life when I was so miserable and so unhappy and after listening to ten episodes… my whole life was changed for the better? I am the happiest I am right now…
AF: I think it is so important to act on impulse… and to pursuit other interests. Find something to fill you up because contracts don’t last!
AF: Doubts are so horrible and so normal but you assume nobody is thinking those things…
QB: Everyone is. Last year I called my teacher on the phone and told her that I was just a little confused about what I wanted and needed somebody to tell me that yes what I’m doing is correct. And so she goes, “Yeah I went through the same thing two months ago…” and she has a Tony and is a very successful woman…
AF: It doesn’t ever go away…
QB: I was like, Oh. She goes, “This happens to everyone… this won’t be your last time… you’ll probably feel this way again next year…”
AF: It’s good to be aware that nothing will ever really fulfill you unless you are truly happy.
QB: That’s why you must find something that makes you happy outside of Musical Theatre and surround yourself with positive people. On one contract I started a group text and would send the cast a positive quote each day. It’s what I connect to. Some people think that’s cheesy… and I understand that’s not everyone’s cup of tea.
AF: Come on, in our chaotic world right now… bring on the cheesy. Okay now I want to know… tell us when you felt your greatest feelings of joy and accomplishment in the city and then an example of when you felt most discouraged.
QB: Okay so the first moment I had of pure joy was… I had just graduated from college and I worked at this company right after school and it was really fun but I was really young and I didn’t really know what was happening… and then that Christmas my roommate got me a job. So I had been working based on other people’s recommendations but then finally I booked this show at Broward Stage door and I did it all by myself! I went to the audition, didn’t know anybody that has ever worked there, didn’t know who any of those people were and I was so happy because I knew it was based solely on my talent. It was the first time I realized how much I love this career. But then in 2016, “the dark ages,” I got typed out of The Wizard of Oz and then the next day I got typed out of The Little Mermaid and Damn Yankees… like I may not get the job but I’m definitely not somebody to be typed out for those…So I’m already so depressed because I hadn’t worked in over a year and hadn’t been getting any callbacks and didn’t get this tour that I really wanted and I just remember standing outside of my survival job, on the phone with my mom, and not even crying, hysterically crying and my coworkers are passing me by… Then two weeks later my job was like, “We’re closing for business…” And I was like, “What!? Now my survival job is gone?” I remember being so depressed and thinking I wasn’t going to have a job any more and I went home for two months… because I couldn’t get a job. I was thinking I would change paths, go home, figure it out. That was the lowest of the low- leaving the city for two months. I couldn’t pay my rent. I couldn’t afford to live in the city.
AF: And look at him now!
QB: I’m happy as a little lark in June! This year has been wonderful.
A: I’m sure a lot of it has to do with an attitude shift, right?
QB: At home I really focused on what I wanted to do. I asked, What shows do I want to be in? If you look at this year… I did Singin’ in the Rain, Anything Goes, and White Christmas… I know what my strengths are. I know I can Tap dance!
AF: So in conclusion… where do you see yourself five years from now? Hopes, dreams?
QB: Five years… that’s a lot of time. It would be nice to have a dog and a relationship and I just have so much more to learn in this career… I’m going to keep taking classes. I’ve realized that there’s nowhere else I’d rather be than here in the city. I just want to be happy and still auditioning and obviously working would be awesome… but I’m so happy in my normal life that if I’m not performing I’m still happy! So… pretty much in the same place I’m in right now but with a dog and in a relationship. I mean Broadway would be cool… a National tour?
AF: To put a cap on all of that… what are your words to live by?
QB: My quote of the year is, if you want to do something new, you should try something different… how are you going to get anywhere by doing the same thing?
AF: Thank you for coming on the blog! 2018 is off to a great start!