Prestigious Production Company Returns to Audition Southeast Performance Students


Photo of Southeast student Desmond Gray.

Southeast Missouri State University student Desmond Gray performed with Matt Davenport Production Company last summer at Hersheypark in Hershey, Pa. 


Feb. 3, 2010 – Matt Davenport Productions will return to the Southeast Missouri State University River Campus Feb. 9 to hold auditions for Southeast students interested in theatre and dance professional work.

Southeast singers, dancers, musicians and technicians will audition for the opportunity to perform with the company in national tours, resort shows and theme park shows at SeaWorld, Holiday World and Hersheypark. 

Southeast is one of only six universities at which the company hosts auditions.  Matt Davenport Productions, based in Nashville, Tenn., is a professional production company that does casting for cruise lines, theme parks and other production companies.  The company writes and produces every genre of theatre from theme park reviews to national touring companies, from dramas to comedies. 

“We are very pleased to have [Matt Davenport Productions] return to our campus for a second year.  This is a great opportunity for our students,” Rhonda Weller-Stilson, chair of Southeast’s Department of Theatre and Dance, said.  “Normally, students have to pay registration fees and travel expenses to go to audition sites, [but]this is on our campus and will not require the students to spend additional money.”

Last summer, Southeast student Desmond Gray of Bellwood, Ill., was selected to perform with the company.  He performed in the company’s award-winning show, “The Milkmen,” at Hersheypark.

“Matt Davenport is a great company to work for. It’s a lot of work and they push all of their performers to continue to improve,” Gray said.  “Rehearsals were intense but the end product was worth it.”

Gray, a member of the show’s “barbershop-sounding” quartet, said he performed five times a day, six days a week throughout the summer.

“I grew as a performer over the summer. You meet so many talented people from all over, and they’re a great group of people to know in the business. I encourage anyone who can to audition for them,” Gray said.

Weller-Stilson said Gray, who auditioned at the Southeast Theatre Conference (SETC) rather than at the auditions on campus, and other Southeast students who auditioned last year impressed the company.

“They were pleased with last year’s talent and wanted to return,” she said. 

While this is only the second year the production company has hosted auditions at Southeast, many students have previously been invited to attend Matt Davenport Productions’ auditions at the SETC and with the University Professional Theatre Association (UPTA). 

Davenport began his company as a solo performer in the late 1980s.  Since then, the company has grown to employ 180 performers from across the United States.  Starting out as a singer and dancer in Nashville’s Opryland USA theme park’s stage productions, Davenport soon worked his way up to become a regular background vocalist on TNN’s “Porter Wagoner at Opryland” television show as well as a performer in NBC’s Nashville Palace.  Davenport also formed his own band, Diamond Rio.

Matt Davenport Productions stretches its influence throughout the United States with shows at Busch Gardens in Tampa, Fla., and Williamsburg, Va., Silver Dollar City in Branson, Mo., Country Tonite in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., SeaWorld in San Antonio, Texas, Hersheypark in Hershey, Pa., and tours that travel across the country. 

Many of the company’s productions have garnered awards, including Country Tonite which won CMAA’s “Show of the Year” in 2001 and 2002.