I’m Stephan Turner, a stage actor, director, scenic artist, lighting designer and producer. I’m the former Artistic Director of The Gary Creative Workshop Theater and Stage Actor’s Ensemble of Chicago and the founder and Artistic Director of The Performance Loft Theater in Chicago.
I recently retired as Theater Arts Teacher at one of the finest International School in Chiang Mai to concentrate on my current role as the Founder and Artistic Managing Director of The Gate Theater which is based in Northwest Indiana with a branch here in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
My father was my first reference point for acting and the theater. He was 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 but 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 left the U.S. in search of a quieter lifestyle, to get away from the cliquish rat race of the theater industry and to settle down in a more peaceful environment. After traveling to many places around the world, I found that Chiang Mai had everything I was looking for. However, after two years of living here, it became apparent to me that the only thing missing from this great old city was an outlet for English Language Theater.
I very much wanted to be part of an artistic endeavor in Chiang Mai that would allow me to use my theater background. However, there was nothing available for me to join here. There was no English language theater being performed outside of Bangkok, which is over 400 miles to the south. For that reason, I enlisted the help of three English teachers, Irene Barrientos, John Quinn, and David Arnold. Together we formed a theater group in Chiang Mai called The Gate and took up the challenge of bringing English Language Theater to a city where there was none.
In the beginning, people that I talked to about forming an English language theater group in Chiang Mai said it couldn't be done, that I was wasting my time, I’d be arrested for working illegally, that there weren't enough people who would support English Language Theater in Chiang Mai.
As it turned out, finding a suitable venue was the most difficult problem we faced and after that finding the actors. Then I met Mr. John Gunther, who was at that time, the Director of the AUA Language Center. John was very interested in the performing arts and even had experience as a theater technician. So, he was very sympathetic to our cause and agreed to let us rent the AUA auditorium for our first production, The Dodo Bird, an obscure little play that I had performed in Chicago almost ten years earlier. The show was an outstanding success and opened the door for everything that has happened since.
I will always be thankful for the people I met along the way and the hard times that didn't kill my spirit but only made me more determined to succeed in the arts. Now, The Gate Theater Group is the first US based 501 C3 nonprofit Theater organization operating in Thailand.