A Work of Heart Has a New Home


A Work of Heart Productions is heading to a brand new theater.


Ridgedale Middle School Theater was recently renovated in June 2022 after months of construction beginning in 2021. However, it is not a new part of the school. The auditorium opened with the building of the school in the 1930s.


Michaela Harris, an eighth grade ELA teacher and drama club producer at Ridgedale Middle School, is one of the first people to see the new theater. “The first time I entered after they finished construction, I just gasped, it was beautiful,” Harris said.


Harris explained how the history of architecture played a role in the renovation. “Construction in the 1930s paid a lot of attention to things like woodworking accents and lighting,” Harris said. “The whole room just feels very well connected and planned down to the last detail.”


Some of the features of this theater are a coffered ceiling, which reduce sounds of unwanted noises, as well as a color scheme of gray, orange, and brown. Harris described the room as very bright and airy.


Harris explained how she is good friends with the directors of the show, Nicole Lippey and Angelo DeFazio. She explained how she is particularly close to DeFazio, who has directed many shows at the school in the past. “We’ve been working together for over a dozen years,” she said.


Harris’ role in the production of “Grease” is to act as a source of moral support for them and former students from Ridgedale Middle School. She also is helping out with small projects such as the accessories for the musical number “Beauty School Drop Out”. Harris took a shower cap and glued empty rolls of toilet paper and paper towels together and stacked them. To finish it off, she sprayed painted the rolls silver.


“This will be the first show that I am seeing in the new theater in Ridgedale,” Harris said. She also said that she was excited to watch her former students Emmy Henning, who will perform as Marty, and Mia Cicarelli, who will perform as Jan. “I think that’s awesome for them,” Harris said.


This renovation was part of a referendum project, which is when a school district asks for extra taxpayer money to rebuild something in order to prevent multiple minor repairs. According to the middle school’s website, “Many of the systems that are proposed to be replaced are past or at the end of their lives. These systems are essential to the operation of our school.”


Harris said that she is incredibly thankful that the Florham Park Board of Education supported this project, especially Superintendent Dr. Steven Caponegro and Business Administrator John Csatlos.

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