Vol. VII No. 21 - Tuesday
May 20 - May 26, 2008



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by Saichon Paewsoongnern


OUR COMMUNITY
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

The Director of the Gate Theater, Stephan Turner, talks about their latest production, “The Gin Game”

Chilean TerraMater label wines presented at wine tasting event

Maejo University to address rural food and energy production efficiencies

Skål Int. Chiang Mai to host dinner for members and guests

The Director of the Gate Theater, Stephan Turner, talks about their latest production, “The Gin Game”

The cast and production team of The Gin Game. Standing
are Jim Matchett, Stephan Turner and Wan Panyaporn (l/r),
 seated are Laura Godtfredsen and Joyce Matchett.

Stephan, thank you for agreeing to be interviewed by the Chiang Mai Mail about your new production ‘The Gin Game’. How long have you lived in Chiang Mai & why did you come to the city?
I have been here for 3 years now. Actually, I first started visiting Chiang Mai about six years ago while still living in Chicago. Over the course of three years and several visits, I’d built up friendships and gotten to know the city pretty well. So, when I had the opportunity to come for an extended period it was an easy choice to make.

Laura Godtfredsen and Ron Kasdanin in rehearsal as Fonsia Dorsey and Weller Martin.
Could you tell us something about your theater background? Why did you decide to make theater your career, and where did you train?
My father was my first reference point for acting and the theater. At the age of 82, he’s still a prolific playwright, producer, and performer. I grew up seeing him on television in walk-on roles on shows like The Lucy Show, The Odd Couple, Mission Impossible, and Sanford and Son. He also had roles in a few well known feature films like M.A.S.H, The Long Goodbye, Watermelon Man, and Party Animal, to name a few. Even though he never quite gained Hollywood star status, he planted a seed within me which convinced me that I could do something out of the ordinary with my life.
I studied scenic design and stage lighting at Indiana University in the mid 70s with Thomas C. Mazur who was, at that time, the head of the technical theater department. He had great influence in shaping the way I view and approach my work in the theater, especially working behind the scenes. In the late 70s, I co-founded a community theater company in Gary, Indiana with my former high school drama teacher, Al Boswell, a larger than life personality who has also had a great deal of influence on the way I deal with the subject of directing for the stage.
In 1983, I decided to follow in my father’s footsteps and auditioned for the acting program at the world famous Goodman School of Drama in Chicago. Founded in 1925, it is now known as The Theater School of DePaul University, and is ranked as one of the top theatrical training programs in the country. After earning my BFA in acting in 1987, I formed Stage Actors Ensemble of Chicago and four years later built the Performance Loft Theater on the North Side of Chicago, where I produced and directed plays of all kinds until 1991, when I decided to start traveling the world.
What would you consider to be your most notable achievement in Theater?
Firstly, I would have to say being accepted into the acting program at The Goodman and then making it through the four year program. Not only did I have to audition to get in, but I had to perform to a certain standard in order to be asked back each year. Being asked back wasn’t based specifically on grades but more so on talent and the ability to perform to the highest standard year after year. In 1983, when I was accepted to the program, one hundred sixteen students were accepted. However, only 36 graduated at the end of my four years there.
My second most notable achievement comes from the fact that after graduation, starting with practically nothing, I took my acting company on the road and was able to raise enough money to build my own theater, The Performance Loft, and successfully produce major works by some of the world’s best known writers, while winning a good deal of acclaim for my efforts. There were also the friendships made and the experiences shared, which are priceless.
The Dodo Bird, at the AUA earlier this year was an outstanding success - what were your best and worst moments on that production?
The best moments of any production for me are always the sounds and reaction from the audience when, as an actor, you know you’ve got them right where you want them. The worst moments are the final curtain call and the silence as I turn off the lights and leave the theater.
Why did you choose The Gin Game as your current production, and do you think it will interest the local Thai population?
I chose The Gin Game as our second production because it’s an excellent play. It won the Pulitzer Prize for best drama in 1978 with over 500 performances on Broadway. It’s garnered four Tony Awards and has had productions in numerous countries around the world including France, Germany, Italy, Greece, Belgium, the Netherlands, Austria, Japan, South Africa, as well as Australia, and China. This says to me that the play has mass appeal and should also be a success here in Chiang Mai.
The play is set in one location, a shabby retirement home, and there are only two characters. This eliminates a lot of logistical problems that come with trying to produce theater on a shoestring budget.
Though, I am constantly trying to think of ways to get the Thai community into the theater to take part in our productions and see our work, I don’t really expect a large Thai turnout. The numbers of English speaking Thais, who are interested in English Language Theater, and who know that we are here, is just not great enough at this time to expect support in large numbers. Our target audiences are the expat community, tourists, and Thais who are fluent enough in English to follow the story as it develops.
What is The Gin Game about - in your personal view?
The Gin Game is a two-person tragicomedy in two acts that uses a card game as a metaphor for life and speaks about the bittersweet nature of growing old. I view the play as a conflict between a man and a woman and strictly as a tragedy. The simplicity of two people and a card game has more impact because of its concentrated format. Any comedy which may work its way in must come through the wit of the characters. The script touches on loneliness, family members who never visit, the way a lifetime looks to someone approaching the end of it, and on the bitter fact that in the US, where the play takes place, old people often have to spend everything they have, even selling their houses, in order to pay for the care they need - care that’s deeply resented, even when indispensable. Watching the early scenes, the audience will be pretty sure of what’s going to happen: Weller and Fonsia would find comfort in each other’s company, and perhaps a late-in-life romance. But this play has a few surprises.
Has it been difficult to find actors, backstage crew etc, for The Gin Game?
The first play, The Dodo Bird, was extremely hard to mount. It took one year to finally bring it to the stage. There were plenty of doubts being cast our way by some in the expat community centering on the fact that as foreigners, we are not supposed to engage in any endeavor that could be mistaken for work. There were starts and stops and parts were cast and recast. At times, I thought it might not happen. However, because of the success of the The Dodo Bird, we’ve been fortunate enough to have people come up after a performance and ask if they can be part of the group or want to help out in some way. That’s the power of theater. It has the ability to bring people together around a common interest. Something that had been missing from this great old city and something we at The Gate Theater hope to continue doing for a long time to come.
Why have you chosen a different venue for this new production?
The AUA Language School auditorium is a great venue and we appreciate the support we got from John Gunther, the director, and the rest of the staff. It is unfortunate for us that AUA has a very busy schedule during just about every month of the year. So, it’s extremely difficult to schedule a five to six weekend run of a play.
I think the studio theater at Central Kad Suan Kaew shopping mall will be better suited to our needs and will allow us to increase the scope and vary our style of productions in many ways which are not possible in the auditorium at AUA.
It would be good if the studio theater could become our permanent home, as this would help us to build up a strong audience base and also encourage new members to join the company.
What other plays are you planning to stage during this year’s season?
We have plans to produce three plays per year. This year’s season will also include A View From The Bridge by Arthur Miller and Strange Snow by Stephen Metcalfe. We would also like to produce a dark comedy called The Eight Reindeer Monologues, written by Jeff Goode, if we are able to get permission to do it royalty free.
Finally, with all your varied abilities, what is truly your first love in theater?
My first love is having the ability to be someone else in a play!
Thanks so much for giving the CM Mail this interview. We wish you and The Gate Theater Company all success in the future.
The Gin Game’s opening night is on Friday June 13, followed by a performance on Saturday June 14th, with additional performances scheduled every Friday and Saturday until July 13, except the July 5th and 6th performances, which will be on Saturday and Sunday. The play is being produced by Stephan, together with his co-producer Robert Young. Ron Kasdan will play Weller Martin at all performances, and Dr Laura Godtfredsen and Joyce Matchett will alternate as Fonsia Dorsey. If any volunteers want to help in any way with this production or any future productions please contact [email protected]

