Mrs. Olga Lucia Bernardin "Bo" Thorp, 89 of Fayetteville passed away on Friday, October 14, 2022.
A Celebration of Life Service will be held on Wednesday, October 19, 2022 at 2 p.m. at St. Johns Episcopal Church.
A reception will follow at the Cape Fear Regional Theatre.
Below is an article from the Fayetteville Observer, written by Paul Woolverton:
Olga “Bo” Thorp, one of the founders of Fayetteville’s Cape Fear Regional Theatre and a driving force in the city’s arts community, died on Friday. She was 89.
With Thorp, the Fayetteville Little Theatre that she, her husband Herb, and their theatrical friends co-founded in 1962 as a community theater for local actors grew over the next 50 years into the Cape Fear Regional Theatre. The venue and organization at the top of Haymount Hill is a place for amateur thespians to perform with entertainment industry talent hired from around the country, and for audiences to regularly enjoy professional-level productions.
“She always said there was a ‘special something’ in the air here in Fayetteville,” says a statement the CFRT posted to Facebook on Friday. “She believed in the power of arts to transform lives, and her own life is a testament to how theatre inspires joy, nurtures understanding and compassion, and is the heartbeat of a community.”
Thorp’s lifetime of work as an actor, stage show director and the theater’s artistic director entertained an incalculable thousands and thousands. She fostered camaraderie and friendships, and helped young people in Fayetteville launch professional show business careers.
Co-founded Fayetteville Little Theatre in 1962
In a 1989 profile in The Fayetteville Observer, Bo Thorp said she grew up as Olga Bernardin in Columbia, South Carolina. She had a sister who was 22 years older than she was, and a brother who was 12 years older.
Her mother died in a car crash when Bo was 10, Bo’s son Holden Thorp said on Saturday, and her father, who was in the granite business, died of the granite disease silicosis when she was 15.
After her father’s death, Bo Thorp went to a boarding school in Charleston and it’s there she got her lifetime nickname from a classmate. Friends had been calling her “Ob,” she said, short for “Olga Bernardin,” and then it changed to “Bo.”
She acted in high school, she said in 1989, and later majored in theater at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
“I honestly don't remember a time when I wasn’t the first one to raise my hand when the teacher said ‘Who wants to be in the play, who wants to speak or who wants to be in the front?’” she said.
Bo met her husband, Herb, when he was in law school in Chapel Hill, and then followed him to a base in Casablanca, in Africa, when he served in the Air Force, Holden Thorp said.
In 1960 when Herb Thorp left the Air Force, the couple settled in Fayetteville, and he joined the law firm of Charlie Rose (whose son, also named Charlie, later became a long-serving United States Congressman for Fayetteville and southeastern North Carolina).
In the 1989 profile, Bo Thorp said she joined a group called the Musical Arts Guild that produced an annual musical. Fort Bragg had the Fort Bragg Playhouse, a prominent theater that had entertained the troops and general public since the Army post opened in 1919, but there was nothing similar next door in Fayetteville.
In 1962, Bo Thorp, Herb Thorp and others with the Musical Arts Guild members created The Fayetteville Little Theatre.
News clippings from the 1980s and 1990s and 2011 indicate The Fayetteville Little Theatre’s first two shows were "A Christmas Carol" and the Ayn Rand play "Night of January 16th." But they disagree on which one was performed first and whether “January 16th” was performed in 1962 or 1963.
Regardless, according to news accounts, in 1963 the Fayetteville Little Theatre found a home in an old movie theater at the top of Hay Street on Haymount Hill.
Also in 1963, Bo Thorp was named the theater’s artistic director. She stayed in that role until retiring in 2012.
The 1989 profile says Thorp worked without pay for the first 18 years.
“It felt very funny to take any money, but the idea of it was I was earning my money," Thorp said in 1989. “The nicest part about my job is that it is also my play, so I don't differentiate which is which. My social life is very much of my theater life — we certainly have a social life outside the theater, but not very much,” she said.
More theater news: The name was changed in 1986 from The Fayetteville Little Theatre to The Cape Fear Regional Theatre, amid a $1 million renovation and expansion. It was to reflect how much the theater had grown as an organization and venue, a news article about the new name says.
“I think that the Cape Fear Regional Theatre is one of the true jewels of Fayetteville,” said Willie Wright, a retired Army colonel who began volunteering at the theater in 1989 and now is its house manager. In his job, he greets audience members as they enter and leave the shows.
“And I have had many, many individuals to tell me they have been to Broadway in New York to see performances, and that they have also seen the same performances at the Cape Fear Regional Theatre, and Cape Fear Regional Theatre was better.”
