Alan Ayckbourn: Artistic Director

Alan Ayckbourn was the Artistic Director of the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, between 1972 and 2009.

Alan Ayckbourn joined the Library Theatre, Scarborough, in 1957 as an acting stage manager (a stage manager with occasional acting roles), two years after the company had been formed by Stephen Joseph. Encouraged by Stephen, Alan began writing professionally for the venue in 1959 and directing in 1961. He was with the company between 1957 and 1962, when he left to help Stephen Joseph form the UK's first purpose built theatre-in-the-round venue at the Victoria Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent. As an Associate Director, he wrote, directed and acted at this venue until he left in 1965 to become a radio drama producer for the BBC, based in Leeds.

Alan kept close links with the Scarborough venue though and despite working for the BBC began writing for Scarborough again in 1965 with the play
Meet My Father - which retitled Relatively Speaking would become his first major success. Stephen Joseph died in 1967 and Alan alongside several other people was instrumental in keeping the Library Theatre operating. In the subsequent years, the venue operated only on a seasonal basis for the summer and a temporary post of Director Of Productions was appointed to oversee the theatre during each season. Alan held this post in both 1969 and 1970 with Caroline Smith taking over in 1971. In 1972, Alan was asked to take on the permanent position of Artistic Director of the venue, a position which he held until 2009 (click here for further details).

Alan's 36 year tenure as Artistic Director saw him continue Stephen Joseph's commitment to encourage new writing and playwrights. As Artistic Director, he was not only responsible for the programming and direction of the theatre, but was also the predominant director of plays at the venue between 1972 and 1999. He was also writing new plays and premiering them at the theatre (and where his plays continue to receive their world premieres today).

As Artistic Director, Alan was responsible for moving the company to two new homes. The first in 1976 was the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round based at the old boy's school beneath Valley Bridge in Scarborough; this was supposed to only be a temporary home for the company after it was asked to leave the Library after twenty years. Unfortunately, economics and politics meant plans to build a purpose built home for the company were not realised for another twenty years.

Between 1986 and 1988, Alan Ayckbourn stepped down from the day-to-day running of the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round to take a sabbatical, feeling after 14 years as Artistic Director, he needed to recharge his creative batteries. He joined the National Theatre as a company director at the invitation of Sir Peter Hall, where he received great acclaim as a director for his production of Arthur Miller's
A View From The Bridge as well as for his own play A Small Family Business. Alan remained Artistic Director of the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round throughout this period - despite inaccurate and unsubstantiated reports in the media he was to leave Scarborough - with Robin Herford sharing the title and taking over the programming, running and directing duties; Alan also continued to premiere and direct his new plays there. Alan returned to the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round in 1988 reinvigorated and soon found himself involved in his most challenging project yet, the redevelopment of the former Odeon cinema to become a purpose built venue for the company.

In 1996, after more than six years fund-raising and work, Alan and the company moved to the Stephen Joseph Theatre, a building boasting state of the art facilities and the first purpose built and permanent home for the company since it was created forty years earlier. Although he would be as active as ever in the first few years - which encompassed a major funding crisis which made national news - he announced in 1999 that he would begun to restrict his directing duties purely to his own plays.

In February 2006, Alan suffered a stroke and was away from the theatre for six months. He returned in October 2006 to direct his latest play
If I Were You, but on 23 May 2007 he announced he would be stepping down as Artistic Director in 2009. During the following 18 months, the groundwork was laid for the transition to a new Artistic Director and on 30 May 2008 it was announced Chris Monks would take over the position. Alan's final play as Artistic Director was his own musical Awaking Beauty which premiered in December 2008. The play closed on 17 January 2009 and on 1 April 2009, Alan Ayckbourn officially stepped down as Artistic Director of the Stephen Joseph Theatre, having worked with the company for 37 years and guided it through three homes. Click here for further details about Alan stepping down as Artistic Director of the Stephen Joseph Theatre.

Despite stepping down as Artistic Director, Alan has kept close ties with the Stephen Joseph Theatre and continues to premiere his new plays at the venue and is employed as a guest director to direct both these world premieres, an annual revival of one of his plays and tours of these productions.

Copyright: Simon Murgatroyd. Please do not reproduce without permission of the copyright holder.