 

Chilean TerraMater label wines presented at wine tasting event

Last week, Wine Connection Chiang Mai held a wine tasting event at their store in Nim City Daily, next to Rimping Supermarket. The five wines presented were all from the Chilean TerraMater range, and consisted of a Paso Del Sol Cabernet Sauvignon, a Paso Del Sol Chardonnay, the TerraMater Shiraz-Cabernet, the TerraMater Reserva Shiraz and the TerraMater Reserva Chardonnay.

Pierre, Wine Connection Chiang Mai’s branch manager, with Tam, store manager, and Oath.
Pierre de Pimodan, Wine Connection Chiang Mai’s branch manager, was on hand to give expert advice, and guests were also able to see the great deals available on other wines in stock. For one night only, the TerraMater range was also reduced in price. Nibbles were arranged by Marco from Chez Marco, and the two guitarists Piche Thunpech and Akaseth Sanitphant, who form the Acoustica Band from the Goodview restaurant, entertained the many guests.
TerraMater was the first Chilean wine producer to achieve a ‘Gold Award’ at the prestigious Brussels, Belgium wine fair for its Reserva Sangiovesa 2003. Chiang Mai Mail’s reporter asked many of the guests at the wine tasting to describe their favourite “wine of the evening”. The Paso Del Sol Chardonnay proved very popular; having been described as a “delightfully fresh, very young pale yellow coloured, well balanced dry white wine with crisp green apple, citrus and ripe melon notes.”
Afterwards, it was off to the Chedi to continue the ‘TerraMater Night’ with Eleanor Hardy, GM of the Chedi, and Jose Miguel Montes, the export manager at TerraMater, jointly hosting a dinner in the elegant old British Consul Building. Guests were treated to a four course meal from the Chedi’s new executive chef Blair, which included chargrilled kangaroo loin with soft polenta and red pepper relish, served with a TerraMater Merlot 2006 Central Valley Paso Del Sol. Guests included Wine Connection’s clients from Rachamankha, Tamarind Village and the Oriental Dhara Dhevi amongst others. The Chedi has already entered the TerraMater labels into their extensive wine list.

