Advocates: Michael Weller

During the early 1960’s, Michael Weller was a student on Stephen Joseph’s Diploma course at the University of Manchester. Weller is now an acclaimed playwright and screenwriter, with work including the 1982 film adaptation Ragtime and the 2002 play What The Night Is For, staged in the USA and in London’s West End. A faculty member at New York’s The New School, he is co-founder of the influential Mentor Project for playwrights at New York’s off-Broadway Cherry Lane Theatre; in 2005 the Broken Watch Theatre Company named its performance space the Michael Weller Theatre in honour of his work. In 2009, I corresponded with Weller by email, asking him for memories of working with Stephen Joseph.

Weller recalls an incident as a student that was "quintessential Stephen". He had written a play,
How HoHo Rose and Fell in Seven Short Scenes, which was staged at the University’s Joseph-designed black box theatre. He recalls feeling "devastated" at Joseph’s reaction afterwards: "He asked me if I had any questions. I told him no. Then he said, 'In that case, carry on.' And that was it." Fellow student (and later also successful writer) Mike Stott laughingly told him that "I had made history. For Stephen to say literally nothing was the highest accolade possible." Stott explained to Weller that Joseph’s educational philosophy was that "the better a student, the more a teacher should step aside and leave well enough alone, as such people will always find their way." Weller adds: "from the very little that Stephen said to me about my work throughout the year, I pray he was right!"

Copyright: Dr Paul Elsam.