Department of Theatre and Dance to Hold First Senior Showcase


April 28, 2010 – The Department of Theatre and Dance at Southeast Missouri State University will be holding its first annual Senior Showcase, a cabaret for graduating seniors at the River Campus.  The Showcase will be presented to the public at 7:30 p.m. April 30 and May 1 in the Wendy Kurka Rust Flexible Theatre with a reception following both performances in the John and Betty Glenn Convocation Center.The Senior Showcase assists in professionally promoting graduating seniors who have completed their bachelor of fine arts and bachelor of arts degrees with a performance emphasis. The students will perform for invited agents, casting directors and professional actors from New York City. Select seniors will be performing songs, monologues and a dance solo which they have perfected through workshops being presented this week by invited professionals, including  founder of Wright Way Productions Rance Wright, Casting Director Alison Franck and Choreographer Parker Esse.  Students performing will be Dana-Leigh Formon of Oxford, Pa.; Desmond Gray of Bellwood, Ill.; Scott Hamann, Danielle Hargis, Audrey Stanfield and Cody Heuer, all of Cape Girardeau; Lacey Hayes of Jackson, Mo.; Chelsea Serocke of Manchester, Mo.; and Sarah Tochtrop of Festus, Mo. In addition, two students who will receive a bachelor of fine arts in performing arts, design/tech option, also will display their portfolios in the lobby of the River Campus. They are Jessica Alvey of St. Charles, Mo., and Jennifer Warfield of Perryville, Mo. “The launching of this new program provides a performance outlet that will greatly enhance our current recruitment efforts of incoming high-quality students as well as assist graduating seniors with job placement in the areas of theatre and dance,” said Rhonda Weller-Stilson, chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance.  “It is really an educational tool for the students to learn how to audition for professional companies.  This takes us to the next level as a theatre and dance program.”Plans are in place for the initiative to continue in forthcoming years with selected students to advance to New York City to perform before agents, casting directors, alumni and friends of the University, she said. The Showcase to the public serves as a fund raiser for future Senior Showcase activities, and the department is requesting a $10 donation from the public and a $5 donation from students.  Seats will be available at the door. Leading up to the Showcase, students will be receiving one-on-one training this week from Wright, Franck and Esse, Weller-Stilson said.Franck has been the resident casting director for Paper Mill Playhouse for nearly a decade.  She has cast more than 40 productions for Paper Mill including the Broadway transfer of “I’m Not Rappaport,” starring Judd Hirsch and Ben Vereen, directed by Daniel Sullivan.  Recent Paper Mill productions include “1776,” “Master Class,” “The Importance of Being Earnest,” “Little Shop of Horrors” and “Kiss Me Kate.”  Other regional productions casted by Franck include “Pirates of Penzance,” “Hairspray,” “Les Miserables,” and 2007’s mini-tour of “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” directed by Scott Schwartz and choreographed by Patti Colombo.  Franck recently completed the casting of the upcoming national tour of “Ain’t Misbehavin,” starring Ruben Studdard and Frenchie Davis and the premier national tour of “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.”  Franck has also served as casting director for the independent film “Broke Even,” and television series “Lateline,” “Soul Man,” “Talk To Me,” “Madigan Men” and “Freaks and Geeks.”Esse choreographed the world premier of Katie Couric’s “The Brand New Kid” at The Kennedy Center, as well as “The Mystery of Irma Vep” and the world premier of “A Christmas Carol 1941” both for Arena Stage.  He is currently choreographing “The Light in the Piazza” for Arena Stage.  Esse was associate choreographer under director/choreographer Warren Carlyle on the Broadway productions of “A Tale of Two Cities” and “Finian’s Rainbow” as well as the national tour of “101 Dalmatians The Musical.”  He has also served as associate director/choreographer for the world premier of “Lucky Guy” at Goodspeed Opera House and as assistant choreographer for “Mame” at The Kennedy Center, “Dancing in the Dark” at The Old Globe Theatre, and “Pirates of Penzance” at Goodspeed Opera House and Paper Mill Playhouse.   Esse has also choreographed several productions for New York City Center’s “Encores!” series: “Stairway to Paradise,” “Juno,” “On the Town,” and “Finian’s Rainbow.”  He also choreographed the film “Deception” starring Hugh Jackman and Ewan McGreggor.  As assistant choreographer, Esse worked alongside theatre legend Baayork Lee on “Animal Crackers,” “South Pacific,” “Camelot,” and “Damn Yankees” for Arena Stage (where he also held the positions of dance captain/performer) as well as, “Mack And Mabel” at the Shaw Festival in Canada.  They were honored with a Helen Hayes nomination for best choreography on “South Pacific.”  As a performer, Esse danced on Broadway with Ben Vereen, Bebe Neuwirth and Ann Reinking in “Fosse,” which was filmed for PBS’s “Great Performances” and released on VHS and DVD.  Regionally, Esse has performed in such productions as “A Chorus Line” at Paper Mill Playhouse and TUTS; “Will Rogers Follies” at Sacramento Music Circus; “Swing!” at North Shore Music Theatre, Marriott Lincolnshire Theatre and TUTS; and “The Music Man,” “Sweet Charity,” “Crazy For You,” and “How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying” at Merry-Go-Round Playhouse.  He has also performed in the Public Sings Benefit celebrating The Public Theatre’s 50th Anniversary at City Center in New York City and the 21st Annual Benefit Gala for the Drama League, “So In Love: A Night of Romance at the Rainbow Room” in New York City.  Esse has taught master classes in Musical Theatre dance for the past 10 years and has been on the faculty at New York University’s Cap 21 Musical Theatre Conservatory.  He also has taught classes for The Marktoberdorf Summer Intensive Workshop for Professional European Actors in Marktoberdorf, Germany; Lamar University College of Fine Arts’ Dance Department in Beaumont, Texas; The Timothy M. Draper Center for Dance Education in Rochester, N.Y.; The High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Houston, Texas; Learning on Location in New York City as well as many local dance studios in Chicago, Ill., Connecticut and New York. Esse received his bachelor of fine arts degree in drama from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts where he studied at the Cap 21 Musical Conservatory.Wright is currently the producer of The Wright Way Productions and co-producer of Crazy MoJo Productions working on new works, including reality television shows, theater productions and film productions.  Rance is also the creator of Wright Way Master Classes, where he has the opportunity to teach the technique of becoming a better auditioner alongside major New York agents, casting directors and entertainment professionals both locally and nationally.  Rance is also the creator of The Photography Train, a  company based on taking major head shots and fashion photographs across the  country to help give greater quality head shots to locations that otherwise  would not have them. Rance has directed three major advertising campaigns in New York City for gyms and spas through “The Wright Agency/Management” office. Rance earned a bachelor of fine arts degree in music/dance/theater at Brigham Young University and continued onto The Boston Conservatory for his master’s degree.  He has performed in many regional productions and national tours.