Two Revere Players directors retire after more than 20 years

by Laura Bednar

Laurie Russell and Bob Carlyon took their final bows as leaders of Revere High School’s drama club, “Revere Players,” after more than two decades of directing.

Russell was the director and choreographer of 23 musicals and assisted in directing 19 fall plays at RHS. Carlyon was the music director for 25 RHS musicals and assisted with some fall shows. Both taught in the Revere district before becoming involved with the drama club.

Carlyon began teaching music at Hillcrest Elementary School (now Richfield Elementary) in 1987, had a short stint teaching at Revere Middle School, and then taught at Bath Elementary starting in 2003. He was asked to help with the high school’s production of “Godspell” in 1993.

“From then on, I was hooked,” said Carlyon.

Carlyon also was a church musician and involved in show choirs for close to 15 years.

Russell earned her degree in education including speech, drama, debate and broadcasting and later in library science. She came to Revere Middle School in 1989 as the media specialist and later became the librarian at Bath Elementary.

While at Bath Elementary she choreographed the fourth- and fifth-grade musical programs with Carlyon. During her time at RMS, she created a theater program called “Books Alive,” in which students acted out children’s books for the elementary school kids. In 1999, she became director and choreographer for the Revere Players.

“Musicals are literally my passion,” Russell said, adding that she was a dancer whose two daughters followed her lead. “It’s been a big part of who I am for a long time.”

Russell and Carlyon wanted to remain involved with the theater program even after their respective retirements as librarian in 2013 and teacher in 2014.

“We were having fun,” Carlyon said, noting that several of his elementary students are performing at the high school. “It was great to see students were still interested.”

Said Russell, “We felt we had a lot to offer the kids.”

Russell said students in the last class she taught were graduating this year, and Carlyon’s last group of students from Bath Elementary were graduating as well. “Our goals haven’t changed for the kids,” Russell said. “We give kids a sense of accomplishment and an extra boost to be confident when they go out into the world.”

Added Carlyon, “We’re creating a safe space. A lot of kids don’t fit in anywhere else and theater grabs them.”

Revere musicals usually have close to 100 kids involved either onstage or behind the scenes, but this year’s production of “Grease” had fewer participants because of the pandemic. Students performed four shows, a preview show for senior citizens and three regularly scheduled performances over the weekend. The final show was canceled due to a few COVID-positive tests among the students.

Though there was no final performance, that Sunday was still a memorable day as Revere Players volunteer Kathy Harris and director for non-musicals Rena Baker, who retired in 2021 after 22 years, surprised Russell and Carlyon with a retirement celebration.

Revere Players alumni spanning 20 years came to say goodbye to the directors and sang for them. Carlyon said it was great to see the kids and recount memories with them. “We have wonderful friends and the whole program involves so many people,” he said.

Russell’s favorite part of the job has been the kids and “seeing their joy and excitement coming off stage.”

In her retirement, she will be spending time with her grandchildren but plans to dabble in community theater and maybe volunteer to help the Players.

Though retired from performing church music, Carlyon said he might remain involved. With Cleveland being home to the second largest theater district in the country, Playhouse Square, he said he plans to remain a patron of the theater.

Two new directors will take over next year, but the past 20-plus years of musicals will not be forgotten. Carlyon said of working with Russell, “We make a great team.” ∞