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.
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.
Godtfredsen and Ron Kasdanin in rehearsal as Fonsia Dorsey and Weller
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
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
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
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.
Wine Connection Chiang Mai’s branch manager, with Tam, store manager,
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
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
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
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
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