PROFESSIONAL actor Rob McQuay, who became paralyzed from the chest down in a swimming accident at Ocean City in August of 1990, has picked up the threads of his life and is continuing his theater interests.
"A positive attitude and a sense of humor keep me going," said McQuay. "My goals are pretty much the same as before -- to be a working actor and director and to be able to support myself and my family. I just have to go in a slightly different direction to get there."
In his specially modified van, McQuay, 29, commutes daily from Catonsville to Washington to his job with the National Endowment for the Arts. As part of the theater program there, the actor is processing the grant applications submitted by professional theater companies nationwide.
"Four hundred or more theaters apply each year," he said. "My job is to get them ready for panel review."
McQuay, who starred in many musical productions in the Baltimore-Washington area before the accident, also has a part-time position as an on-camera reporter for Whittle Communications' Channel One educational program. The broadcasts are piped into schools that subscribe to the system.
"I am scheduled to do 15 stories for them," McQuay said. "I have done one story on home schooling. The next one will cover teen-agers who have been injured due to drugs and violence."
Last spring, McQuay returned to the stage to play the Prince in "Romeo and Juliet" at Prince George's Community College.
"It was a little scary," he said. "I guess I had a few more butterflies than I normally would. A lot had to do with the fact that I was on a steeply raked stage in a wheelchair. That was kind of nerve-racking, plus it was my first Shakespearean performance. But it all worked out well," he added, laughing.
In March, McQuay directed a production of "Godspell" at Western Maryland College. On Halloween of this year, the actor portrayed a mad scientist in the Patuxent Theatre's original adaptation of "Frankenstein."
"This was a contemporary, fun version," he said. "The scientist, who is paralyzed, is working on reanimating tissues. He wants to do this for himself. In the meantime, he creates a living monster who goes around killing people."
He hopes to start working on a new project next summer, directing and acting for one of Virginia's dinner theaters.
The actor is married to Chan McQuay, who is currently being featured in the Olney holiday production of "The Dollmaker's Dilemma." They have two children -- 3-year-old Daniel and Maggie, who is 16 months.
The holiday week is a time for renewing acquaintances and reconnecting with friends. This week, Accent will visit with many Marylanders whose stories have appeared in these pages during the last two years.