CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., Aug. 16, 2010 – Two New York City professionals will conduct audition workshops for Southeast Missouri State University juniors and seniors studying theatre and dance Aug. 29 at the River Campus.
Rance Wright, founder of Wright Way Productions and co-producer of Crazy MoJo Productions , and Dan Knechtges, a Tony –nominated choreographer and director working in theater, opera, television, film and music videos, will be on campus during the first week of the school year to work with graduating seniors and select juniors preparing to enter careers in theatre and dance.
“This will give the students the entire year to work on their recommendations and be prepared for the senior showcase and ultimately audition in New York,” said Rhonda Weller-Stilson, chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance.
Last school year, the Department of Theatre and Dance brought in three professionals to conduct workshops with graduating seniors during the week of the senior showcase near the end of the spring semester.
“It was so close to the showcase and a crazy time frame,” Weller-Stilson said. “Now they will have from August to April to put into practice what they learn in the workshops rather than one or two nights.”
Students will receive feedback on their resumes, their headshots – photos of themselves taken for marketing purposes – and professional auditioning.
“We are thrilled to be offering to our graduating seniors and juniors the opportunity to attend workshops on auditioning with two professionals from New York City,” she said. “These gentlemen have years of experience in auditioning and really know the business. Mr. Knechtges is a Tony nominated choreographer and has worked on many Broadway productions. Mr. Wright has been a working actor and has many contacts with casting directors and talent agents. We discuss auditioning techniques with our students throughout their time at Southeast. It helps to bring in working professionals to reinforce what we’ve been teaching and it gives them new contacts. This begins to help students with networking, as well as gives them excellent feedback from fresh eyes.”
As the producer of The Wright Way Productions and co-producer of Crazy MoJo Productions, Wright is working on new works, including reality television shows, theater productions and film productions. He 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. Wright 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. Wright 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.
Knechtges has directed and choreographed for numerous theatres across the country on shows ranging from Gilbert and Sullivan to Rodgers and Hammerstein to Brecht. His choreography has been noted for its exceptional storytelling, deft humor and good “show biz.” He has been known to turn non-dancers into dancers as well as showcasing dancers to let their unique personalities shine through. He also has a range of special skills he uses when directing and choreographing including roller-skating, flag-twirling, baton-twirling, fire-baton, juggling, piano playing, stilt walking and gymnastics. Knechtges’ Broadway credits include “Sondheim on Sondheim” (directed by James Lapine), “Xanadu” (directed by Chris Ashley, Tony nomination, Drama Desk nomination), “110 in The Shade” (starring Audra McDonald) and “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” (directed by James Lapine.) Knechtges had all three shows running simultaneously on the Great White Way in 2007. He also choreographed the Off-Broadway incarnation of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” at Second Stage, which earned him a Lucille Lortel Award nomination.
His other credits include “Der Schuh Das Manitu” (Berlin, Germany), “Vanities” (SecondStage Off -Broadway), “Give It Up!” (Dallas Theatre Center), “Girl In The Frame” (Goodspeed), “Boys From Syracuse” (Centerstage Baltimore), “Godspell” (Papermill Playhouse), “Oklahoma!,” “The Wiz,” “Cats,” “My Fair Lady,” “Chalk Circle,” “Sound of Music,” “Joseph” (Hangar Theatre), “Mame,” “Angel Street,” “Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” (Surflight Theatre), “Don Giovanni” (Indianapolis Opera), “Carousel,” “The Merry Widow” and “West Side Story” (Opera Illinois). He also has worked on nearly every Gilbert & Sullivan operetta including “The Grand Duke,” “Iolanthe,” “Ruddigore,” “The Mikado,” “Patience,” “The Gondoliers,” “H.M.S. Pinafore” and “The Sorcerer,” all with the Blue Hill Troupe in New York City.
Knechtges not only has worked in the theatre world but also has worked on several operas and concerts. His knowledge of and ability to read music gives him a unique advantage in choreographing to the demands of opera and the concert stage. He had the unique experience of choreographing Leonard Bernstein’s MASS for the Dallas Symphony to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. He also set the piece on Ballet Met dancers in Columbus, Ohio, for ProMusica. His choreography can be seen in the Todd Solondz’s movie “Palindromes” and in Fatboy Slim’s music video “It’s a Wonderful Night,” which reached #1 in the United Kingdom. He has also taught dance at numerous institutions and often does master classes all over the country.
He holds a bachelor of fine arts degree in musical theatre from Otterbein College in Westerville, Ohio. He is a Cleveland, Ohio, native. He is also a member of the Lincoln Center Director’s Lab.