An Indian, American and a Taiwanese are meeting at Bus Stop

by Ravit El-Bachar Daniel
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It could sound as a good start of a joke, but this is not a joke: Indian Prashanti, American Joe and Taiwanese Claudia will meet on stage at Bus Stop – a play by William Inge, which will be performed in September by Bangkok Community Theatre (BCT). It’s 1am; a bus got stuck during a heavy snowstorm in the heart of the American midwest. The 5 bus passengers have a weather enforced stop to spend the night hours in a diner, together with 3 locals from the diner, and romance (in all its forms) brews!

This is the set of Bus Stop, a charming romantic comedy (which had been adapted in 1956 to a movie starring Marilyn Monroe). BCT will bring this American slice-of-life to Bangkok. Jo, Claudia and Prahsanti will be playing the female roles in Bus Stop. We sat for a talk on life, acting and their expat ventures.

Cheer dance

Jo Ella Mathis, “Grace” at Bus Stop

Jo, 39, married with two boys. American born of a German/Swedish/Czech background. “My husband and I and our 2 boys came to Thailand to continue building relationships with those we come into contact with from around the world”, she says. Until her move to Thailand, she had always lived in the States, besides one summer during high school years, when she spent some time in Zimbabwe, Africa as a performer.

Where I come from

“I grew up in a small town in the US where my great grandmother, grandmother, and mother still spoke some German.”

My romance with acting started when….

“As a kid, I’ve always liked to sing and act. My mother put me in a community theatre show with her as a kid. The first show I remember watching with both my parents was the re-enactment  of a wild west show in South Dakota, USA.”

Bits from my acting career“

Northwestern College in Iowa provided me with a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre. In Nebraska I worked as an assistant booking agent at a modelling and talent agency, while also taking my own jobs acting in commercials and modelling. After work hours, I volunteered as an actor in community theatre. My last projects in the States were playing the role of Cousin Cora in Life with Father, and working on CMT TV series – NASCAR – The Rise of American Speed.

In Bangkok, my boys and I are currently appearing in ads celebrating the Good and Great Friends for the 200 years of US and Thai friendship. I just completed working on a Platform Theatre performance during The Fringe Festival with BCT. I enjoyed the outcome of our team effort to create our own script in a process, we stayed in close proximity to one another throughout, had no makeup, props, or scenery pieces, and we all wore black, each brought our own style. A beautiful combination of individuals becoming one movement.”

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Jo and Prashanti photos by Daniel Nuss

“I enjoyed the outcome of our team effort to create our own script in a process, we had no makeup, props, or scenery pieces, and we all wore black, each brought our own style. A beautiful combination of individuals becoming one movement.”

My Bus Stop character – Grace

Who is she? In what way we relate?“

Grace is the owner of the diner, and is the mother hen watching over all the business to be tended to. She is a divorcee who has got used to being on her own. She’s friendly, but has attachment issues and does not easily trust people. In my childhood town, we as well had a small cafe like the one Grace runs, where everybody knew everyone, and when it snowed, the roads shut down until cleared.

I think I’m similar to Grace in some ways; I pray to God just as she says, enjoy having my own space that I manage, tend to end up mentoring younger women, and I don’t usually keep cheese in my fridge (however, in my case – the reason is because excluding myself – my family is lactose intolerant).

But there are some differences between Grace and I: I have never worked in any type of food service position, and I don’t think I’d enjoy staying in the same place with little diversity, running a small business by myself for any amount of time.”

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When I’m not on stage…“

I take piano lessons and learn Thai.”

My top tip to inspire other expats women in a foreign city

“Go visit those in prison when you feel like you’re stuck. Learn to make your own yoghurt and peanut butter.”

Hsuan Liu (Claudia), “Elma” at Bus Stop

Claudia, 38, single, moved to Bangkok from Taiwan 15 years ago with her family after they came to Thailand for a short vocation and found Thailand very hospitable. She’s a JSD Candidate (working on her Doctor of Laws degree) and working as a law lecturer at Thammasat University.

“As a child I thought I’d grow up to be a martial artist, senator, lawyer or an activist”, she says, “I was quite an independent child, who liked to make everything fun”.

My romance with acting

“I have enjoyed talking on stage since seven. My first acting experience was in high school, in which I was appointed as the assistant director and acted in two plays. Since then, I’ve often involved in role plays and I particularly love that method of teaching.

Last year, I played a few characters in The Vagina Monologues: ‘the Crooked Braid’, ‘Angry Vagina’ and ‘Happy Vagina’. Recently I played a supporting role of a concubine in a promotional movie trailer Siam (film in development), directed by Tom Waller from De Warrenne Pictures.”

