Holden Thorp: A Life in Four Acts
Professionally, Herbert Thorp '54 was a lawyer.
Obsessively, he and his wife, Bo Thorp ' 56, were
dramatists. In 1962 they organized a small group of
local actors into the Fayetteville Little Theater, now
the well-respected Cape Fear Regional Theater.
Their son, Holden Thorp ' 86, didn't have a chem-
istry set; he had a front-row seat, growing up amid an
ever-changing cast of characters who lived for
greasepaint and hot stage lights. He got on stage at
age 3, in the circus musical Carnival, but his real
avocation was what's known in the theater as the
techie. He spent a lot of his time as a kid hanging
from the rafters ofthe theater, putting up lights. The
light hanger is the one who stays after rehearsal -
sometimes until 2 a.m.
"Then I'd get up and go to school in the morn-
ing. It was like a family business. I see a similar work
ethic in my students who grew up on a farm.You
have this immovable deadline, so you build up the
gumption to get to that deadline."
Cut to chemistry class at Terry Sanford High
School. Thorp took his teacher's computer, a Texas
Instruments TI-99-4A, and taught it to make music.
The teacher realized he had a precocious kid who
also was driven.
All work and no play? Not exactly. "My friend
and I made a monster movie," he said. "It got an
honorable mention at the North Carolina film festi-
val in the student category. It was an aluminum foil
monster chasing us around in my backyard. We went
through a lot of trouble, had credits and lights and
The young Thorp may have homed in on lamps
and circuits, but Bo Thorp saw something else hap-
pening:"He has a strong sense of theatrics, of the
pathos, the drama of our lives - especially he sees
what's funny, the ironies, the satire in everyday life."
Flashback: Thorp is 9, cast as Michael in Peter
Pan. He cozies up to one of the Indians in the cast,
four years his senior. "He was a really bad actor, but
back stage he was a funny little kid," recalled Patti
Worden, now Patti Worden Thorp.
As he approached his teenage years, it began to
dawn on Thorp that when the company was putting
on a musical, "the musicians were working a lot less
than the light guy. r decided that music was worth
working on. I had been playing the guitar, but not all
that seriously, but when I was about 15 I started to
get pretty serious. I wanted to play in the pit band in
the shows. I started playing jazz guitar and some rock
on the side."
He often was
in the theater
until all hours.
and go to
school in the
It was like
I see a
ethic in my
You have this
so you build
to get to that
The Berklee trip included the fan10us Rubik's
Cube Incident. An avid collector ofjazz records,
Thorp read about a contest to see who could solve
the Rubik's Cube the fastest. The prize was $500,
which would buy quite a few LPs. He practiced for a
week. On the day of the contest, he caught a train to
Framingham with his friends, then they grabbed a
bus and traveled for another hour to the mall where
the contest was being held. "We got there and there
were about 2,000 people. The mall was closed by the
tin1e we got done, but r won the adult contest. Then
we had no way to get back. The buses were shut
down, so I had to get this vice president of Ideal Toys
to drive us to Framingham so that we could catch
CAR.0 LINA ALU MNIREVl EW