Dawson, Peter Dawson, Celeste Tolibas-Holland, Mike & Rose Dean,
Carol Beauclerk, Carol & Bob Stratton, Barbara Tyrell, Dianne &
Mark Barber-Riley, June Hulley, Ralph Kramer, David James and Thai
friend, Thomas Ohlson, Alain Mounier, Jintana Mounier,
John Davies. An audience of 19.
Stephan's summary of
writes: Without any preamble or introduction, Stephan placed a table in
front of the audience, sat on it, took a few moments to get into
character and then launched into this monologue. You had to be there to
fully appreciate the effect of his performance.)
"I told you!................. A man lives alone in a room by
himself he gets sick in the head……I promised my daughter,
my Marie. I promised her. She put her head on my shoulder…Papa,
I love you but I'm not going to let you hurt me like you did to mama.
Madelyn, my wife…. So beautiful, so happy when we got
married…she cried. And I cried….She fixed the rooms do
beautiful….Paint, paper, curtains on every window, covers on the
bed, beautiful embroidery….Everything herself! She makes her own
clothes…dishware dowry, beautiful, fancy with flowers. She paid
every week, and every morning, she'd give me breakfast on the fancy
dishes and kiss me good by….I'd go to my machine…I don't
walk, I fly! But she warns me….You, don't you drink. You know
how it is with you! One is two, two is three, three is four, and four
is drunk…. She's right… She's right…..I come
straight home from work. I don't even stop to cash my check, 'cause I
know how it is with me.
"Then come lay-offs at the foundry. No work scares
her…I should stay home…Be nice. But when I get up in the
morning and I don't go to my machine the whole day is not right. I'm
like a tub in the middle of the ocean with no rudder…I'm the
only man in that whole foundry who knows that machine….I can cut
to within two thousandth of an inch. The foreman says he don't know how
I do it….Without my machine I'm nobody….So I go to the
tavern….One is two, two is three…three is four…and
four is drunk.
"I crawl back to the
house like an animal… I look up. On my windows…there are
no curtains. She tore 'em up!....Then the
foundry goes on strike….Madelyn don't know about
strikes….Company sends letters, foreman calls on the
telephone….news papers raise hell…She was
scared…."You lose your job, no money, how we going to
live?"…. I should stay home, talk with her, be nice….But
I'm on the picket line,…I got a thermos bottle in my
pocket….only…it ain't coffee…. The fellas carry me
back to the tavern to sleep it off…..I promise, on the wagon.
Cross my heart! I promise Madelyn, I promise the priest….I
promise the doctor… Watch out he tells me. You got a nervous
woman there! You're gonna have serious trouble!..…I
promise him! I promise everybody….And I know she needs me at
home……but…I can't talk to her….I got to
talk to somebody!...I don't have the machine,….I don't have the
vibration…. My hands need to feel the vibration and then I'm
alright….I know what I am!.......Sooo, one is two, two is three, three is four,
and four is drunk!
"Then they shut the
foundry down for good. No more machine for me! ….Not
today…or tomorrow….or tomorrow! Never!......
Never again….finished….Nice tables and chairs
repossessed. Bills, credit company, court, welfare….And I see
she's getting very sick. Crying all the
time…..crying! Now, I got a sick woman on my
hands,…crying all the time!......First, I'm a janitor
temporary…..Then I drive a truck nights, Saturday, Sunday,
eighty, ninety hours a week…..Scrape boats in dry dock down by
the river, lay cement….wash cars….tell everybody,
hey….you got a machine job for me?.....Not today, not
tomorrow….never,….never again….Give up back to the
tavern….Every day drunk!
I go home, and
Madelyn is standing by the door….She's got a bread knife in her
hand…She says she's the Virgin Mary….Never let me touch
her. Police come and take her to the loony house. They come
for Marie in a taxi A.S.P.C. Foster home…….
All alone...I know
it's my fault…my fault. I didn't keep my promise so the hell
with it!....Work long hours no union, small
pay….every night in tavern…drunk.
foreman got me a job in the foundry across the street...only I got to
climb up high….and I'm all shaky inside. I put my thermos bottle
in my coveralls and I'm okay….I am with machines again,
"But in the empty
rooms I'm lonesome….I try to see
Madelyn over to the loony house… "Go home get out!
