King of the Queen
Bill Taylor resurrected music in the most musical of cities, New Orleans, post flood. Now he’s resurrecting Wilmington’s most famous theater—and starting something much bigger.
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The Queen Theatre, once completed, is expected to achieve these goals. “You can spend all the money you want in glass and concrete, but what makes a city come alive is the people it inspires through arts, culture and entertainment,” Buccini says.
“I see this very vibrant, cool stimulating place that captures all your senses: your eyes, your ears and your taste buds,” Real says. “You walk in the door and come into a place that’s full of life and energy and welcoming for everyone, all ages and demographics, with all kinds of contemporary music. There will be a music hall, a restaurant, a second stage, event spaces, retail, programming for kids and seniors, day and night.”
About an hour before Benoit takes the stage, his roadies slam drums and bash electric guitar strings in a quick sound check. The audience is buzzing.
Marion Sawczuk, an attorney in New Castle, sorts through one of the heaping piles of crawfish that chef Chris Baittinger has just dumped on each of the five dinner tables. “The blues pulls at my soul and speaks to me, and the best of it makes me want to contemplate life,” Sawczuk says. “I’ve got blues on Sirius. It clears my head. Once it’s built, the Queen will lend itself to the city becoming a more musically involved place."
“The Queen is going to be a venue that will attract all kinds of music lovers, from blues to folk to classical to rock,” says concert-goer Michelle Schwandt. “It will compliment the DuPont Theatre and The Grand and establish Wilmington as a place of great venues, like another piece of the puzzle. It will help bring Market Street to life.”
As of late spring, two years from scheduled completion of the Queen’s renovation, Taylor could share nothing certain about his long-term future with the theater, but Real calls Taylor one of the Queen’s major parents, and says that, once its doors open, “There will be a place for him” to help run the facility. Buccini predicts Taylor will help run the Light Up The Queen Foundation—maybe even World Café Live.
Taylor’s third act is uncertain—he says his only goal now is to help get the $24 million raised—but to hear him speak is to hear the spirit of the producer, the one who finds ways to get the people to the art, the product. It’s all there, waiting to be built, to be linked with the DuPont Playhouse, the Grand, and the Christina Cultural Arts Center in an unbroken chain of music, theater, art and performance.
“There has to be a ‘there’ there,” Taylor says. “You have to show, not just tell. If we want to build the artistic community in Wilmington, we have to give them a reason to come to the city. There’s no magic switch you just pull. It’s a step-by-step process.
“The New Orleans community came back after the storm. Wilmington can and will re-invent itself, too. In the next couple of years, this city will be completely changed.”
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