College Park native Quiantae Thomas had no plans to move to New York City. In 2018, she’d just graduated from Alabama State University with a degree in dance and she had her eyes set on being a company member with Philadanco, a renowned African American dance company in Philadelphia. However, when she arrived in the City of Brotherly Love, there were no openings with the company.
She thought about returning home, but instead took advantage of a scholarship she received for a dance intensive with Evidence Dance Company in Brooklyn. A professor’s friend let her sleep on their couch while she trained there, took classes at Broadway Dance Center, and went to cattle call auditions for musicals—all while working as a waitress at Hooters in Times Square on the weekends. She landed a gig with an out-of-town production of Hairspray, which afforded her rent money and an invitation to audition for the national tour of Hamilton. After an intense series of dance auditions, she landed a role in the ensemble and joined the Broadway tour in November 2019.
Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hit musical is inspired by the story of founding father and immigrant Alexander Hamilton, as told to the sounds of rap, R&B, Reggaeton, and jazz. The musical follows his journey from scrawny student to one of the most powerful men during the American Revolution and the Constitutional Convention—with most of the roles played by artists of color. Hamilton plays at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta, August 22-September 26.
We caught up with Thomas before act two rehearsals to talk about her dance training, the grind of musical theater, and how she hopes to inspire other young people to live out their dreams.
How did you get into musical theater?
I grew up taking classes with the Youth Ensemble Theatre of Atlanta in sixth grade. That’s how I got into performing onstage. It served me well to be able to build up endurance and know how to push myself at a young age. I took dance classes in African, hip-hop, jazz, ballet, and modern. Even when I went to New York, I had a lot of big brothers and sisters in the YEA family. I also went to high school at Carver School of the Arts and majored in dance.
Talk to me about the process of auditioning for the Hamilton tour.
I had my first audition in 2018, and then I had two or three callbacks. After that, I did a weeklong bootcamp in March 2019 where they choose a select few people to see if you can handle the big numbers from the show. I made it to the final round, so if a company of Hamilton needed a cast member, they would choose from that list. But I didn’t hear anything for the entire summer, so I went to another audition. Thank God I did, because I found out that for the Philip company [the touring casts are named after Hamilton characters] they wanted a brown-skinned Black girl in their cast. Usually on Broadway, they want someone light-skinned. At that point, it was my eighth audition. I was in final callbacks with females who looked just like me. I found out a week later that I booked Hamilton in October 2019. That was a year after I graduated from college.
What is your favorite part of the show?
There are so many good moments! I think my favorite dances are “Yorktown” and “Room Where It Happens.” I also love the first number because it sets the mood for the show.
Has the pandemic and protests of the past several months made you see this story differently?
For sure, like every other line. When we’re doing “Yorktown,” it’s talking about a war, and if you listen to the lyrics it feels like what we went through last year with all of the protests. Whatever hardship you’ve been through in the past year, it speaks to it. There’s also “My Shot.” As performers, when Covid-19 started, we could’ve given up and thrown away our bodies, but we didn’t. We’re getting back to work. I’ve also been watching a lot of documentaries [related to the show] about Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemmings. There was a whole other side to her family that we don’t talk about because it makes people uncomfortable, but our show is going to make you uncomfortable, and you have to check in with yourself at all times. I’m interested to see how our show evolves, because it’s been an amazing feeling to get back into it.
What do you hope people will take away from the experience of seeing the show?
I want other Black and brown people to know that they can do it. The thing you did in high school can you make you great money. I’ve always been adamant that I want my passion to be the thing that makes me six or seven figures. I can’t be in a job that’s not going to fulfill me. We [had] an invited dress rehearsal, and I [invited] students from Alabama State, YEA, and Dance Connection to see that their training helped me in my journey to be an artist. I went back to ASU last year to teach a master class. It was crazy. I told them that I was just in your shoes.
What does it mean to you to perform in Atlanta?
I just want to take it in. I’m from Atlanta and this has been my dream for a long time. I hope that Atlanta comes through and that the audience is loud and shows how we do it down South. It was my dream as a kid to perform at the Fox Theatre because that’s all I knew. Now that it’s happening, it’s a full-circle moment.