Longtime actor and director Mark Kuntz brings his 20-plus years of experience to the WMPAC stage for the upcoming performance of “The Great Gatsby.” He said it’s a story he loves, and he’s excited to bring a simpler version of it to life.

Great Scott!

All-female cast readies for the Big Sky Community Theatre performance of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby”
“It’s one of my favorite stories of all-time.” —“Great Gatsby” Director Mark Kuntz

Many are familiar with the classic F. Scott Fitzgerald novel detailing the tumultuous Jay Gatsby, a self-made millionaire who passionately pursues an elusive married woman, drawing an outsider into their world of obsession, greed and danger. The story elicits images of decadence and obsession in the Jazz Age, and it’s one that will soon be told on the Warren Miller Performing Arts Center stage, by—get this—an all-female cast.

     “Gatsby” is being directed by Mark Kuntz, who spent 18 tours acting with Montana Shakespeare in the Parks, 10 as company manager. He also works with Ellen Theatre’s Tate Academy children’s program. 

     Kuntz met with WMPAC artistic director John Zirkle in 2017, offering a short list of plays he thought would do well in Big Sky. “Gatsby” was quickly chosen, much to the joy of Kuntz who played Jay Gatsby while touring with Missoula’s Repertory Theatre in 2015. 

     “It’s one of my favorite stories of all-time,” he said. “I love the book, and I love the film adaptions.”

     Auditions for “Gatsby” took place in March, and it immediately became clear this cast would be different. 

     “There were a few men there, but all the women were so great that John and I were literally talking in the midst of the audition, like, ‘Hey, can we do this? It would be really cool,’” Kuntz recalled of the “Aha!” decision to run with an all-female cast. “I said, ‘Let’s go for it. Let’s do it. Let’s be bold.’ Any time I can reinvent a story, I’m into it. So we are just thinking of them as actors bringing the words to life, not women in men’s clothes.”

     Besides the all-women cast, Kuntz’s “Gatsby” will be a faithful adaptation of the story, “but scaled down to be more spare and minimalistic.” 

     The story takes place in the mind of Nick Carraway, so Kuntz plans to use projections rather than complicated set props to create a dreamlike atmosphere that allows the actors to move from scene to scene and environment to environment with ease.

      “We’re in Nick’s brain seeing the story as he remembers it, so it’s all very dreamlike, always moving towards the inevitable conclusion,” said Kuntz. 

     The Big Sky Community Theatre came to life following the Warren Miller Performing Arts Center’s grand opening in 2013 with an ambitious twist on a classic work.

      BSCT founders—Zirkle and Ophir fourth grade teacher Jeremy Harder—started the program with its first, and according to Zirkle, most successful play, “The Importance of Being Earnest.” They took the Oscar Wilde story and reinvented it, setting the play in San Francisco and letting the action unfold through the eyes of the homeless.

     “The Great Gatsby” will take the stage May 18 at 7 p.m. at the WMPAC. Tickets, $10, are on sale now at www.warrenmillerperformingartscenter.com. 

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