After Frank DiSalvo, his brothers, Thomas and Dillon, and some of their high school friends produced the murder mystery parody, “The Butler Did It,” in 2006, they thought that was a wrap.
“We didn’t plan to do it forever,” said Frank. “And then the next year we were like, ‘Let’s do it again.’”
Agatha Christie’s “The Mousetrap,” opening Thursday at the Bishop McNamara High School Fine Arts Theater, will be the eighth show from DiSalvo and his team, now known as the Parlor Room Theater.
DiSalvo, a graduate of Bishop McNamara, said the idea for the theater company came to him during his freshman year at The Catholic University of America in an introduction to playwriting class.
“I thought how cool it would be to be able to do one of the plays [the class] was reading about,” DiSalvo said. “Then I thought, ‘Why can’t I do it?’”
In the summer of 2006, with the help of his brothers and former classmates, DiSalvo produced “The Butler Did It,” Parlor Room’s first play.
“The cast we had together was basically all the people who had done plays together in high school,” said DiSalvo, who is directing the “The Mousetrap.” “The majority of the people over the years have been alumni of McNamara.”
Patrick Gorirossi graduated from Bishop McNamara in 2012. His first show with Parlor Room was 2010’s “Frankenstein.”
“I had been in probably five or six shows before ‘Frankenstein,’” Gorirossi said. “A good friend of mine had been involved with Parlor Room before and he kind of [brought] me along to the audition.”
A Bowie resident, Gorirossi is now studying theater at Anne Arundel Community College and is active in many community theaters in the Washington, D.C., area. He said Parlor Room’s style is an ideal one for an actor.
“My first impression of the whole thing was how relaxed and free it was,” Gorirossi said. “I love the environment they’ve created. It’s a very comfortable environment to try new things ... I much prefer this style because it’s much more free for an actor.”
In “The Mousetrap,” a murder mystery about a group of strangers snowed in together at Monkswell Manor, Gorirossi plays Christopher, a 22-year-old running away from his past and bringing a lot of baggage along with him.
“The Mousetrap” is a change of pace from the Parlor Room’s 2012 production, “On the Lam,” a comedy thriller about the Waler family, whose house is invaded by three escaped prisoners. The show was written by DiSalvo.
“We like to put on plays that appeal to a wide range of people,” DiSalvo said.
Though DiSalvo and friends started the theater company when they were just students, Parlor Room is not intended to be an amateur group.
“It’s for people who want to do theater for a living,” said DiSalvo, who works as a freelance theater artist doing sound design and working to get his own plays produced. “Many of the people in our company have started to work professionally in local theaters.”
Gorirossi said Parlor Room’s loose structure is great for young actors looking to break into the local theater scene.
“You’re able to have equal say in what you think your character would do,” Gorirossi said. “Which is excellent, especially for new actors. They have free range to explore.”
Now, Parlor Room produces one show a year, but DiSalvo said the company is looking to expand and establish itself as a prominent theater company in Prince George’s County.
“What we’re trying to do, there is not a lot of theater in Prince George’s County,” DiSalvo said. “When you hear about theater in the area, it’s in Bowie, so we’re trying to keep this area more of a theater-going area.”
Part of Parlor Room’s expansion plan includes auditioning actors from other places besides Bishop McNamara.
“Our aim is to work with people that we don’t know,” DiSalvo said. “We have grown over the last few years although most of our actors come from the high school; all are alumni ... except for a few people.”
According to Gorirossi, if DiSalvo continues to balance efficiency and creativity, Parlor Room will have no trouble recruiting other actors.
“It’s the same level of seriousness and professionalism [as other companies].” Gorirossi said. “But at the same time, I feel like I’m much more a part of Parlor Room.”