She don't want to see you." …..She
gets violent. ….I try to see Marie over at the foster home "Get
out, she don't want to see you! I'll take you before the judge!" All
alone….Four wall…empty rooms…..ALL ALONE!...... I've got to have
somebody…Somebody to talk to. …to come home
to….somebody to give me back my self respect…..
"Then the sun
shines…..Marie, my baby is seventeen years old.
……I send her a nice birthday
me…….on the telephone……….She says
she's so happy to hear from me….made me cry….. She says
she's driving in every week to see her mama……..I told her
"You come to see your mama…you come to see me too.
Okay?"....."Okay papa. But remember, I love you but I'm not going to
let you hurt me the way you did momma." I won't, I
promise…..I promise!.... I sinned
against Madelyn….I put her in the state loony house….My
own fault! I promise….as god is my judge! Not one drink when she
comes to see me……..or she never comes
I want to see
her….I've got to see her……. Got to have
somebody…..or…. what's….. the
use?....Or what? ………Or what?.........Or
My name is Stephan
Turner. I'm a stage actor, director, scenic artist, lighting designer,
and producer. I was born in Gary Indiana in May of 1956, and like my
father before me, I've been working in the theater for many years. I'm
the former Artistic Director of Stage Actor's Ensemble of Chicago and
Founder of The Performance Loft Theater, also in Chicago and now, the Artistic
Director of The Gate Theater here in Chiang Mai. I'm also an
English teacher at a well known academy here in Chiang Mai.
I left the U.S. in search of a quieter lifestyle,
to get away from the cliquish rat race of the theater industry in New York and Chicago and to settle down in a more
peaceful environment. Chiang Mai had everything I was looking for.
However, after two years of living in Chiang Mai it became apparent to
me that the only thing missing from this great old city was an outlet
for live stage drama. I very much wanted to be part of an artistic
endeavor that would allow me to use my theater background. But there
was nothing available for me to join. For that reason I enlisted the
help of four other English teachers, and started a theater group in
Chiang Mai called The Gate. We've taken up the challenge of bringing
English Language Theater to a city where there was none.
In the beginning
people 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
starting out and after that finding the actors. But when I got the
opportunity to meet Mr. John Gunther,
Director of the AUA
Language Center, things started to fall
into place. John is very interested in the arts and even has 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, which was an
I've sort of gotten
into talking about more recent activities so let me backup a bit and
talk about my father who is most responsible for me standing before
here this evening.
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 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.
After spending a few
years as a laborer, a mason's helper and a crane operator in one of the
biggest steel mills in the country I decided that I needed to improve
my station in life so I went back to school. Not really knowing what I
wanted to study, I went to the local extension of Indiana University.
This was the mid 70s and one of the first people I met there was Thomas
C. Mazur who was, at that time, the head of the technical theater
department. After talking with him and taking part in a scene painting
project back stage, I knew that I'd found something that I could do. I
remained at I.U. for three years before dropping out and heading back
to the steel mills for lack of money. But Tom Mazur 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,
while working the swing shift at Inland Steel Co. 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, still not satisfied with what I'd been able to accomplish
without a degree, 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. Being accepted into the acting
program at The Goodman and then making it through the four year program
was quite a challenge for me. 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.
my BFA in acting in 1987, I formed Stage Actors Ensemble of Chicago.
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. Four years later we 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.
So, I'm a bit out of
things to say at this point. I guess I should have stuck to the outline
that Brian published.
I can take a few
lessons did you learn from your theater education?
Well some of the
lessons that come to mind are…Discipline. I learned a way of
working. A process which helps me find within myself that which
connects me to my work…. And that acting is a taking off
process, not a process of putting on. ….I learned the
importance of commitment to the words I speak and the actions I'm a
part of on stage….And I learned how important it is to be on
time. I learned an appreciation for Shakespeare and understood the
importance of his work to the contemporary theater and television of
Why did you choose
the plays that you've staged so far, and do you think they interest the
local Thai population?
