In 1962, no one would have imagined that a small group of local actors would one day evolve into one of the finest theatres in the state. It all began with a two-show season starting with the classic Dicken’s A Christmas Carol performed at Alexander Graham Junior High and the courtroom drama The Night of January 16th performed at the Fayetteville Courthouse. Everything from props to lights was borrowed.
This small group of enthusiasts, under the leadership of former Playmaker Bo Thorp, formed the Fayetteville Little Theatre. With the community’s support, funds were raised to renovate the building incorporate two adjacent buildings. On the advice of State Senators Tony Rand, Lura Tally, and others, the theatre changed its name to Cape Fear Regional Theatre.
CFRT features a three-story complex with a 300-seat main stage and contracts actors, writers, and designers from throughout the country. CFRT’s six-show main stage season and robust education and outreach programs serve over 49,000 audience members a year from all ages and varying socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds including nearly 22,000 students from around the region. CFRT is grateful for the community support from which it was born and still blooms.
Bo Thorp, Founding Artistic Director
“Your vision, when few dared to dream; your passion, when few had the energy to persevere; and your skill, when few had the talent to manage, have helped transform this community’s image into a vibrant cultural arts center in this region of the nation.” Representative Rick Glazier on the occasion of the presentation of the Order of the Long Leaf Pine to Bo Thorp (2003) Cape Fear Regional Theatre’s Founding Artistic Director Olga “Bo” Thorp first stepped onto a stage in an elementary school play in Columbia, South Carolina and hasn’t left it since.
Since graduating from Carolina Playmakers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Bo has starred, directed, choreographed, produced, painted sets and, by the sheer force of will and personality, grown a theatre, a wonderful marriage and two sons of incredible heart, intelligence and compassion. Bo and her husband, Herbert, arrived in Fayetteville in 1960 and joined others in the community to create the Fayetteville Little Theatre. In 1962, on not much more than a wing and a prayer, FLT produced its first play, The Night of January 16th. In 1981, FLT hired Bo as its Artistic Director, the sole paid staff position, on a total budget of under $50,000. Today, after 2 extraordinarily successful capital campaigns, the regional theatre has a full-time staff of thirteen, eight part time, and over a hundred artists annually.
With a budget of $1.7 million, a robust Board of Directors, CFRT produces plays of stunning national quality. Bo Thorp has developed a unique system of teaming professional artists and technicians with amateurs from our community. As a result, CFRT has become a training ground, and many amateurs have gone on to theatre careers regionally and beyond. Bo’s work has been seen in several hundred plays in Fayetteville, Ft. Bragg, Chapel Hill, and the Southeastern United States, and she has been honored with these prestigious awards: The Order of the Long Leaf Pine (2003), Methodist University’s Outstanding Woman Entrepreneur Awards (2008), Fayetteville Music Hall of Fame Inductee (2009), Fayetteville Cumberland County Chamber of Commerce Realtor Cup (2009), and The North Carolina Award (2009): the highest civilian honor awarded by the state. In April 2022, Bo was honored as the newly renovated auditorium at CFRT was named “The Olga B. & Herbert H. Thorp Theatre.” She passed away in October 2022 and her legacy will be part of CFRT and Fayetteville for generations to come.