New production to revive children’s theater in northwest Indiana after 50 years | Community


GARY — The Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church Drama Ministry and The Gate Theater of Chang Mai, Thailand, are collaborating to bring children’s theater back to northwest Indiana after it has been absent for 50 years.

The two ensemble companies plan to bring a production of “Goldilocks on Trial” to elementary school children in the area and on Chicago’s South Side during the spring semester of 2023.

“The church is celebrating 100 years in the Gary community in the coming year. We’re trying to get into the deep end and bring some things that were missing back to Gary,” said evangelist Janice Culver, director of JMBC Drama Ministry.

“We want to bring joy back to these children; they’ve been through so much.

Gary resident Culver said she and director Stephan Turner were looking for 20 adult actors from northwest Indiana to join the play. She said the set should be available to rehearse at least three days a week in early spring.

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Stephan Turner, who has lived in Thailand for nearly 18 years, is the founder and director of Gate Theater, based in Indiana but located in Chang Mai. The Gate is Northern Thailand’s premier English-language theater company.

Turner, a native of Gary, visits the United States every few years. After meeting Culver during his last visit in June, the two decided to collaborate in a joint venture to direct “Goldilocks on Trial”, as Turner had already directed it in Chang Mai.

“It is important to bring the arts back to where they are lacking. Gary misses a lot of things, including art,” Turner said. “It hurts my spirits to see how things have gone for my city, I want to help contribute in the future.”

Children’s theater was popular at Indiana University Northwest in the early 1970s under local directors such as Alger Boswell and Tom Mazur, Culver said. Turner was introduced to the technical aspects of theater at IUN in the mid-1970s when Culver was performing in the play “Aladdin’s Magic Lamp”.

“I didn’t know what I wanted to do until I met technical director Tom Mazur. He helped me realize that I could be a college student and work with the stage crew as a tech for some extra money,” Turner said. “It really got me interested. Those basic skills I learned back then got me to where I am today.

The two ensemble companies are negotiating with the Glen Theater in Gary and State Representative Vernon Smith to play the play for two weeks, with a maximum of two performances per day, in April 2023. Culver also hopes there will have matinees both Saturday and Sunday for local families to come and watch.

Latrice Williams, CEO of HOME Mentoring & Tutoring, is developing pamphlets that local elementary school principals will receive in late fall informing them of the play’s basic standards and educational benefits.

Culver said not only will this play be exciting for children, but it will provide them with comprehension, fluency, speaking and listening skills.

Culver said she was inspired by theater as a child, so she hopes “Goldilocks on Trial” can do the same for other kids. During her acting career, she appeared in the feature films “The UnMiracle” and “Three Corners of Deception”, and the short films, “Dear Mama” and “Grace on the Line”.

Anyone interested in participating in the play or being a sponsor should contact Janice Culver by email at [email protected] or by phone at 219-713-9268.

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