(by Vanessa Hastings: Star-Tribune staff writer)
Sent by Patrick Leclair

CASPER, WY - May 14, 1999

Mary Ann from Gilligan's Island wants to help aspiring young actors forge their way into the film industry. Actress Dawn Wells, best known as the perky girl next door on that desert island, brings the one-week Film Actor's Boot Camp to the Teton Wells Ranch in Driggs, Idaho, 35 miles from Jackson Hole. Wells maintains a busy career that includes teaching at various colleges. Though she realized that schools teach people the art of acting, something is often missing, she said. "I really find that (the information her camp includes) is not what's being offered."

In the past, Wells has welcomed a handful of young women into her home every year and given them guidance about breaking into the Hollywood scene. "I saw how much it helped just those two or three and I thought that there really is an opportunity to provide some mentorship."

The camp runs in weekly sessions from June to August. It includes classes that cover typecasting, auditioning, location shooting and working with agents. And film professionals will give participants personal assessments to help them make the right career choices.

"One of the things I think is so valuable in this camp is who are you and what are you marketing," Wells said. "It sounds commercial and it's a very difficult thing to say to an artist who's spent years of training to be an artist. But that marketing is key to breaking into the business, no matter how well someone can act." Her role as Mary Ann provides the perfect example. "My talent is so much broader than the character of Mary Ann, who has performed in more than 60 theatrical productions and 120 television shows. But the world knows me as Mary Ann, so commercially, I've been successful enough to do the roles I love to do. Knowing the ins and outs of the business allows actors to cinch the first roles that let their talent shine." Though she admitted that it takes a lifetime to absorb all the necessary information, Wells said her camp can save actors a couple of years and, possibly, some expense. Wells enlists the help of several producers, directors, agents, managers and actors to serve as lecturers.

"It gives you an opportunity, once you arrive in Los Angeles, to have some in-roads," she said. "Also, it gives you an opportunity if you're still not out of college to know what to work on those last two years you're in school."

Copyright Casper Star-Tribune

(Former "Gilligan's" Mary Ann even has her own fishing show)

(by VANESSA HASTINGS Star-Tribune staff writer)

The "Gilligan's Island" character Mary Ann opened the door to a busy life for actress Dawn Wells. Many who know her solely as Mary Ann may not realize that Wells fills other roles as an actress, businesswoman, journalist, teacher and mentor. She will bring much of this experience to her Actor's Boot Camp just outside Jackson Hole this summer, where students will learn the ins and outs of breaking into the film industry.

Well's most recent work includes a Western Union commercial and a TV pilot called "Daytrippers" that Fran Drescher of "The Nanny" wrote, directed and produced. "Actually, I played myself," Wells said in a telephone interview. "It's a character who played Mary Ann, who has put all her money into this apartment building, and she's a landlady with these two young kids who've decided to make it in Hollywood. It's cute."

She will also appear in a play titled "Who Wants Fame?", which opens in Los Angeles over Memorial Day weekend. "The industry has changed somewhat over the years," she said. "I think the opportunity of being who you are is a little easier." You don't have to fit into the mold of the beautiful sexpot or the beautiful leading lady. Your essence of your personality is more of a key."

Perhaps her portrayal of Mary Ann has helped other actresses break out of trying to fit stereotypes. "I really think she's the best of both works," Wells said. "She hasn't lost her femininity and yet she's a very independent lady." And the girl-next-door Mary Ann of the world seems to come out ahead of the classically beautiful-starlet. "The nice girl seems to be winning out a great deal. I think it's a sign of our times."

Well's own independence shines through in other projects. She brings the skills she learned during years of fishing in Idaho and Wyoming to "Dawn Wells Reel Adventures," a half-hour show for women that airs in Canada. Co-host Kathy Ruddick, the first female captain of the Canadian fly fishing team, travels with Wells to different fishing destinations around the world. The show provides information about traveling to those places, includes fishing tips, and features cooking with famous chefs. "We do have men who we're fishing with but it's definitely a female fishing show," Wells said. "We allow one or two of them (men) to come on."

As a correspondent for the Australian show "Midday", the actress has interviewed Mel Gibson, Nick Nolte, Demi Moore and Tom Hanks, among others. A graduate of Stephens College in Missouri and the University of Washington, Wells has served as an artist in residence and taught master classes at various colleges across the United States. She serves on various boards and has won the Case Award for Education. On top of everything else, she has written her own cookbook and created the Wishing Wells Collections, a line of clothing for the physically challenged. With so much on her plate, Wells admits she values the quiet time she manages to make for herself early in the morning and whenever else she can get it.

"As much as I travel I love that four hours in the plane where nobody can get me and I've got time to think through things," she said.

Copyright Casper Star-Tribune