by Luke Selenow and Ian Reilly
Diana Selenow is going out with a bang with her final production as head of the Irvington High School Drama Club. The spring production of Shrek! the Musical featured a talented cast including Nick Panjwani, Grace Webber, and Jared Egloff.
Selenow has directed 35 shows in 20 years at Irvington High School, including Grease, Damn Yankees, and Babes In Arms. These shows are personal favorites of Selenow’s, and were each staged multiple times in her two decade run.
The Shrek program dedicated space to final words from Selenow, who declined an interview request stating she stood by her notes in the program. She wrote, “It’s almost impossible to believe that it was nineteen years ago when I was asked to jump-start a theater program that had been dormant at IHS for over three years. That first year, Dames at Sea had thirteen kids onstage, two backstage and my friends Sue Kafer and Thom Johnson in the pit. I was hooked.”
Selenow believes that the positive effects of school theater are far-reaching. She noted, “Participating in educational theater is valuable because whether they want a professional career, or just decide to be there because their friends are, it’s something they can do purely for experience. An experience that includes getting to know and respect kids who wouldn’t otherwise be a part of their lives.”
One thing that IHS Drama Club members agree on is the sense of family between cast members. “I actually call Diana, ‘Aunt Diana,’” explained five-time cast member Jake Staropoli. “It’s almost as if my family is literally in Shrek with me,” said senior Michael Sagan, “It’s all because of Diana, too. She makes us feel like we’re all her children.”
“[Diana] really knows what she’s doing. She’s a professional,” shared IHS science teacher Gerri Winterroth. She added, “having had children in the high school, I think she knows how to handle them.” Ms. Winterroth has been playing piano in the pit band for the musicals the past six years, and is a close friend of Selenow’s.
One member of the IHS Drama Club whose name has remained part of the drama club’s culture long after his 2003 graduation, is IHS alum Norm Quach. Quach has since become a mascot of sorts for the group. As the only male twelfth-grader in his senior year production of Babes in Arms, Quach became the centerpiece of a pre-show chant coined “quaching.” Before opening night, the male cast members gather into the fire exit stairwell and call Norm Quach. The cast members circle around the phone and start chanting “Quach” at low repetitions but they get much louder and faster until it ends with screaming and banging.
“I’ve ‘quached’ over a dozen times,” shared senior Adam Segreti. “It’s not even really about Norm anymore,” added Segreti, “It’s all about bringing [the cast] together as a family, and getting us hyped for the show.”
In addition to ‘quaching,’ there’s another peculiar tradition that has lived on through the years. “Before every show, we take lipstick and write ‘Johan’ on the wall of the makeup room,” explained junior Bradley Goldsmith. Johan Buchen, a member of the class of 2014, was a lifelong member of the IHS Drama Club. “It says ‘Johan’ fifteen different places in the makeup room,” shared freshman Julia Moss.
The district has not announced Selenow’s replacement.