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 never
expected 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
I've tried to choose
plays with small casts and uncomplicated sets. The Dodo Bird was such
a play. However, being our first production, it 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
It's set in a bar,
there are four characters. The only props are the bar, bottles, tables
and chairs. It's an intense one act drama which explores what it means
to live on the fringe of society, to be a man who failed to achieve the
universal dream of being able to sustain himself and his family and
ceased to live by the culture's standards. The Dodo Bird represents
those we often choose not to see: the guy with glazed eyes walking down
the street talking to himself, carrying a
bottle in a brown paper bag, maybe asking for change. All these Dodo
Birds came from someplace, had parents once, maybe their own family,
maybe a job. The story of how this particular human being reached this
point of desperation is the essence of human drama and interests me a
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.
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 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. Again, it's human
drama which moves me. It's very interesting to act and to watch stories
that are so closely connected to real life situations. I can see
something of myself in every character I ever portrayed or directed on
stage and that is what makes the work personal for me.
I chose Strange Snow and The Eight Reindeer Monologues for
basically the same reasons. They are relatively easy to produce, have
small casts, little or no scenery and in my opinion, have something
important to say about the human condition, which in itself, is
Why have you chosen a
different venue for your production?
The AUA Language School
auditorium is a great venue and we appreciate the support we got from
John Gunther, 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.
We've sort of set up
home at the Kad Studio. The set from Strange Snow is still
standing and we closed over a month ago. That would not have been
possible at AUA or any other venue that I'm aware of in this city. This
makes it possible for us to walk back into the theater and pick up
where we left off. That is a wonderful situation to be in.
What other plays are
you planning to stage this year's season?
We will start with a re-staging of Strange Snow by Stephen
Metcalfe the first week in April. It was such a wonderful show and many
people who missed it are asking for the opportunity to see it. In
addition, we have plans to produce three new plays per year. I'm still
in the process of planning the season, but on my desk at
home are A View From The
Bridge by Arthur Miller, The Odd Couple by Neal
Simon, The Homecoming by
Harold Pinter, Under Milk
Wood by Dylan Thomas, Ladies in Waiting, Peter DeAnda and The Amen Corner by
James Baldwin.. The Eight
Reindeer Monologues, by Jeff Goode will probably be back
Have you had trouble
finding actors for your productions?
Since the success of The Dodo Bird, we've
been fortunate enough to have people email us or come up after a
performance and ask if they can be part of the group or want to help
out in some way. I knew this would be the case because that's the power
of theater. It has the ability to bring people together around a common
What do you think
makes a good or great actor? Can a person be trained to be a great
Great acting is
difficult to define but when you see it you know it immediately. Yes. I
think certain people can be trained to be great actors, but not just
anyone. Some people have greater access to their feelings than others
and are more courageous in that they are not afraid to access those
feeling in front of a room full of people. As a good friend once told
me, "Bearing your soul to people is not an easy thing to do, especially
in front of strangers."
What do you think
makes an actor great?
In my opinion it is
empathy and discipline that makes a great actor great. The ability to
put one's self in another person's place in time. To be able to
honestly interpret life in that moment, in all of its humor or pain or
anything in between, without loosing self control. It is also life
experience. If you have not lived for a certain amount of years there's
not much honesty to draw characters from. In this case actors need to
rely on research, personal attention from the director, and a good
amount of sense memory. The monologue I began this evening with is a
slice of life experience from a play called "The Dodo Bird" by Emanuel
Fried. Having worked in the steel mills of Northwest
Indiana for a number of years, I have seen first hand the
effect heavy labor, hazardous working conditions, and mechanization can
have on an individual's health and spirit.
How does a great
actor become a star?
All other things
being equal, the two key factors that make the difference between a
great actor and a Broadway/Hollywood star are luck and charisma.
Is there a role that
you haven't yet played that would be the ultimate one in your career?
At the end of an
informative and entertaining evening that had included moments of
pathos, humour, and much in between, the meeting adjourned to the
Alliance Cafeteria where members of the audience engaged Stephan in
even more informal conversation over drinks and snacks.
to Meeting Diary