Fayetteville theater helped young people launch careers
As Thorp brought professional actors, directors, choreographers and others to Fayetteville over the years, some of the children who grew up in the Cape Fear Regional Theatre went on to the entertainment industry.
Halle Vargas-Sullivan and her brother, Zach Vargas-Sullivan. Halle at age 9 started a year-and-half run as Nala in “The Lion King” on Broadway. When she was 20, she competed in the American Idol singing contest television show (under the stage name Lee Vasi). Zach is an executive in the film industry.
Molly Griggs performed in “Hello, Dolly!” on Broadway and has a television acting career.
NaTasha Yvette Williams has a theatrical and television acting career. Her Broadway shows include “The Color Purple,” “Tina: The Tina Turner Musical, and “Some Like it Hot” (which opens in December).
Adam Stern-Rand was an actor in regional theaters and also a performer in the Blue Man Group.
Mary Mattison Vallery performs in New York theatrical productions and has television and film roles.
Grady McLeod Bowman was another Cape Fear Regional Theatre “theater kid” who pursued an entertainment career. He had childhood television roles, became a Broadway performer and dancer, and now is a full-time choreographer based in Atlanta.
Bowman came to theater at age 5 (via his godfather, Leonard McLeod, who was one of the CFRT’s founders), he said on Friday, and stayed with it through high school. Bo Thorp taught him much, particularly as she and McLeod worked together.
“When you hear the word ‘acting,’ you know, a lot of people put like — this like weight on it. You know? Like you’re ACTING,” Bowman said.
“It just seems like they weren’t acting, they were just being. It was just completely natural.
“And I was like, ‘Oh! That’s — that’s what it’s supposed to be. Like that feels right,’’ he said. But that wasn’t the whole of it.
Other characters, like the Wicked Witch in the “Wizard of Oz“ need a big, broad level of showmanship at the other end of the performance spectrum, and Thorp brought that, too, he said.
“I was like, ‘Oh, OK. I’ve got to do both of that, and everything in between.”
After 50 years, it was hard to retire
After five decades, Bo Thorp in 2011 retired from serving as the theater’s artistic director.
But she couldn’t stay away.
For years she still had a reserved parking space behind the theater building.
In 2013 she brought five Fayetteville women to the stage to tell their life stories in “The Dames You Thought You Knew.”
In 2019, Thorp directed a similar play, this time about Lumbee Indian women — “lumBEES: Women of the Dark Water.” It was performed again this year in Pembroke, where the Lumbee tribe is based.
She also performed in 2016 with Mayon Weeks, another long-term Cape Fear theater performer, in “Love Letters. And this past Christmas season she was in several performances of the annual “Best Christmas Pageant Ever,” said Mary Kate Burke, the current CFRT artistic director.
The theater was recently renovated and upgraded again, and it held an event for Bo and Herb Thorp on April 12, her birthday.
The auditorium was named the Olga B & Herbert H. Thorp Theatre. Also at that event, it was announced that she was donating through her estate $1 million for an endowment for the CFRT.
Funeral and reception plans for Bo Thorp
Holden Thorp announced Bo Thorp’s passing on Facebook to her friends and fans shortly after 6 p.m. Friday.
“Mom’s gone. We’ll have a kickass funeral like she would want. More later. What a life. Love you all,” he said. Within two hours and 10 minutes, the announcement received 220 comments of condolences and memories.
As for her cause of death, “It was just a sequence of things.” Holden Thorp said.
Bo Thorp had a heart attack in mid-September, he said, followed by a COVID-19 diagnosis followed by another heart issue, he said. Her prognosis had been optimistic but then turned in the past few days.
In Bo Thorp’s last hours, Holden Thorp said, family members read aloud the text of cards and emails sent in by her many friends.
Bo Thorp’s survivors include her sons, Holden and Clay Thorp, and their families. Herb Thorp died in 1996.
Her funeral is scheduled for 2 p.m. Wednesday at St. John's Episcopal Church, at 302 Green Street in downtown Fayetteville. A reception will follow at the theater, at 1209 Hay St.
The full article and photos can be viewed by clicking this link: https://www.fayobserver.com/story/news/2022/10/15/fayetteville-cape-fear-regional-theater-co-founder-bo-thorp-dies-legacy/69563468007/
In lieu of flowers, Thorp’s family asks that people make donations to the Cape Fear Regional Theater at https://www.cfrt.org
Online condolences may be left at http://www.jerniganwarren.com
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