January 01, 1998
Meetings & Conventions: People January 1998 Current Issue
January 1998 People


  UpClose: Rance Willis

Rance Willis photo. Hard act to follow: Rance Willis successfully juggles acting, stage managing and meeting planning.

When Rance Willis isn't directing meetings for the Army Corps of Engineers in Alexandria, Va., he can be found backstage, directing a small army of volunteers for a production at the Little Theatre of Alexandria.

"In 1976 when I signed on as a volunteer, they asked if I'd stage manage the following year's series," says Willis, "and I've been doing it ever since." Willis got the theater bug when a friend invited him and his wife to a production of 1776. "I enjoyed the show so much, I signed up for an acting class," says Willis, who over the next several years went on to star in productions of The Butler, 1776 and Room Service at the community theater.

Eventually, the demands of meeting planning and duties as national president of the Society of Government Meeting Professionals meant a sabbatical from acting. "When you're going to perform on stage, you have to be around for two to three months," notes Willis. "I couldn't do that with all my traveling."

But he hasn't slowed down. His current solo role as stage manager requires more than 100 hours per production. Before opening day, he can be found designing sets; coordinating wardrobe, lighting and sound requirements, and attending auditions, callbacks and rehearsals. Come show time, he ushers theater-goers to their seats and then rushes backstage to dim the lights, work the props and coordinate all other technical aspects of the show.

And he's had his share of backstage adventures, including a thunderstorm that blew out the soundboard and a heart-attack victim in the front row. "The theater is exactly like meeting planning," says Willis. "Just imagine a really intense meeting that goes on all day long for 21 days!"


Grey Separator LinePlanners

Ellen Sandler, CMP, owner of ESP Meeting Minders, an independent meeting planning firm in Foster City, Calif., has added an event specialist placement service that matches planners with potential clients.

Connie Cantin, CMP, has formed Springfield, Va.-based CGC Enterprises, which provides special event planning services for corporations and associations. Cantin was previously the director of meetings for the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association based in Washington, D.C.


  • Kevin E. Chuc has been promoted to director of sales for the Hong Kong Renaissance Hotel.
  • Tom Donahue has been named director of golf for the Grenelefe Golf & Tennis Resort in Haines City, Fla.
  • Stuart Freeman is the newly appointed director of sales and marketing for the Jalousie Hilton Resort and Spa in St. Lucia.
  • Jenna Goeller has joined the San Diego Princess Resort as executive meeting manager for the sales and marketing department.
  • Yolanda Hormozi has been named associate director of sales for the Sheraton Four Points Hotel San Diego.
  • Yourdonus James is the new director of sales for the Commonwealth Park Suites Hotel in Richmond, Va.
  • Rick Dell'Amico has been appointed director of catering and conference services for the Hyatt Regency Pier Sixty Six in Fort Lauderdale.
  • Diane Kelly has been appointed New York City-based sales manager for The Grand Pavilion hotel in Georgetown, Cayman Islands.
  • Lawrence Paglierani is now director of catering for both the Sheraton Burlington (Vt.) Hotel and Conference Center and the Ramada Inn and Conference Center, also in Burlington.
  • Claudia Ross-Jones has been appointed director of sales for the Four Seasons Hotel Toronto.
  • Debra Thompson-Benton has been named director of food and beverage for the Hawaii Convention Center, set to open in June of this year.
  • If you would like notice of a career move considered for inclusion in this column, contact Chrystal Ingram White, Managing Editor, M&C, 500 Plaza Dr., Secaucus, N.J. 07096; fax: (201) 319-1796; e-mail:
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