When University of Wyoming Department of Theatre and Dance professors Leigh Selting and Marsha Knight go to London in January, they won’t be doing many of the things expected of a jet-setting married couple.
Instead, Knight will be researching 17th and 18th century dance and studying the Royal Academy of Dance training methodology, while Selting will be teaching an Introduction to Acting Shakespeare class and working with puppetry with the internationally acclaimed Blind Summit Theatre.
Although they are each enhancing their professional and academic skills during the trip, Selting and Knight will be collaborating on what’s important to both of them: Introducing UW students to the experiences of one the world’s most influential centers of performing and cultural arts.
“The London Semester is a wonderful opportunity for us,” Selting says. “We are taking more than 25 students on the study abroad trip, and we look forward to sharing what the city and the culture have to offer. The fact that we are able to participate in this program together, while independently pursuing our own research and creative activity, is particularly gratifying to us.”
Selting, who joined the UW faculty in 1989, is an accomplished actor and director who worked as a stage manager on Broadway in 1996 and 1997. A renowned teacher of ballet, historical dance, choreography and period movement for actors, Knight has produced numerous shows since joining UW in 1983. They met at a professional theater and dance conference six years before getting married in 1990.
The husband and wife each have been honored for their professional contributions. Selting has been awarded the Kennedy Center Medallion of Excellence for his work as an acting coach, and his students at UW have won the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF) Region VII Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship Competition 12 times since 1990. In 2006, Knight’s Of a Mind was a selected performance at the Kennedy Center and, in 2010, she choreographed and co-directed Six Songs from Ellis, a full-evening theatre/dance piece that was a KCACTF regional finalist.
While national recognition from colleagues is rewarding, Selting and Knight take greater pride in their work with students. They are each recipients of several UW awards for research and teaching, including the John P. Ellbogen Meritorious Classroom Teaching Award.
“She really puts her whole self into teaching her class, and she cares about the progress of each student. She inspires me to be a great dancer and to always give 100 percent,” a student quoted in the Ellbogen award nomination says about Knight’s professionalism and high standards.
Students appreciate Selting’s insights into acting and his stage experience.
“Right from the start, Leigh was committed to our futures as theater professionals. He understood what it took to be a professional, having had a career of his own which he is still successfully engaged in,” says a student about Selting’s coaching in his Ellbogen award nomination.
In their years at UW, Selting and Knight have helped the Department of Theatre and Dance increase from 34 majors to more than 160. With all the awards and invitations to participate in productions and workshops across the country, Selting and Knight say UW has afforded them all the opportunities they need. Most important, they say, is the opportunity to work with students.
“We’ve watched these kids grow up and seen many of them become successful professionals,” Knight says. “We couldn’t imagine working anywhere else.”