The McDonogh School community mourns the sudden death of Tyler Groton, the Assistant Manager for the Burck Center for the Performing Arts. Groton joined the McDonogh Family as Theatre Manager in 2011 and quickly became an integral part of the staff and a beloved member of the community.
“Tyler’s presence on campus will be sorely missed. He impacted everyone in one way or another,” says Head of School David J. Farace ‘87. “But it was his connection with kids that made the biggest impression. They appreciated his patience as a teacher and his sense of humor. Tyler loved any excuse to dress up, whether it was Halloween, Spirit Week, or a well-tailored suit for the opening night of a show.”
Groton grew up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and attended Salisbury Christian School where he was an Eagle Scout and considered a gifted writer. He went on to Towson University and graduated in 2009 with a BS in Theatre with a focus on acting. While at Towson he was cast in three main stage productions and served on lighting, building, backstage, and costume crews.
He brought his expertise and experience to McDonogh where he built sets, designed lighting, operated sound and light equipment, guided the tech and backstage crews, and booked and managed hundreds of events in the Burck Center, Ceres M. Horn Theatre, and Klein Lyceum annually.
Groton made his directorial debut in 2015 when he guided a group of talented Middle School actors in a performance of The Little Prince. Groton said he was attracted to the play because of its large ensemble which makes up the scenery and props that have a constant presence in the story. Groton had the performers wear LED bracelets so they became stars, literally and figuratively. “I really wanted everyone on stage to have a purpose and feel that without them the play wouldn’t have been what it was,” he said.
He was most proud of his role in bringing The Laramie Project to the McDonogh stage in the fall of 2019. As the Director of the play, which details the brutal killing of gay college student Matthew Shepard, Groton said he not only wanted to stretch the actors’ ability with the demanding piece of documentary theater, but he also wanted to foster discussion about the treatment of LGBTQ people.
In a 2020 McDonogh Magazine article, Groton explained that Matthew Shepard’s story resonated with the cast, crew, and the audience of The Laramie Project well after the final bow, “I love when a show has an emotional impact, when it doesn’t leave you at the curtain call, when you go home and are still thinking about it,” he said. “I love when it starts conversations and brings up things that maybe you couldn’t do in another medium.” Indeed, the play served as a catalyst for conversation about how people speak to each other, treat each other, and view each other.
Farace, who played the role of Shepard’s father in The Laramie Project, says, “I had the unique opportunity to be directed by Tyler. I learned so much through that experience—beyond acting skills. I am so grateful that he had the opportunity to bring this meaningful play to the stage.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Groton and his colleagues quickly pivoted and became experts in coordinating webinars and virtual events. During the 2020-2021 school year, he helped guide members of the Upper School Theatre Lab through Zoomicals: The Musicals, a weekly virtual opportunity designed to keep students engaged in theatre, and She Kills Monsters: Virtual Realms, an online production that takes place in a virtual world.
“Tyler’s presence in the arts community was incredibly impactful. Students loved him because he treated them like people—never talking down to them. Colleagues loved him because he had the unique ability to make you feel seen and respected while not compromising his own identity and big personality,” recalls Kara Zimmerman, Director of Fine and Performing Arts. “His laugh could make even the most stoic person smile. He will be forever missed.”