Anthony Quayle came to Knoxville in spring 1974, through a partnership with the Kennedy Center, starring in Henry Denker’s The Headhunters, which rehearsed and opened at the Clarence Brown Theatre and then moved on to the Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theatre. Quayle was appointed as professor in theatre in 1974. He taught classes as an artist in residence and served as artistic director of the Clarence Brown Company—a professional theatre company in residence at UT. He played in Everyman the same year.
In 1975 he directed and played the title role in MacBeth. At a Monday night performance, tomatoes and an onion were thrown from the audience, and Quayle called the event “in the theatrical tradition,” telling the audience at the end of the play that in the nineteenth century during a performance of Macbeth, an actor named McCready had had half a sheep thrown at him. The culprit in the UT vegetable throwing was escorted from the theatre, and the play was not interrupted.
In 1976 Quayle played Rip in Rip Van Winkle as part of the American Bicentennial Theatre Program, and in summer 1977 he and Mary Martin opened Do You Turn Somersaults at the Clarence Brown Theatre before the play went to the Kennedy Center and then to Broadway.
From 1948 to 1956, Quayle directed the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre and laid the foundation for the creation of the Royal Shakespeare Company. His own Shakespearian roles included Falstaff, Othello, and Henry VIII. He was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1969 for his role as Cardinal Wolsey in Anne of the Thousand Days. He made his Broadway debut in The Country Wife in 1936. Thirty-four years later, he won critical acclaim and a Drama Desk Award for his starring role in the highly successful Anthony Shaffer play Sleuth. He was knighted in 1985.