The Great Gatsby (2015)

A conversation with three-time MontanaRep actor Mark Kuntz


I had the opportunity last week to sit down with Mark Kuntz, equity actor, director, and friend to chat about a slew of topics. His keen insight into the craft of acting is matched only by his wealth of experience on the road. Mark has toured extensively (I mean, a lot). – with Montana Shakespeare in the Parks for ten consecutive years, as well as two national tours with The Rep (Sgt. Toomey in Biloxi Blues, Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby). He will be playing Victor Velasco this year in Neil Simon’s Barefoot in the Park in honor of the 50th anniversary for Montana Rep. Being able to talk to him about the tour-to- come was very illuminating. Mark is both humbled, and honored to be a part of this year’s tour.

Mark and I have worked together a few times since The Great Gatsby tour on various projects. He remains one of my favorite collaborators, for reasons you will hear in the very conversation we recorded last week. He is incredibly committed, honest, intelligent, and self-aware – traits that make a great actor. We talked about odd jobs, similarities between characters from Shakespeare and Simon, favorite texts from the canon, nerves, his process, and the strange elegance of life on the road. Mark, in a reference to Michael Caine, referred to himself as the “strange sort of creature that was born into this world who can’t envision doing anything else.” He recently starred in an independent film set to hit festivals this coming year, and is currently directing The Aliens by Annie Baker in Missoula.

Amazingly, we have the audio for this interview in full. Be sure to check it out and don’t forget to come see Mark play the outlandish, adventurous, “continental” Victor Velasco this January in Barefoot in the Park. Tickets for the Opening Night Gala, a celebration of the 50 th anniversary of Montana Repertory Theatre are available from the UMArts Box Office in the PARTV building. Call (406) 243-4581 to make a reservation. And be sure to like our Facebook page.

Stay tuned for more interviews with past, and current Reppers.

The Great Gatsby: Page to Stage


The idea of adapting novels and stories to the stage is not a particularly new one; it has been going on for hundreds of years. The works of Dumas being a particular favorite of the theatre set. The Montana Repertory Theatre has, as one of its signature productions, adapted To Kill A Mockingbird.  This title has proven to be our most popular production over the past twenty-five years. In this spirit we are presenting an adaptation of The Great Gatsby for our 2015 National tour.

Adaptation is a tricky business, as the craft of adaptation is one of deciding what to eliminate while keeping the narrative thread and spirit and soul of the writing. This has been done usually at the expense of the beauty and rhythms of the written word. It is said that Ernest Hemingway after selling the rights to a book for Hollywood, would go to the Nevada-California border and throw the book as far as he could while beating a hasty retreat back to Idaho. A wise teacher once told me that for adaptation to work one must consider making a brand new work of art. An adaptation must have the integrity of its own narrative and expressive beauty.

Reading a book at home it is a very personal experience. The reader is one with the writer. The story is shared on a very private level. Theatre is a publicly shared experience. Theatre is also a dialogue-based art form where novels tend to the narrative. The use of a “narrator” in theatre or film adaptations is helpful in keeping the authors sound and sense intact. For instance in TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, the narrative was switched from Scout to the neighbor, Mrs. Maude. This freed Scout to be a part of the action, and relieved of the burden of narration, she was free to be Scout. One may disagree with the success of this transference but it highlights the tricky nature of the adaptive process. We are fortunate in GATSBY that the original narrator Nick Caraway remains the narrator for the stage play. His direct address to the audience, keeping the rhythms and beauty of the original Fitzgerald help keep the quality of hearing experience for the audience very true to the original. Simon Levy provided the adaptation for The Montana Repertory Theatre. After many years trying, Mr. Levy was granted permission to write a stage adaptation. In 2005 he at long last earned the trust of the Fitzgerald estate and he commenced to create a thoughtful, intelligent, witty and poetic adaptation. It is not only poetic in the word sense but also in the theatrical sense. Mr. Levy’s strong theatre knowledge and experience led him to create a theater event that has great poetry in the way it moves seamlessly from one scene to another, matching the original’s quick cuts and overlaps.

Greg Johnson
Montana Rep Artistic Director