Fringe at 20: Gunnar Montana
Name: Gunnar Montana
Type of Artist: Visual/Physical Artist
Company: Gunnar Montana Productions
Fringe shows I’ve participated in:
Sanctuary, Brian Sanders’ JUNK, 2010: dancer, performer
Dancing Dead, Brian Sanders’ JUNK, 2011: dancer, performer
The Gate: Reopened, Brian Sanders’ JUNK, 2012: dancer, performer
RUB, Gunnar Montana Productions, 2012: director, producer, choreographer
BASEMENT, Gunnar Montana Productions, 2013: director, producer, choreographer, performer
RESURRECTION ROOM, Gunnar Montana Productions, 2014: director, producer, choreographer, performer
PURGATORY, Gunnar Montana Productions, 2015: director, producer, choreographer, performer
2016 Fringe show I’m participating in: WROUGHTLAND, Gunnar Montana Productions – director, producer, choreographer, performer
First Fringe I attended: My first experience of the Fringe Festival was Urban Scuba by Brian Sanders’ JUNK. Brian crafted a visually stunning performance in a deserted pool on the basement level of the Gershman Y. The entire performance was a huge inspiration and highlight.
First Fringe I participated in: The first show I ever performed in for the Fringe Festival was Sanctuary by Brian Sanders JUNK. Brian and I performed a duet together on stage that involved swinging about on spansets while artfully entangling our bodies together in the air. At one point I botched the sequence of the dance. Brian then took the liberty to completely break character and scream corrections at me in front of a sold out audience. I was traumatized, but in the nights that followed, I didn’t screw up.
First show I produced/created at the Fringe: The first show I ever produced was RUB. I was working with a handful of strippers at the time. One night a performer of mine invited one of her clients to come see the show. It was a very intimate experience and as the night progressed this particular performer strutted up to her “friend,” straddled him, and slowly spit into his mouth. Everyone in the audience was somewhat disgusted as he swallowed and smiled. He seemed to really enjoy it.
The Fringiest show, venue, action, or moment I ever experienced: Last year I produced a show called PURGATORY. In the end I dug up the remains of a loved one from a grave of peat moss. I danced with the skeleton in my arms and then returned it to its grave only to climb in myself and rest in the dirt. Skeleton in hand, I lay there, out of breath. Members of the cast then sealed the coffin and nailed it shut with the two of us inside. “Down to the River to Pray” echoed inside the box and as the song came to an end, the hammering faded, and the footsteps of the audience leaving commenced. I was left there to reflect on my performance.
A Fringe show that influenced me as an artist: Brian Sanders choreographed a show called Dancing Dead in 2011 that I was a part of. Between the venue, which was the coolest underground basement I’ve ever seen, and the content of the performance, I was completely enthralled with the work. It was the first time I saw him drop all the gimmicks and tricks to focus on the message behind it all. He was playing with some heavy concepts and challenging his usual way of doing things. It was around then that I realized what direction I wanted to go in with my work, how an environment can affect an audience, and how important it is to have something to say with the voice of artistry.
Artists I have met or was exposed to in the Fringe who I went on to collaborate with: Fringe is a great excuse to try out whatever is in your head with whomever is on your mind. One of the most exciting parts about the festival is that there are so many creative minds that become so accessible to you as an artist. I’ve worked with everything from drag queens to strippers. Last year I asked Jess Conda, philebrity vocal star, to be a part of PURGATORY. She taught me how to act, I taught her how to dance. In the end, I’m a better artist because of it all.
The craziest idea for a Fringe show you wish to one day do or to have done: I want to create The Flop Show. It’s difficult to come up with new, fresh, exciting ideas every year. It takes a lot of time, work, and energy (and money!) to create something that’s not only up to your standards as an artist, but intriguing to an audience as well. The Flop Show is a show that’s designed to be horrible. There would be no pressure to create something good because the show is supposed to be bad! All artists have ups and downs in their work. It’s inevitable. So why not take the bull by the balls and make some art that’s so bad it’s good.