Ayckbourn Influences: Stephen Joseph

This page contains a brief biography of Alan Ayckbourn's most significant influence and mentor, Stephen Joseph. Further details about Stephen Joseph's life and achievements can be found via the links in the right hand column.

Stephen Joseph: A Chronology

  • 1921: Born on 13 June to actress Hermione Gingold and publisher Michael Joseph in London
  • 1926: Hermione Gingold divorced Michael Joseph; Michael remarried to Edna Frost; attended preparatory school at Burstow, Surrey
  • 1932 (approx): Attended Clayesmore Public School, Dorset
  • 1937: Left Sixth Form after two months to join the Central School Of Speech And Drama
  • 1939: Graduated from Central School with a First Class certificate
  • 1941: Volunteered for service in the Royal Navy
  • 1942: Commissioned into the RNVR
  • 1944: On the HMS Newport, Stephen dived overboard to save the ship mascot, Tish the dog – the RSPCA awarded him their Silver Medal; aboard the HMS Avonvale in the Adriatic, Stephen’s prompt actions as a Gunnery Officer earned him the Distinguished Service Cross
  • 1946: Secured early release from the Royal Navy; taught at Heatherdown Preparatory School
  • 1947: Began studies for an MA in English Literature at Jesus College, Cambridge; joined the Footlights Society
  • 1948: Graduated from Cambridge with a 2.2 degree; first professional job as a producer at Lowestoft Repertory Theatre
  • 1949: Director, Designer and Business Manager at Frinton Summer Theatre; saw theatre-in-the-round for the first time with an amateur production directed by Jack Mitcheley; accepted a teaching post at Central School Of Speech And Drama
  • 1951: Took a year’s unpaid study leave to study for a degree in drama, majoring in playwriting, at the University Of Iowa; recorded new theatre forms in the USA with a grant from the Elmgrant Trust
  • 1952: Returned from America to resume teaching at Central School
  • 1953: Set up an evening lecture-series “The Art Of The Playwright” at Central School; began search for a space to form an in-the-round company
  • 1954: John Woods suggested the Public Library, Scarborough, as being a suitable venue for theatre-in-the-round
  • 1955: Formed the Studio Theatre Ltd company and began summer performances at the Library Theatre, Scarborough (14 July); formed the Studio Theatre Club for weekly winter performances in London (11 September)
  • 1956: Worked part-time at ITV
  • 1957: Studio Theatre Club closed having been deemed a failure in its aims; Alan Ayckbourn joined the Studio Theatre company as ASM and actor
  • 1958: Stephen encouraged Alan Ayckbourn to write his first play, The Square Cat, which opened in 1959 in Scarborough; established a winter touring programme with the Studio Theatre Company, predominantly to towns lacking a theatre
  • 1961: Assisted the formation of the Association of British Theatre Technicians (ABTT); final year of touring for the Studio Theatre Company
  • 1962: Plans to build a new theatre at the Potteries, Stoke-on-Trent, collapse, but the town’s Victoria Cinema is converted into the Victoria Theatre - the first permanent in-the-round in the UK (9 October); Studio Theatre Company transferred to Stoke-on-Trent; formed Theatre in the Round Ltd to continue plays in Scarborough (late '62 / early '63); became the first fellow of the drama department of the University of Manchester
  • 1963: Created and ran the postgraduate degree in drama at the University Of Manchester; published The Story Of The Playhouse in England
  • 1964: Helped found the Society Of Theatre Consultants; published Scene Painting And Design; founded Scarborough Theatre Trust to run the Library Theatre, Scarborough.
  • 1965: Announced the Library Theatre, Scarborough, was to close
  • 1966: The quarrel over the direction of the Victoria Theatre started, eventually leading to the end of Studio Theatre Ltd and the theatre passing into the hands of a local trust; diagnosed with terminal cancer
  • 1967: Published Theatre In The Round; died on Thursday 5 October at Longwestgate, Scarborough, aged 46
  • 1968: New Theatre Forms published
  • 1978: Theatre In The Round at Westwood - the second home of the company he founded in Scarborough in 1955 - is renamed the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round (1 April).
  • 1996: The Stephen Joseph Theatre opens in Scarborough.

Article by Simon Murgatroyd and copyright of Haydonning Ltd. Image of Stephen Joseph copyright of Scarborough Theatre Trust. Please do not reproduce without permission of the copyright holder.