Valley View gets new performance director

By: Lauren Gibbs, The Placer Herald
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A Whitney High School graduate will step into the spotlight as the new director of Valley View Elementary School’s performances next year. During last week’s “Through the Looking Glass” musical at Valley View, Leigh Leonard co-directed the play with Diana Ruslin, the school’s Parent Teacher Club president and Rocklin City Councilwoman. Ruslin has been directing the school’s play for the last five years. Friday’s performance was the last under her direction. For six weeks previous, Ruslin and Leonard worked closely putting the performance together. Two casts, which consisted of more than 50 students performed to approximately 200 attendees each night this year. Every student who auditioned was cast in some way, Ruslin said. “Our mission is to always include, not exclude,” Ruslin said. Ruslin said school plays offer students an avenue to excel in and an opportunity to explore the arts. Being a part of a performance also goes back to the classroom, helping students build confidence with speaking in public. This year, Leonard, with her music background, was able to provide live music for the play, which was a first for Valley View. Previously recorded music was used during performances. Ruslin said it’s just one of many things Leonard will bring to the stage when she takes over. “She’ll provide a whole different feel to the show,” Ruslin said. Leonard, 18, is currently studying music and psychology at Sierra College. She has been playing the piano since age 4 and has played in her school jazz band growing up, sang in choir and acted in talent shows and theater. She also played piano for Whitney High School’s play this year of “Bye Bye Birdie.” “With music, I think that it’s the voices that really get me … it’s just so open,” Leonard said. “You can tell that they really mean it.” For the last six weeks, Leonard and Ruslin have been working side by side to make “Through the Looking Glass” a success. Next year, Leonard will take over as director for Valley View’s annual performance.