About the director

a picture of director Stephen MontagnaStephen Montagna is an actor/director, multi-media consultant, anti-violence activist, and staunch promoter of progressive values.

My independent film production roots run deep; I first cut my teeth on 3/4” video tape in the halcyon days of early video production at Lexington High School in MA in the 1980’s. My best friend and I put together some award winning pieces. When we went off to college, we would gather our friends on summer breaks and put together short pieces.

I earned a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre from Roger Williams University (then College) in Bristol, RI, and then went off to Madison to the University of Wisconsin to earn my Master in Fine Arts in Acting, which I completed in 1994 at the age of 24.

As with many people in the performing arts, I have earned my keep between professional acting or directing gigs by doing a variety of other work – in my case, often communications support in academic, healthcare, and non-profit settings. Along the way, I’ve broadened my communications toolkit, adding web mastering, graphic design, and social media skills into the mix. I never left video and audio production completely behind, and of course over time the digital age has brought these communication forms more and more into the mainstream, and has brought the cost of production down dramatically.

In the fall of 1997, friends of mine produced Landford Wilson’s play “Burn This”, and approached me to do fight choreography for them. Two of the characters have two altercations in the script, and one of them is described by another character as having “a blackbelt in Aikido”. If I was going to accurately choreograph the fight, I clearly needed to know what this “aikido” stuff was all about. This is how I first encountered Aikido of Madison; I observed a class and John Stone and a student stayed after to help me figure out enough so that I could stage the fight scenes. But, I was struck by the beauty and energy in this martial art. It would take four years, a heartbreaking relationship break-up, and a bit of soul-searching before I would find my way back to the dojo again, this time as a formal student.

“dojo: the story of an American aikido school” is the first project of this scale I have embarked on in over a decade. It gives me the opportunity to bring my over twelve years of experience as a practitioner of aikido and my media experience to help bring the messages of O’Sensei to a broader audience.

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