The Academy’s 2016 production was pure delight; the eccentric love story of the “Drum Corpse Bride” captivated fans all season with its quirky charm.

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.”

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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

Molly Jensen  
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

Ken Varga        

Eddie Barton     

Breanna & Jarret

Ethan Luce – 2016

Waterkotte Family         

Kevin Landry    

Bob Cote'

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