Melissa Staab took over as Redondo Union High School's theater arts director this semester after Justin Baldridge steadily built the program from the ground up since 2010.

With a production of the A.R. Gurney play, “The Dining Room,” which opens Thursday, Dec. 8, she is taking over with no changes, yet.

“I wanted to establish as much consistency for the kids especially with the arts,” said Staab. “The students get very attached to their programs and the way the programs work. So for this year, I really wanted to come in and just insert me, who I am as an artist, my personal style, my direction for the program, while keeping the same structure that was already in place.”

Staab said Baldridge did a “fantastic job” establishing a “strong program” with a fall play and spring musical, but she wants to expand that with a Shakespeare production as well as a completely student run production that she will oversee.

“The school has almost 3,000 students and I think we can have so many more opportunities for shows and performances,” she said.

Staab said “The Dining Room” is a great ensemble piece. The play, written by A.R. Gurney, started on Broadway in 1981 with six actors playing 54 roles in 18 scenes. In Redondo's production, there are 18 actors, playing three parts each. The play is a series of vignettes about the every day trials and tribulations of families centered around an old dining room table.

“I didn't know the students well and their skill ability coming into the school year,” Staab said. “I wanted to pick a play that I knew could feature a range of talent and acting abilities. Some scenes are more in depth in skill in acting and emotional connection, while some scenes are lighter, shorter and more comedic.”

Before coming to Redondo Union, Staab was a contracted choreographer and director for a few high schools in Orange County, co-ran a children's theater in Yorba Linda for seven years and worked full time for 10 years at Disney as a special event coordinator for the Disney Performing Arts program.

At Redondo she will teach the two theater arts classes and oversee all production elements of the Theatre Arts program. Their spring musical will be “Shrek The Musical.”

Aside from the 18 actors performing on “The Dining Room,” Staab said there are 32 students on the crew including the set, lighting and sound designers.

“They work just as hard and as long as the actors,” Staab said.

“The Dining Room” takes place at the Redondo Union Auditorium, located at 631 Vincent Park, Dec. 8, 9 and 10 at 7 p.m., and Saturday, Dec. 10, at 2 p.m.

Tickets, which can be purchased at ruhsdrama.com, are $8 pre-sale, or $10 at the door.

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