Ayckbourn Influences: Stephen Joseph

The most significant influence on Alan Ayckbourn's life is undoubtedly his mentor Stephen Joseph, who encouraged him to both write and direct. Alan first met Stephen in 1957 when he joined Studio Theatre Ltd at the Library Theatre, Scarborough. The relationship between Stephen and Alan which grew from this shaped the course of Alan's life and his contribution to British theatre.
This page offers a brief insight into Alan's own thoughts on Stephen Joseph. Further details about Stephen Joseph's life and achievements can be found in the page links in the right hand column or by visiting this website's sister site, The Stephen Joseph Website at
www.stephen-joseph.org.uk.

Perhaps the most enduring description I’ve ever given of Stephen was that he was half genius, half madman; so in commenting on him in light of being a local hero, it may seem fitting to expand on this contradiction.
Stephen would appear a shy man when you first met him, always staring at his blotter. But this didn’t stop him doing anything and everything in his power to keep a fledgling theatre company alive. He was often busy delivering coal to pay for the theatres rehearsal salaries.
Stephen was the consummate theatre creature, a pioneer who ran things wholly from within, where he knew you could work it best. At work, habitually dressed in paint-stained overalls, hammer in hand, he looked like some sort of socialist realist poster: a hero of Yorkshire theatre. Whilst on formal occasions, I can remember, in a dinner suit, he didn’t half frighten the mayor!
His professional mentoring of others was never really for self-serving purposes; he simply believed that anybody could more or less do anything in theatre if they wanted to badly enough, and he had such an ability to teach and mentor that has stood many, myself included, in such good career stead.
Stephen was quite unique in his time in that he made friends with amateurs rather than snubbing them, and involved the local dramatic societies with the professional workings of the early theatre in the round company in various ways. Indeed, he was always urging that theatre be taken into the community, and this is something the theatre named in his memory still endeavours to achieve.
His passion for theatre in the round and new writing has made Scarborough synonymous with both, and that is truly the lasting legacy of this wonderful, mad, genius of a man.
Stephen Joseph: Local Heroes article, 2005

All quotes on this page are copyright of Alan Ayckbourn. Please do not reproduce without permission.

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