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My Bus Stop character – Elma. Who is she? In what way we relate?

“Elma is a high school girl and works at the diner alongside Grace. She’s intelligent, curious and excited about life and she embraces humanities. I believe that this is why she somehow enjoys conversing with Professor Lyman, who is a very educated person. I think we are similar in part because I am an academic, I also enjoy reading and yes, super stupor excited about life! We both love generating ideas to make life unconventional.

In one scene, there is a part when Elma comes up with the idea of stage show and pulls people into this impromptu stage performance, I think I would do absolutely the same in real life. However, I think Elma is a more calm than me, I’m quite hyper and less serious.”

When I’m not on stage…

“Besides pursuing my academic work in Law, I’m also a cartoonist and I’m in the process of branding my cartoon character, a pig, called Pigigi; I’m also serving as the President of the Capitol Toastmaster Club in Bangkok, which grants me the opportunity to speak on stage every week and it is a club which helps you to become a better speaker and enhance leadership.”

acting couple

My top tip to inspire other expats women in a foreign city

“chill!”

Prashanti Subramaniam, “Cherie” at Bus Stop

Prashanti is celebrating her 4th year in Thailand. An opportunity to work with the UN brought her to the city of angels, from London where she was studying at the time. Her homeland is India, but she has lived in a few countries in the past, including Singapore and Oman. If you had watched her in one of the many recent theatre shows she played in Bangkok over the past few years, you would think she has over 10 years of theatre experience; You would never guess however she started her acting career only 3 years ago…

As I child I was…

“I’m told I was a very talkative and imaginative child growing up. I distinctly remember getting into trouble with my teachers for distracting other students by telling them random stories. I have to admit I was also quite nerdy and a little bit of a know-it-all. All very Hermione Granger-like. Speaking of, I’m sure I wanted to grow up to be a witch at some point. But I always wanted to be a bunch of different things at once – I wanted to be an astronaut, a singer, a writer/magazine editor, a traveller of some sort.”

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“It can be daunting to be in a foreign city, but find an activity that you loved doing or you want to try a hand at and take a giant step outside your comfort zone. That’s where all the magic happens!”

How did I start my acting career in Bangkok?

“Over the summer of 2016, I happened to see an audition call for a sweet romantic-comedy called ‘Almost, Maine’ by Bangkok Community Theatre. I had been part of choirs and debates in high school but had found theatre and acting to be way out of my comfort zone. While I was never into “theatre”, I loved literature and reading plays (Shakespeare!). So in 2016, I took a chance on ‘Almost, Maine’ and I had some wonderful folks in the Bangkok  theatre scene who took a chance on me.

Since then, I’ve acted in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2017), As You Like It (2018) and the Fringe Festival shows (2017, 2018). I’ve also had the chance to work with Culture Collective Studio in Miss Julie (2017) and The Vagina Monologues (2016).”

My Bus Stop character – Cherie – who is she?

“The character I play, Cherie, a small time nightclub singer, has come from very humble means. Though young, she has locked away a part of her heart and isn’t quite sure what she wants. When the play begins, we find her running away, leaving behind Bo, the young passionate cowboy who is head over heels in love with her. There is a part of Cherie that is very down-to-earth and practical, even about matters of the heart and we find out that being respected in a relationship really matters to her.”

When I’m not on stage….

“…(Or anywhere near it!), you’ll find me working with folks about climate change, environmental sustainability and human rights. There’s also a good chance that you’d run into me at a karaoke bar!”

My top tip to inspire other expats women in a foreign city

“It can be daunting to be in a foreign city, but find an activity that you loved doing or you want to try a hand at and take a giant step outside your comfort zone. That’s where all the magic happens!”

Bus Stop

Written by William Inge;
Directed by: Michael Allman;
Produced by: Charles Chester and Don Harrelson
Conference room, BNH Hospital 3rd floor 7:30pm, September 20, 21, 22, 27, 28 and 29
Tickets: 500B at www.bangkokcommunitytheatre.com info@bangkokcommunitytheatre.com Recommended for audiences aged 12+

Want to be on stage as well?

Then do not miss the auditions to BCT’s show Snow White!
Auditions are open for English-speaking adults aged 16+ (of any nationality), who can sing, dance or act.
Show is planned for late November/early December.
Auditions will be held on Saturday, August 25th and Monday August 27th, 2018 at Bistro 33 on Sukhumvit Soi 33.
For more info please email: info@bangkokcommunitytheatre.com or visit: www.bangkokcommunitytheatre.com

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