Arguably, the most effective thematic visual element of the show was the 40 tombstones that appeared when church pews from a wedding depicted at the start of the program were turned around to change the scene before our eyes to a spooky graveyard setting.
“The design team started with the idea that we wanted to have these chairs that together would look like wedding church pews. We found a design for a flat-back chair that would work functionally and aesthetically,” Academy Executive Director Mark Richardson said. “In looking at the backs, we realized we could use that space to display a tombstone. From there, we just had to figure out the execution and timing of when the props would move from pews, to tombstones, and back again in a way that would follow the programmatic arc of the storyline.”
Each gravestone originally depicted a name; many that were nods to television programs and movies.
According to Richardson, “We talked for quite some time about whom we would list. We thought it would be funny to feature famous names of historical individuals familiar to those within the drum corps activity. But we could not control who might be flattered or insulted by the idea, and doing so would not necessarily elevate the concept. So, I began to search for the names of famous couples in literature, movies, folklore, etc. A simple search of ‘famous love stories’ resulted in a wide range of characters, both historical and fictional.”
The results? Gravestones ended up featuring a number of television twosomes from Lucy and Ricky Ricardo from “I Love Lucy” to Sam Malone and Diane Chambers, Ted Danson and Shelly Long’s characters from “Cheers.” “Death” dates on the tombstones depicted the airdates of the final episodes of those series.
Other pop culture and historical power couples included Harry Burns and Sally Albright from “When Harry Met Sally,” Aphrodite and Ares, Samson and Delilah, and even the lovable pooches Lady and the Tramp from the 1955 Disney animated classic.
As the season progressed, Academy staff members had the idea to turn this popular element of their show into a fundraiser, offering the opportunity to feature the names of donors, people who would pay to have names of their choice presented on the gravestones. The corps publicized the idea, and of the 40 gravestones, 28 were “re-imagined” by 16 different donors.
With their contributions, donors didn’t necessarily want to feature their own names out on the field; rather they decided to honor inactive historic drum corps. That’s why astute audience members may have spotted gravestones for the Anaheim Kingsmen, Argonne Rebels, Star of Indiana, 27th Lancers, Royal Lancers, Sky Ryders and Bridgemen.
Donors also decided to honor the memories of people from DCI’s history. These included George Zingali (drill writer for corps including the 27th Lancers, Cadets, and Star of Indiana), Steve Brubaker (drill writer primarily for the Cavaliers), Gail Royer (founder and director of Santa Clara Vanguard), Bill Howard (director of the Madison Scouts), Jim Ott (horn arranger for corps including Blue Devils and Spirit of Atlanta), Al Moffatt (popular representative for the Zildjian Company), and someone’s favorite composer, Wolfgang A. Mozart.
The sponsored gravestones didn’t appear until the World Championships in Indianapolis, and upon the end of the corps’ most successful season to date, each of those gravestones were sent to their respective sponsors as a keepsake memento of the season.
The remaining stones were altered and named for the corps’ 11 age-out corps members. And that left one gravestone to be renamed, and the staff ultimately decided not to rename it at all.
“We thought it fitting that a name from the most famous love story should remain on the field,” Richardson said. “So, Romeo Montague finished out the season.”
Original Drum Corpse Bride Gravestones
Romeo Montague – July 1595
Juliet Capulet – July 1595
Sam Wheat – July 1990
Jack Dawson – April 14, 1912
Rose Dawson Calvert – 1895-1996
Mark Antony – January 14, 83 BC - August 1, 30 BC
Cleopatra – Died August 12, 30 BC
Sir Lancelot du Lac – 447 AD
Queen Guinevere – 460 AD
Tarzan – 1912-
Jane Porter – 1912-
Pocahontas – 1595-1617
John Smith - 1580-1631
Yuri Zhivago – 1852-1926
Larissa Antipova – 1896-1938
Jennifer Cavalleri – December 16, 1970
Oliver Barrett IV – December 16, 1970
Noah Calhoun – 1936-2004
Allie Hamilton – 1936-2004
Tita de la Garza – December 1989
Pedro Muzquiz – December 1989
Robert Kincaid – 1995
Francesca Johnson – 1995
Lucy Ricardo – May 6, 1957
Ricky Ricardo – May 6, 1957
James Evans – August 1, 1979
Florida Evans – August 1, 1979
Sam Malone – May 20, 1993
Diane Chambers – May 20, 1993
Katie Morosky – October 19, 1973
Hubbell Gardiner – October 19, 1973
Paula Pokrifki – July 28, 1982
Zack Mayo – July 28, 1982
Harry Burns – July 21, 1989
Sally Albright – July 21, 1989
Gravestones Added World Championships Week
George Zingali – 1992
Gail Royer – 1993
Jim Ott – 1980
Bill Howard – 2016
Steve Brubaker – 1993
Wolfgang A Mozart – 1791
Anaheim Kingsmen – 1971-1988
Argonne Rebels – 1979
Bridgemen – 1988
Star of Indiana – 1993
27th Lancers – 1986
Royal Lancers – 1972
Sky Ryders – 1955-1993
Al Moffatt - Zildjian Company - RIP – 2016
Ethan Edge Ireland - RKPB – 2015-???
Pauline & Arlie Waterman
Anson and Margaret White – 2015/2008
Randy Miller – 1979 -
Dan and Deb Beio – 9/22/79
Russell & Elizabeth Bogen – April 21, 1991
Mary Frances Richardson, William E. Richardson – 1994/2000
Breanna & Jarret
Ethan Luce – 2016