Gail and Bruce Montgomery met and began their 26- year “show-mance” while attending college in New Mexico.
Gail was born in Las Vegas and Bruce began life in Ukiah, California. Both their families did a fair share of moving around, with Gail eventually graduating high school in Henderson, Nevada, and Bruce in Albuquerque. Their first meeting took place in Santa Fe, where both were pursuing BFAs in the performing arts.
“I was a lowly chorus boy, and Gail was a lead in the musical ‘Sweet Charity,’” Bruce explained. For their first official date, he devised an elaborate scavenger hunt that led her all over the theatre until she found him waiting for her in the basement of the scene shop, waiting at a table with chocolates and sparkling cider. Gail noted that it was very romantic, although Bruce quickly added, “I was nineteen; sparkling cider was the best I could do at the time.”
Following graduation, they made their way to New York City, intent on pursuing acting careers. Rather like the plot of an old MGM musical, they arrived with just two suitcases, a trunk, and about five hundred dollars cash. “This was New York in 1993,” Bruce pointed out. “You can imagine how unprepared we actually were to make this move.”
They rented a 12x12-foot apartment in Hell’s Kitchen. “It was tiny. And scary. We probably wound up calling the police on some quarrelsome neighbors as often as three times a week,” Gail confessed. But true to the plot of that old movie, Bruce was cast in a show after just his second audition. The job kept him employed for six months and enabled him to earn his actor’s union card. Shortly after that, both were cast in the touring company of another show, “Young Abe Lincoln,” which gave Gail her union membership, as well. And shortly thereafter, they were able to make the move to a larger apartment on the upper west side.
They remained in the city for seven and a half years, adding more performing credits to their resumes. But the family had expanded with the addition of son, Jack, who arrived in January, 2000. “It was a great time,” Bruce said. “But it’s difficult to raise a family in New York City. We made the decision to move closer to family.” And that brought them to Littleton, then Bailey, and finally to Evergreen, where Bruce’s parents had moved years earlier. Daughter Paige was born in 2002 while the family was still living in Bailey.
Gail began singing with The Evergreen Chorale, and eventually auditioned for one of their musicals. It was “My Fair Lady” and she was cast as Eliza Doolittle. Bruce wasn’t singing with the group, but nevertheless auditioned, and was cast in the show as well. This led to a string of performances in various productions with both The Chorale and Evergreen Players, including “Kiss Me, Kate,” “Into the Woods,” “Down the Road,” and Gail’s acclaimed and award-winning work in “Parallel Lives.” Both are also founding members of The Evergreen Players’ improv comedy troupe, EPiC.
In improv, The Montgomerys found the potential for a new career path. During a 5-year tenure as the IT Director at The Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Bruce was able to utilize his time to attend DU’s the company’s Executive MBA program to further his education. He took a class on in entrepreneurship that required him to write an entire business plan. To come up with a concept, he asked himself, “What do I have fun doing?”
The answer was improv. He began researching both the practical application of improvisational exercises in a business environment, as well as the neuroscience involved when the mind is called upon to find solutions quickly and via nontraditional routes.
“There’s a specific region of the brain that oversees long-term planning and managing risk. A different area of the brain takes over when a person is called upon to perform improvisation, one in which doubt and fear must take a back seat,” Bruce explains. He developed this model and pitched it in class, and then also decided to take it a step further, creating an actual company through which he could offer this new service to established businesses. He and Gail christened it ExperienceYes.
One of his peers was so taken with the idea that she recommended his services to her company, and Bruce and Gail successfully delivered his first workshop. Word spread, and ExperienceYes quickly began to gain traction and add clients. Gail officially came aboard as a partner six months later. One of their biggest successes to date was with a gas and oil company where 12 people who had never worked together before were tasked with coming up with an entirely new way of designing a well pad. They utilized ExperienceYes’s workshop approach to successfully accomplish this.
“We didn’t want to be Second City,” Gail clarifies. “Improv is the tool we use, but our approach is all about the neuroscience. We don’t ask our clients to engage in things like trust exercises, falling backwards while depending on a co-worker to catch them.”
Out of ExperienceYes has come another collaboration, the forthcoming book Brain Disruption, co-authored by The Montgomerys. It spells out the practices and information they use in working with their clients. “Improvisation disrupts the brain in creative ways,” Bruce explains. “Our studies have shown that it boosts idea generation by as much as 80%.”
The couple stays busy with other pursuits, besides. Bruce just retired from several years serving on The Evergreen Players board of directors, and Gail is the Artist in Residence for The Evergreen Children’s Chorale, working as stage director for their shows, including their upcoming production of “The Music Man.”
“I moved around so much as a kid,” she says. “I’ve never lived anywhere in my life as long as we have now been here. And it makes me very happy to tell people that I’m from Evergreen, Colorado.”