Meet STEPHAN TURNER:
Founder & Artistic director of The Gate
I'm Stephan Turner: stage actor, director, scenic artist, lighting designer and producer. I’m the former Artistic Director of The Gary Creative Workshop Theater and Stage Actors Ensemble of Chicago and the founder and Artistic Director of The Performance Loft Theater in Chicago.
Recently, I've retired as Theater Arts Department Head and Drama Teacher at Chiang Mai International School in order to concentrate on my current role as Managing Artistic Director of The Gate Theater, which in 2021-22, starts its 15th season.
My father was my first reference point for acting and the theatre. 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 wrote the original screenplays for the fictional and now famous character Dolemite, recently made into a Netflix Film, he never quite gained Hollywood star status. He did plant a seed within my mind which convinced me that I could do something out of the ordinary with my life.
In 2007 I left the U.S. in search of a quieter lifestyle, to get away from the cliquish rat race of the mainstream theater industry and to settle down in a more peaceful environment. My travels have taken me to places like Panama, Mexico, Brazil, Amsterdam Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand to name a few. After visiting many places in and around Thailand, I found that Chiang Mai had everything I was looking for; a small town feel, an arts scene in its infancy, in regards to foreign participation, and most importantly an opportunity do something which, at that point in time, had never been done before, create an outlet for English Language Theater.
At the time There was no English language theater being performed outside of thevery slim pickings in 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.
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.
In keeping with our mission statement, "To develop and draw from local talent to the maximum extent possible, To enhance development of youth in the theater arts through cooperative ventures with local schools via workshops."
In 2018 Chiang Mai Theatrics (CMT) was founded by myself and a handful of visionary artists who saw a need for more English language arts and entertainment programming in the Chiang Mai area. We are now able to fulfill our technical needs and at the same time present theatre workshops for young people and adults which are geared towards developing imagination, concentration, working with others, exploration of character, and the development of technique in acting.
CMT along with TGT are continuing to expand to meet the needs of the community. The companies are now offering theatre arts in area schools and afterschool programs. The quality of our work has been recognized in numerous publications and is quickly becoming one of Chiang Mai’s most respected and beloved arts organizations for all ages.
The underlying message of respect to people and the creative process is essential in this partnership. The training opportunities being offered place newly experienced actors in a position to be cast in productions staged by The Gate Theater Group, Chiang Mai Theatrics and other emerging amateure and professional theater groups. Chiang Mai Theatrics and The Gate are the first organizations of its kind in Thailand; offering technical theatre assistance and performance-based theatre workshops in English.
I will always be thankful for the people I've met here in who have helped me a great deal and also for the folks I've met along my journey who have seen me through some very, very difficult times, though not so much as to kill my spirit, but only to make me more determined to succeed in this place so far away from my homeland.
Gate Theater Group is the first US-based 501 C3 nonprofit theater organization operating in Thailand.
For more about Stephan Turner and Chiang Mai theatrics please visit Stephan's personal website and Chiang Mai Theatrics.