Frequently Asked Questions: The Stephen Joseph Theatre

This page contains FAQs concerning Alan Ayckbourn and his association with the Stephen Joseph Theatre. If there is a question not listed here which you feel should be listed, please contact the website via the Contact Us page.
1) When did Alan Ayckbourn become the Artistic Director of the Stephen Joseph Theatre?
2) Who was Stephen Joseph?
3) What have been Alan Ayckbourn’s roles at the Stephen Joseph Theatre?
4) When did Alan Ayckbourn leave the Library Theatre?
5) What was Alan Ayckbourn's position at the Victoria Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent?
6) How long did Alan Ayckbourn work at the BBC?
7) When did Alan Ayckbourn step down as the Artistic Director of the Stephen Joseph Theatre?
8) What is a Director Emeritus?
9) How many of Alan Ayckbourn's full length plays have premiered in Scarborough?
10) Of the plays premiered in Scarborough, which were not premiered in the round?
11) Is Scarborough considered the try-out for Alan Ayckbourn's plays before they are refined elsewhere?
12) Where can I learn more about the Stephen Joseph Theatre?

1) When did Alan Ayckbourn become the Artistic Director of the Stephen Joseph Theatre?
1972. This has often been misquoted as 1970 (or even 1969 or 1971) but the minutes of Scarborough Theatre Trust are quite clear he was asked to become the Director Of Productions for the Library Theatre in 1972 and later that year was offered the permanent position of Artistic Director of the theatre. The confusion possibly arises as he held the annually appointed seasonal position of Director Of Productions in both 1969 and 1970. For a full discussion of this subject, click here.

2) Who was Stephen Joseph?
Stephen Joseph was a British theatre pioneer (1921 - 1967) who is the single most influential person in Alan Ayckbourn's life and who encouraged (and commissioned) Alan to both write and direct. He founded both the UK's first professional theatre-in-the-round company at the Library Theatre, Scarborough, in 1955 (of which Alan Ayckbourn became the Artistic Director in 1972) and also the UK's first permanent theatre-in-the-round venue at the Victoria Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent, in 1962. Further details about Stephen Joseph's life and achievements can be found here.

3) What have been Alan Ayckbourn’s roles at the Stephen Joseph Theatre?
Alan has held a number of roles at the Stephen Joseph Theatre. Further details can be found in the Careers section of the website:
1957 - 1958: Acting Stage Manager (stage manager / actor)
1958 - 1962:
Actor
1959 - 1962:
Writer in residence (alongside David Campton)
1961 - 2008:
Director
1969 - 1970: Director of Productions (voted by Scarborough Theatre Trust each year)
1972 - 2009: Artistic Director
2009 - 2017: Guest director
2018 - present:
Director Emeritus

4) When did Alan Ayckbourn leave the Library Theatre?
Alan left the Library Theatre, Scarborough, in 1962 to join the Victoria Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent, for its inaugural season. The venue was created by Stephen Joseph, who due to other commitments appointed Peter Cheeseman as Artistic Director. Alan would work closely with Peter and the first year's directing duties were split between the two men. As well as directing, Alan also acted at the venue as well as premiering two of his own plays. In 1964, he left the Victoria Theatre and later joined the BBC as a radio drama producer. He returned to the Library Theatre as Director of Productions for two seasons in 1969 and 1970 (continuing to work at the BBC) before returning permanently to Scarborough in 1972 when he accepted the role of Artistic Director.

5) What was Alan Ayckbourn's position at the Victoria Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent?
Alan Ayckbourn joined the Victoria Theatre for its inaugural season in 1962. Studio Theatre Ltd, previously based in Scarborough, was moved to the new venue and most of the company moved to its new permanent home (the Victoria is regarded as the UK's first professional in-the-round venue with Scarborough having created the first professional in-the-round company as it did not have a specific or permanent base when founded). Peter Cheeseman was appointed Theatre Manager and was responsible for running the building. Alan collaborated closely with Peter and directing duties were split between the two men with Alan also writing and acting at the venue. Although Alan made a significant contribution, there is no evidence to support he had a titled position (other than writer, director or actor). In Alan's biography Grinning At The Edge, the author Paul Allen says Alan was the Associate Director, but this title is not mentioned in programmes or press cuttings from the period and, as Alan notes, he does not recall ever being given that title nor remunerated for such a position! In all likelihood, this was probably how Peter Cheeseman considered Alan's position despite it not being official (alternatively the reference in Grinning At The Edge may have come from Dominic Shellard's book British Theatre Since The War, which also mentions Alan was Associate Director, but without substantiating the statement).

6) How long did Alan Ayckbourn work at the BBC?
Alan joined the BBC in 1965 as a radio drama producer, based in Leeds. He stayed in the job until June 1970. For further details on his career at the BBC, click here.

7) When did Alan Ayckbourn step down as Artistic Director of the Stephen Joseph Theatre?
Alan Ayckbourn stepped down as Artistic Director of the Stephen Joseph Theatre on 31 March 2009 - although to all intents and purposes, he left the position on 17 January 2009 when the 2008/9 winter season ended.

8) What is a Director Emeritus?
On 20 April 2018, Alan Ayckbourn was appointed Director Emeritus of the Stephen Joseph Theatre. Director Emeritus is an honorary accolade which denotes the perpetual status of an individual who has moved an organisation to new heights. The appointment recognised more than six decades work with the company and Alan's many contributions and achievements.

9) How many of Alan Ayckbourn's full length plays have premiered in Scarborough?
As of summer 2020, 79 of Alan Ayckbourn's 83 plays have premiered in Scarborough at either the Library Theatre, the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round or the Stephen Joseph Theatre. The plays which did not receive their premieres in Scarborough are: Christmas V Mastermind (1962) and Mr Whatnot (1963), which premiered at the Victoria Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent; Jeeves (1975), which premiered at Her Majesty's Theatre, London; A Small Family Business, which premiered at the National Theatre, London.

10) Which Ayckbourn plays were not originally produced in-the-round in Scarborough?
Of the plays which have premiered in Scarborough, the following were not originally performed in the round: Confusions (three-sided), Just Between Ourselves (three-sided), Bedroom Farce (three-sided), Things We Do For Love (end-stage), Garden (end-stage) and Virtual Reality (end-stage). Of these only Bedroom Farce, Things We For Love and Virtual Reality are specifically intended for end-stage performance and the rest can - and have been - performed in-the-round or other staging configurations.

11) Is Scarborough considered the try-out for Alan Ayckbourn's plays before they are refined elsewhere?
No. The playwright considers that the Scarborough productions are' the' productions and frequently the defintive productions. He rarely alters the plays after their premiere in Scarborough and frequently cites them as his most memorable productions - produced in-the-round as intended with the ensemble company of his choice. As he wrote in 1991, "I never regard the Scarborough production as a trial run. To my mind, it is the production and, looking back, in some instances, they have been the definitive productions."

12) Where can I learn more about the Stephen Joseph Theatre and its history?
Details about Alan Ayckbourn's relationship with the Stephen Joseph Theatre can be found in the Ayckbourn & The SJT here within the Careers section of the website. exploring the history of the Stephen Joseph Theatre and Alan Ayckbourn's Association with it. The theatre also has its own website at www.sjt.uk.com.

All research by Simon Murgatroyd. Copyright of Haydonning Ltd.