By Emily Fedor
Brian and Dawn McGurl have created not only a club at Dunmore High School, but a family. This year marks the their 10-year anniversary as directors of the Crimson Company, Dunmore’s distinguished drama club, and they’re choosing to plan a family reunion the only way they know how—as a show.
The McGurls put together a show-stopping “alumni show” for their five-year anniversary with the club back in 2010, but this summer’s production is bound to be bigger and better as it will showcase double the talent.
Crimson Company alumni of the past ten years have been invited back to the stage they once called their home to take part in a cabaret style production. It will commemorate both past and future Crimson Company shows as well as celebrate the art of theatre as a whole with a plethora of toe-tapping musical numbers.
Emily Fedor sat down with Brian and Dawn to take a trip down memory lane and talk about their ten year journey as well as the upcoming alumni show and their plans for the future.
Emily Fedor: So how did you two first get involved with the DHS Crimson Company?
Brian McGurl: Mary Errico was the drama director, and our son Michael was involved.
Dawn McGurl: We helped out because that’s our thing, and I costumed “Guys and Dolls.” We were sitting in the house watching a rehearsal and Ms. Errico said that she was about to get married, and she thought it was time for her to step down. She just said “Would you two be interested in taking over? And we were like: “Wow. Yes, we’d love it!”
EF: How was the beginning of that journey for you?
DM: It was awesome. The kids were great. It was tough because the culture here is so sports-oriented. So for us, it was difficult to try to make those in-roads in the community. But everyone—Coach Henzes, Mr. Forgione, the parents, the community—was so welcoming and so supportive.
EF: Were there any big changes you made?
DM: We took the program to a different level. Before we took over, they used to do a musical every other year and then one play. We said that we can’t truly instruct that way. When you’re starting out, there are kids who aren’t quite there yet, and they need to have that experience before it’s their time to shine. So that [doing two shows a year] was the biggest change.
EF: What was the biggest challenge or obstacle you’ve had to tackle?
BM: When we started, our own kids were in it [the club], and all of the kids who were involved were our kids’ friends. Half the cast had been at sleepovers at our house throughout the years. These we like our kids, basically. Then once they graduated, the challenge has been trying to keep up with those kids that aren’t our own kids.
DM: That was a very big shift. Mr. McGurl teaches here so he knows the kids, but the feeling is different. We’ve also had other things that have happened, like losing Kelcey [Hallinan]. There are a lot of problems people don’t know are happening, and those things are heartbreaking. Life itself is always such a big challenge.
EF: What’s been the biggest reward for you over the years?
BM: Every show is its own reward. It’s so much fun to work on every show with the cast that we have and to create the thing that happens up on the stage. It’s really so much fun to have an idea and make it happen with a big group of people. It’s a ball.
DM: The most rewarding thing is sharing our passion with others and seeing what it does to their life. To see that freshman who is nervous and scared and see that transformation that they don’t see up close. That growth—that change—that you see in a kid…it’s so amazing to see.
EF: Do you have a favorite show out of those that you’ve done?
DM: We talk about this all the time. I loved “Once Upon a Mattress.” But I loved “Joseph [and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat],” too. That was such a special show—it was the perfect storm.
BM: I have a hard time picking because I love major parts of every one.
EF: Let’s switch to the present then: the alumni show. Where did that idea come from?
BM: We had a five-year plan when we took over. Dunmore is a sports town, and people thought “Oh, you can’t do theatre in Dunmore…” But our goal was to make Dunmore a theatre town, too, which we did. It’s on the map now of something that could happen. That was our goal for five years.
DM: Once we got there, we asked the kids if they wanted to come back, and they did. So we did that.
EF: What’s this show going to be like? Will it be different from the five-year anniversary show?
DM: This will be interesting to see because this spans ten years. Some of the kids are married and have kids. They have big boy and big girl jobs. But we’ve gotten a great response so far. It’s going to be the same format as the fifth year show. We’ll do a couple production numbers—maybe the Megamix [from “Joseph”]—and a choral piece. We’d really like to do something from all ten shows, but we’ll throw some new stuff in, too. It’s going to be a nice reset and energizer for the community and the students.
EF: Not that I want to ask this, but it’s my job… Now that it’s been 10 years, do you see an end in sight?
BM: I’m in my thirtieth year of my teaching career. 35 is the goal so I’m looking at retiring from Dunmore. The thing is that this is a club here, and the thing about extracurriculars is that this extends the classroom. There should be an active teacher in the district doing this.
DM: We want to leave it in capable hands because it’s important to us, and we think it’s important to the community and the students—especially when they’re cutting art funding left and right. But…we have planned out the next five shows. We’ll probably get a fifteenth year, but that could change. We don’t know.
The Crimson Company’s 10 Year Alumni Cabaret will be held Tuesday, June 23 and Wednesday, June 24at the Dunmore High School auditorium. The curtain will rise at 7:00 p.m. All proceeds from the show will help fund future Crimson Company productions and endeavors.