Stephen Wood & The Stephen Joseph TheatreStephen Wood stepped down as Executive Director of the Stephen Joseph Theatre in 2015 having been the company's first Chief Executive and - at the time of his departure - the third longest serving member of the company following Alan Ayckbourn and Ken Boden.
Stephen first joined the company as a press officer, aged 26, in May 1976 during the Library Theatre's final months. He had previously been a Public Relations Officer at Manchester's Library Theatre, having trained at RADA and also worked at Lincoln Theatre Royal. His appointment at the Library Theatre would begin a professional relationship with the Scarborough company and it's then Artistic Director Alan Ayckbourn which lasted four decades.
Stephen transferred with the company to its new home at the Theatre In The Round At Westwood in October 1976 (later renamed the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round in April 1978). During his tenure as Press Officer with the company, he worked on many notable world premieres including Alan Ayckbourn's plays Just Between Ourselves, Ten Times Table, Sisterly Feelings, Taking Steps, Season's Greetings as well as Stephen Mallatratt's An Englishman's Home, Brian Thompson's Patriotic Bunting and Tishoo and Peter Tinniswood's You Should See Us Now amongst many others.
In 1982, Stephen left the company to take up a position as a press officer for the National Theatre, London. He would later became Head Of Press at the venue and would find himself reunited with Alan Ayckbourn when the playwright took up a position as a Company Director at the National for two years between 1986 and 1988; Stephen also worked on a number of Alan's other productions at the National Theatre.
In April 1996, the Stephen Joseph Theatre opened in Scarborough, the first purpose-built home for the company in a £5.2m conversion of the town's former Odeon cinema. In November 1995, it was announced Stephen would be leaving the National Theatre to become General Administrator of the soon-to-be-opened Stephen Joseph Theatre; the title was altered to Executive Director in 2004.
Given the company had now more than doubled in size and its ambitions were considerably larger, it was felt the company needed both an Artistic Director and a General Administrator / Executive Director with Alan Ayckbourn guiding the artistic direction of the company and Stephen responsible for the running / administration of the building and company. Stephen's work in this role coming to the fore in the period directly after Alan Ayckbourn's stroke in February 2006. He was one of the key figures responsible for running the building during the six months Alan was away from the theatre and played an increasingly visible part in the running of the theatre from this point until Alan retired in 2009 and his successor Chris Monks began in April 2009. Between 2009 and 2015, Stephen's role was on parity with the Artistic Director and he played a crucial role in securing the theatre NPO (National Portfolio Organisation) status from the Arts Council, an essential status to ensure the venue's long-term survival.
Stephen announced his retirement to the company on 17 March 2015 tying in both with the theatre's 60th anniversary and his 65th birthday.
Alan Ayckbourn on the announcement of Stephen Wood's retirement"Stephen has long been associated with the company throughout its various incarnations ever since its Library Theatre days. Throughout his association with it, initially as Press Officer and finally as Executive Director, he has played a huge part in its growth and development. He is someone I have always considered a guardian of the company's founding principles, innovation, originality and excitement, pursued through the highest achievable artistic standards. The SJT will badly miss his passion and integrity. It is my hope that our own friendship of over forty years will continue on."
Copyright: Simon Murgatroyd. Please do not reproduce without permission of the copyright holder.