Guests enjoying the delights of the Chedi Hotel.


Maejo University to address rural food and energy production efficiencies

His Serene Highness Prince Bhisadej Rajanee, standing fifth from right,
was the guest of honour at the launch of a new initiative, and is seen posing
for a group photo with the organising committee.

Last week, at Maejo University’s International Knowledge and Enterprise Management Centre, HSH Prince Bhisadej Rajanee was the guest of honour at the launch of a new initiative which will help to address rural food and energy production efficiencies. It is believed that the scheme, entitled Jatken, will facilitate network linkages initially between small scale farmer cooperatives and indigenous village enterprise groups in Northern Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Burma, China and India, and assist smallholders to reap benefits from the US$1,000 billion Professional Services industry. The focus of Jatken, formed in collaboration with the Melbourne School of Knowledge Management, is its role as a smallholder bio-diesel knowledge and enterprise network based on the crop Jatropha, an inedible oil crop which can be grown on marginal land. Its aim is to enhance smallholder business performance using knowledge creation and intellectual branding techniques. The miracle crop, known as Saboodam in Thai, can assist smallholders and indigenous communities to earn extra income, achieve self-sufficiency in all their fuel needs, and reduce crop transport costs.
Wim Polman, FAO/UN regional co-operatives development advisor to IKEMC, commented that “Existing smallholder organizations such as co-operatives could receive timely support for increasing food and energy production efficiencies using IKEMC-JATKEN resources in terms of specialist training along with networking at grassroots level.” Capacity building needs amongst apex organizations to function within the Professional Services market may also be addressed. On May 15 and 16, a workshop was organised at the university to help potential growers set up a Jatropha knowledge and enterprise network which should show profits within 12 months. Researchers from the university presented their insights to potential growers, along with the benefits of and precautions for the bio-diesel enterprise. The Food and Agriculture Organisation was also represented by a specialist in technical resources.
Agricultural co-operatives are, at present, facing serious challenges in their performance levels. “IKEMC-JATKEN’s training programs are becoming more beneficial in addressing current issues at the grassroots due to dynamic enterprise systems that are more relevant in today’s knowledge economy” stated Kumaran Thangarajah, IKEMC-JATKEN’s Director. It is estimated that Thailand consumes over 16 billion litres of diesel per year valued at more than 2 billion US Dollars. The price of fuel has increased by more than 75% in recent years.
Amongst the oil crops being promoted in Thailand, the major advantages of Jatropha are that it is an inedible crop needing minimal input which can be grown on marginal land with by-products of organic manure and improved soil quality, and that it facilitates low cost carbon capture.
Assistance is requested to help realise the scheme in the form of sponsorship of the participation of smallholder farmers in multiples of 10 per locality at a total nominal investment of 14,000 baht. This relates to an investment of $490 to fund the total cost to10 smallholder farmers of attendance at future two-day workshops and includes learning materials, meals, coffee or tea and travel. Rotary International has already pledged their support, as have FAO, UNIDO and an individual philanthropist in Thailand. Other sponsors are welcome to become partners in all aspects of this undertaking.
Your sponsorship amount may be sent as per details below:
Account Name: IKEMC-JATKEN, Savings Account number: 678-002350-0 Bangkok Bank Public Company Limited, Maejo University sub-branch 678, 63 M4 T Nongharn A. Sansai Chiang Mai, Thailand 50290.
Kindly send us an email to [email protected] indicating your details and the date and amount remitted. Confirmation and a receipt will be sent within 72 hours; if not, please contact us immediately.


Skål Int. Chiang Mai to host dinner for members and guests

Skål International Chiangmai and Northern Thailand invites its members and their guests to a dinner at the Chedi hotel on May 29, starting with cocktails at 6 pm. A presentation will follow, given by Richard Colburn, a local member and senior consultant for financial advisors Montpelier, the subject of which will be the “Giving Trust” and which will include details of a community outreach scheme which allows donations at no cost. After the presentation, dinner will be served. During the evening there will be a chance to win a bottle of good wine courtesy of Rimping supermarkets.
Tickets for the event cost 600 baht for members, 800 baht for guests; please add 200 baht if wine is required. Please visit Skål’s website at www.skalchiangmai.com for further information and contact and booking details.



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