Rochester Theater Director Frank Gollon oversees the production of “Noises Off,” one of his favorite plays and his last before retiring.

Rochester Theater Director Frank Gollon oversees the production of “Noises Off,” one of his favorite plays and his last before retiring.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

RHS theater director to close the curtain after 40 years

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published June 5, 2024

 Rochester Theater Director Frank Gollon oversees the production of “Noises Off.”

Rochester Theater Director Frank Gollon oversees the production of “Noises Off.”

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


OAKLAND TOWNSHIP — After 40 years with the district, Rochester High School Theater Director Frank Gollon is retiring.

“It’s hard to believe it’s been that long, but as the old saying goes, ‘Time flies when you’re having fun’ — and I’ve been having a blast,” he said.

Gollon began working with Rochester Community Schools in 1983 as a substitute teacher and signed on that year to help out with the RHS theater department as a technical director. The next year, it was announced mid-year that the theater director was retiring.

The theater students, particularly the seniors, begged Gollon to take over so they could perform in their last musical.

“They were asking me to take on a big challenge,” he recalled.

Although Gollon had theater experience, he had never directed a show before. With the encouragement of a friend who served as the school’s band director at the time, he decided to give it a shot. That very first musical was one of his most memorable.

“It was closing night, and I was backstage watching the kids take their bow when I realized, yes, this is what I want to do for the rest of my career,” he said.

Gollon has many memories from behind the stage over the years — including proposing to his wife during curtain call.

“We dropped a banner down that said, ‘Will you marry me?’ and she came out onstage, of course. Fortunately, she said yes, so I didn’t have to run out of there embarrassed,” he said with a chuckle.

In late April, Gollon directed his 40th and final high school musical, “Noises Off” at Rochester High.

“Closing night was a bit emotional. There were a lot of alumni that came back to celebrate my final performance here, so that was really special,” he said. “It was bittersweet and even surreal.”

On June 1, past and present theater students came together to celebrate their director with a surprise performance titled “Mr. Gollon’s Opus.”

Gollon said the Opus was an overwhelming experience.

“The cards, emails, videos and in-person testimonials provided a validation that I never dreamed of. My hope was always to create an environment, much like the one I had, where every student felt welcome and supported, allowing them to explore their creative abilities and develop their confidence in whatever future endeavors they may pursue. After Saturday, I can confidently say that I succeeded, and it is my hope that all of my students will pay it forward,” he said.

Over the years, Gollon strived to make the theater program supportive and welcoming of everyone in the building.

“Having so many students be able to find a place here has been awesome,” he said “I’ve really enjoyed all the years seeing students, in many cases, come out of their shell and really find something magical within them — that either allowed them to play a character or share their singing voices or dancing ability — not only on the acting side, but also on the technical side too. I have former students who are now working as costume designers and lighting designers and set designers, and serving as roadies for national tours and things,” he said.

One of them is Justin Morck. After graduating from RHS in 2002, Morck went to college in NYC, earning a bachelor’s in theater.  He currently works as an actor, director and producer in Los Angeles.

“I truly thank Mr. G for igniting that initial fire that still burns today. This is a tough business, and the motivation to keep going starts with being inspired and educated. His teachings helped me learn that being an actor wasn’t just about memorizing lines or being on a stage, it was about understanding the human condition and finding the courage to express yourself. The empowerment he gave by pushing my creativity, encouraging my ideas, and showing me that mistakes were simply opportunities for growth is a continual lesson I still carry with me today in my career. A career that he continues to encourage to this day as an adult,” Morck said in an email.

Morck, along with a group of RHS alumni, recently nominated Gollon for the Tony Awards 2024 Excellence in Education Award and learned he received an honorable mention.

“The things we learn in High School theater can influence the story of the rest of your life. He was the core to mine. I cannot thank him enough or be prouder to have been one of his students,” Morck said in an email.

Joanna Pillsbury, the district’s Summer Music Theater director, said Gollon leaves an “enduring legacy” through his theatrical productions.

“His unparalleled vision and unwavering commitment to artistic excellence has shaped the cultural landscape of RHS, fostering a tradition of creativity and passion that will be celebrated for generations to come,” she said in a statement. “Frank is the heart and soul of the program at RHS and he will be missed in his role as a director and technical theater god.”

Neil DeLuca, executive director of secondary education said the district congratulated Frank Gollon on his many years of dedicated service to the school community.

“Whether a student was interested in performing as an actor, musician, dancer, or member of the chorus, cast or stage crew, Frank always inspired them to find their place. We are extremely proud of his contributions to Rochester Community Schools,” DeLuca said.

In his retirement, Gollon — who also taught English — plans to travel and enjoy life with his wife, who is also retiring in June.

“It’s been a great run, as they say in the theater business, but other adventures await,” he said.