Thrust in the Spotlight

The Rochester High School community threw one fantastic party for a pretty amazing retiring theater director
55
The cast of "Guys and Dolls" pays tribute to Frank Gollon. // Photograph by Kent McCormick

June was a big month for Frank Gollon. Not only did the community come together to celebrate the retiring theater director of 41 years with an epic retirement party, he was also honored at the .

And just like it was in 1984, it was the students who helped Gollon take the spotlight. Gollon began his career as a theater director in the 1984-85 school year when the theater director at the time decided to step down mid-year. students Realizing they were not going to be able to do their spring musical, Bye Bye Birdie, the students approached Gollon, a familiar figure who was already a substitute teacher and technical director of the theater. He agreed to direct.

鈥淒uring that first show, I was standing backstage closing night, and I was watching the kids take their bows, and I didn鈥檛 realize I had tears streaming down my face,鈥 Gollon says. 鈥淚t was that moment where I had that kind of epiphany, that, yes, this is what I鈥檓 destined to do.鈥

Since that spring, Gollon has directed over 100 shows and mentored thousands of students, some of whom went on to work on Broadway, star in major motion pictures, or even direct shows of their own. He takes humble pride in his students who have continued theater in such a capacity.

鈥淲hen I can see them take that big step, and now they鈥檙e doing it professionally, it鈥檚 just awesome,鈥 he says. 鈥淚 feel good, but I feel even better for them that they found a goal and were able to achieve it.鈥

One of those students, Justin Morck, is now an actor, director, and producer living in Los Angeles. Morck has appeared in a variety of films and TV series, directed plays, and helped produce short films and shows.

Former student actress Carrie Drummond with Frank Gollon. // Photograph by Kent McCormick

鈥淚 truly thank Mr. Gollon for igniting that initial fire that still burns today,鈥 says Morck. 鈥淗is teachings helped me learn that being an actor wasn鈥檛 just about memorizing lines or being on a stage; it was about understanding the human condition and finding the courage to express yourself. The things we learn in high school theater can influence the story of the rest of your life. He was the core to mine.鈥

Gollon took an approach to directing that gave students the space to be creative. He put trust in his students, which he said influenced their confidence on and off the stage.

鈥淲hen we get to performance night, students take over and I sit back unless any major fires pop up,鈥 he says. 鈥淚 tell them, 鈥業t鈥檚 your show now, and if anything occurs, plot a solution.鈥 The confidence that gives them, not just in theater but in anything they want to accomplish, is a life lesson that serves them well.鈥

Last fall, Morck and another alumnus of Gollon鈥檚, Ashley Dinges, nominated him for the Tony Awards and Carnegie Mellon University鈥檚 2024 Excellence in Theater Education Award. Gollon was selected out of nearly 500 submissions as an Honorary Mention and was listed in the Tony Awards Playbill this year to honor his influence on students.

Another former student, Gabe Gibbs, now works as a comedian, Broadway actor, and television actor in Los Angeles. Gibbs credits Gollon for giving students a space to be creative.

鈥淗e never policed what was the right idea or the wrong idea. There was always space for us to figure it out together,鈥 Gibbs said. 鈥淚t helped us exercise the muscle of trusting our gut, our voice, and our own perspective. That space was not something you鈥檙e typically trusted with at that age, and I鈥檓 very thankful to Gollon for giving it to us.鈥

Mr. Gollon鈥檚 Opus, the intergenerational retirement celebration that brought together current and former students of Gollon鈥檚, ended with the audience reciting a pre-show ritual of Rochester High School theater productions: an impromptu game of hokey-pokey and a trademarked chant, 鈥淕o do that voodoo that you do so well.鈥

Keep up on the latest community news in metro Detroit at hourdetroit.com.听