Theatre in the Round at the Library Theatre: Timeline (1955 - 1976)

The timeline offers an at-a-glance guide to significant events Theatre in the Round at the Library Theatre, Scarborough, from its opening in 1955 to the company's move to its second home, the Theatre In The Round at Westwood in 1976.

Click on a highlighted year below or button to the right to read more in-depth details about the year's events.
1954 (Note: The precise dates of these events are disputed and may have taken place in 1955)
Stephen Joseph, looking for a suitable venue for theatre-in-the-round, visits Scarborough for the first time. He meets the Chief Librarian William Smettem and also meets Ken Boden, who will play a pivotal role in the theatre during the next 30 years.

Stephen Joseph forms the
Studio Theatre Ltd company; Studio Theatre Ltd begins performances in the Concert Room at Scarborough Library (advertised as Theatre in the Round at the Library Theatre usually abbreviated to or inaccurately referred to as the Library Theatre) on 14 July with the world premiere of Eleanor D Glaser's Circle Of Love; a prompt is used initially during performances but quickly removed and never restored; the Library Theatre's first season loses approximately £500 but a second season is confirmed; the Studio Theatre Club is formed, showcasing theatre-in-the-round in London.
Notable world premieres: Dragons Are Dangerous (David Campton)

With financial backing from Scarborough Corporation, the Libraries Committee and the Arts Council of Great Britain, Theatre in the Round at the Library Theatre benefits from better seating, lighting and advertising.

Alan Ayckbourn joins Studio Theatre Ltd as an assistant stage manager and actor; the first winter season at Theatre in the Round at the
Library Theatre is launched - it takes place in the Large Lecture Room at Scarborough Library rather than the Concert Room.

Theatre in the Round at the
Library Theatre becomes the UK's first regional theatre to stop playing the National Anthem during every performance - to much controversy; Stephen Joseph commissions Alan Ayckbourn to write his first professional play during the winter season - now relocated into the Concert Room; Studio Theatre Ltd begins touring for the first time; the Studio Theatre Club in London is abandoned.

The Studio Theatre Ltd winter tour sees the professional directorial debut of
Harold Pinter with his play The Birthday Party; world premiere of Alan Ayckbourn's first professional play, The Square Cat.
Notable world premieres: Alas, Poor Fred (James Saunders); Viennese Interlude (Colin Wilson); The Square Cat (Alan Ayckbourn)

The first
British Festival Of The Round is held at Theatre in the Round at the Library Theatre; Theatre in the Round at the Library Theatre receives £6,000 over three years to expand its touring programme.
Notable world premieres: View From The Brink (David Campton)

Theatre in the Round at the
Library Theatre's first repertory company is formed when the same company performs both the summer and winter seasons at the venue for the first time; Scarborough Town Council declines a proposal to build a permanent home for the company; Newcastle-under-Lyme council approves funding for a purpose-built theatre-in-the-round - the theatre is never built.

Stephen Joseph opens the first permanent professional theatre-in-the-round venue in the UK at the Victoria Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent (a conversion of a disused cinema rather than a purpose-built venue); Studio Theatre Ltd transfers to the Victoria Theatre - along with its funding (which had been slashed in half prior to the move); due to Studio Theatre Ltd moving to Stoke-on-Trent and the loss of funding, Theatre in the Round at the
Library Theatre ceases both its tours and winter seasons, neither of which will resume until 1974.
Notable world premieres: Death At The New Year (R.G. Gregory)

With Studio Theatre Ltd having transferred to Stoke-on-Trent, the 1963 and 1964 Scarborough summer seasons are produced by a new company
Theatre In The Round Ltd formed by Stephen Joseph to allow continued professional production of plays at Theatre in the Round at the Library Theatre, Scarborough; Stephen - still actively involved with the Library Theatre - issues an ultimatum to the Library Committee to improve its facilities or the Library Theatre will close.

Scarborough Theatre Trust is incorporated as a company in July and from 1965 to the present is responsible for running the theatre; the Library Committee's lack of response to his 1963 ultimatum sees Stephen Joseph tell the Scarborough Theatre Trust board there is no long-term future for Theatre in the Round at the Library Theatre.

