Actor-director Richard Montez offers spiritual message via theater

Richard Montez, center left, the actor/director who created Cornerstone Arts Productions in 1989, wo

Richard Montez would be the first to concede the point: Good theater will beat good preaching just about every time.

“Back in the 1980s, I realized that church attendance seemed to be slipping, but that people will gladly go to the theater and watch a show,” said Montez, an actor/director who created Cornerstone Arts Productions in the Dallas/Fort Worth area in 1989.

“It occurred to me that reaching people by showing them the love of Jesus through theatrical productions would work, and that’s our mission. I really felt it was a great way for people to learn more about God.”

Since 1993, Cornerstone Arts has been touring the world putting on shows with a message for family-friendly audiences. This Thursday and Friday at 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. each day, Cornerstone Arts comes to The Egg for four performances of one of Montez’s personal favorites, “The Judgment Seat.”

Setting the stage

Montez is the director of the production, which is being hosted by Loudonville Community Church. He has been in the Albany area for three weeks, running rehearsals and making sure the technical side of the show is ready to go. The cast and crew are all local talent, most of them members of various Capital Region churches who were eager to see a Cornerstone Arts production.

‘The Judgment Seat’

WHAT: A performance by Cornerstone Arts

WHERE: The Egg, Empire State Plaza, Albany

WHEN: 11 a.m. and 7 p.m., Thursday and Friday

HOW MUCH: $10 for matinees, $15 for matinees

MORE INFO: 459-3152 or visit or

“I cast the entire show and work with a few technical people, and I can tell you Albany has some very good talent,” said Montez. “I’m very pleased with the actors we have, and our lead actor, Bill Eckert, is going to do a great job. Everybody in our cast has done some drama. They seem very comfortable performing in front of people.”

Eckert, an Averill Park resident, plays a doctor who is losing his wife to cancer.

“It’s not quite as serious as you might think from the title,” said Montez. “It’s actually a very funny and entertaining show, but the doctor is dealing with a lot. His wife is dying and he can’t understand why bad things happen to good people. He’s challenging God: ‘Where are you when I need you?’ It’s a play with a wholesome message.”

Since Montez and Cornerstone Arts went international in 1993, they haven’t had any trouble finding an audience. One motto the group has assigned itself is “12 shows in 12 months in 12 different countries,” and for the last few years that’s pretty much been the case. Montez has already put on shows this year in Lima, Peru; Santiago, Chile; and Slovenia, and later this year will be directing productions in Ukraine, Crimea, Mexico, Nigeria and Seoul, South Korea.

“I used to think, ‘Who’s going to want to watch the kind of shows with a Christian message?’ But I’m happy and surprised to say we’re doing very well and we’re actually in demand,” said Montez. “Our schedule for 2011 and 2012 is already filled, and I’m still getting invitations. They keep on coming in, so we’re never lacking for a place to go.”

He was just 5 years old when he told his mother that he wanted to work in a church. Then his first-grade teacher in Midland, Texas, invited him to see a production of “My Fair Lady” being put on by a local community theater group, and he had to change his future plans to a degree.

“I went home and told my mother that night that I wanted to work in the theater, and she reminded me about the church,” he said. “So I said, ‘Yeah, I want to do both.’ It’s hard to believe but that’s exactly what I’m doing now. It’s always been in my heart to do something for God and at the same time help people. My first-grade teacher saw something in me and gave me this wonderful opportunity by exposing me to the theater. She gave a small kid from a poor family something that really inspired me, and now hopefully I’m doing that same sort of thing.”

Montez has done his own share of performing in local and regional theater, and was also cast in several movies, including Oliver Stone’s “JFK” in 1991.

“I had some lines in the movie and I even got to attend the premiere,” he remembered. “I’m there with three friends and we’re all excited about my scene coming up; I’m walking across the street and bump into Lee Harvey Oswald; and they ended up deleting my lines. They kind of shot right past me, and I’m sitting there in the theater going, ‘Oh no, they cut it, they cut it.’ I was so disappointed.”

Montez laughs about it now. It was his last piece of work in a major Hollywood production, and he doesn’t miss it.

“I’ve directed a musical in Moscow in 1993 and ’94, and we packed the house every night,” he said. “That’s the part of my career I’m most proud of. We did a show in the Olympic Stadium in Seoul with 65,000 seats, and we’ve helped people find God in much smaller places as well. I haven’t done any movies in probably 20 years now and that’s fine. What I’m doing now is much more important.”

Categories: Life and Arts

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