Due to lack of funding, the professional summer season is presented in conjunction with the Drama Department of the University Of Manchester with students joining the company in both acting and technical positions; Stephen Joseph announces Theatre in the Round at the
Library Theatre will permanently close at the end of the summer season; world premiere of Alan Ayckbourn's Meet My Father (Relatively Speaking) at Theatre in the Round at the Library Theatre; Theatre in the Round at the Library Theatre is closed on 18 September following what is reported as its most successful season.
Notable world premieres: Meet My Father (Alan Ayckbourn); See The Pretty Lights (Alan Plater); The Play Of Mata Hari (Mike Stott)

Stephen Joseph is diagnosed with terminal cancer; Ken Boden organises an
amateur in-the-round season at Theatre in the Round at the Library Theatre in association with the British Drama League with the intent of relaunching professional theatre in 1967; Scarborough Town Council approves funding for a professional season at Theatre in the Round at the Library Theatre during 1967; Stephen Joseph steps down as Chairman of Scarborough Theatre Trust; following a prolonged dispute, control of the Victoria Theatre is taken away from Stephen Joseph and put into the hands of a newly incorporated local trust, the Stoke-on-Trent and North Staffordshire Theatre Trust.

Theatre in the Round at the
Library Theatre re-opens with a 14 week professional summer season under Director of Productions, Rodney Wood; Stephen Joseph dies on Thursday 5 October at Longwestgate, Scarborough, aged 46; Relatively Speaking becomes the first Library Theatre play to open in the West End; Scarborough Theatre Trust is registered as a charity in September; Studio Theatre Ltd ceases operations; Tom Laughton joins the Scarborough Theatre Trust board; the board agrees any new home for the company should be named after its founder.
Notable world premieres: Hop, Step & Jump (Alan Plater)

Rodney Wood is appointed Director Of Productions for a second season; George Alderson is appointed as architect and consultant in the search for a new home for the company; a fund-raising appeal is launched to raise funds for a new home for the company.

Alan Ayckbourn is appointed Director Of Productions for the summer season; theatre manager Ken Boden is granted a salary having been working voluntarily in the position for 14 years.
Notable world premieres: How The Other Half Loves (Alan Ayckbourn)

Alan Ayckbourn is appointed Director Of Productions for the summer season; the first major visiting production to Theatre in the Round at the
Library Theatre sees Hull Arts Centre tour to the venue; Tom Laughton resigns from the board citing a conflict of interest; the company makes a rare loss of £1,300.
Notable world premieres: The Shy Gasman (Leonard Barras)

Caroline Smith is appointed Director Of Productions for the summer season; world premiere of Alan Ayckbourn's Time & Time Again, the first Ayckbourn play to feature a water feature which promptly leaks into the reading room below one night.

Alan Ayckbourn is appointed Artistic Director of Theatre in the Round at the
Library Theatre, he will hold this role until March 2009; the company's first press officer is appointed; the company begins the season with a week-long residency at the recently completed Crucible Theatre in Sheffield; first production of a play aimed specifically at children.
Notable world premieres: Absurd Person Singular (Alan Ayckbourn); Carmilla (David Campton); Tom, Dick & Harry (Peter Blythe)

Having apparently joked the previous year to a journalist he would write a trilogy for his next project, Alan Ayckbourn writes
The Norman Conquests when the same journalist calls the theatre about Alan's new trilogy!; Tom Laughton rejoins the board and is appointed chairman.
Notable world premieres: The Norman Conquest (Alan Ayckbourn); All Together Now (Peter King)

Tours and winter seasons are resumed with the world premiere of Alan Ayckbourn's
Confusions; North Yorkshire County Council refuses to extend the theatre's season to 40 weeks, threatening the future of the company; Alan Ayckbourn threatens to leave Scarborough with the company because of the library situation.
Notable world premieres: Absent Friends (Alan Ayckbourn)

The company is granted a 40 week season but also told it must leave Scarborough Library by January 1976; Saturday morning children's shows regularly pull in audiences of more than 500 over two shows - they are renamed the Rounders Club (Rounders will later be appropriated for the youth drama group); Malcolm Hebden joins the company; Scarborough Town Council unveils plans for a purpose-built home for the company opposite Scarborough Library.
Notable world premieres: Bedroom Farce (Alan Ayckbourn): An Englishman's Home (Stephen Mallatratt)

North Yorkshire County Council offers the company use of the former
Westwood County Modern School until a permanent venue is built; the company embarks on its first international tour to Europe; Mervyn Watson is appointed the company's first Associate Director; Theatre in the Round at the Library Theatre closes on 11 September with a performance of Alan Ayckbourn's Just Between Ourselves; Theatre In The Round At Westwood opens during October.
Notable world premieres: Just Between Ourselves (Alan Ayckbourn); Stars (Stephen Lowe)

Between opening in 1955 and closing in 1976, the Library Theatre staged 159 plays of which 77 plays were world premieres.

Article by and copyright of Simon Murgatroyd. Please do not reproduce this article without permission of the copyright holder.

The History section of A Round Town is dedicated to the memory of Stephen Wood, Executive Director of the Stephen Joseph Theatre from 1996 to 2015 and Press Officer of the Stephen Joseph Theatre in the Round from 1976 to 1982.