In Memory: Stephen Wood

Stephen Wood was the first Executive Director to be appointed at theatre in the round in Scarborough and played a vital role in its transition to its new home, the Stephen Joseph Theatre, in 1996. He held the role for 19 years and - in this author's opinion - given his time in the role and the number of significant changes during this period, it is unlikely any successive Executive Director will match either his longevity or achievements at the SJT.

This piece was published on the Alan Ayckbourn blog in June 2023 to mark his death.

In Memory: Stephen Wood

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Stephen Wood (1950 - 2023)
Former Executive Director of the SJT
(© Tony Bartholomew)

Stephen Wood, former Executive Director of the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough, has died at the age of 73.

Stephen was a key figure in the history of theatre in the round in Scarborough and is one of the few people to have played worked and played a significant role in all three theatre in the round venues in Scarborough.

Alan Ayckbourn, former Artistic Director of the Stephen Joseph Theatre, paid tribute to Stephen's accomplishments.

“Stephen had 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 played a huge part in its growth and development. He is someone I always considered a guardian of the company’s founding principles, innovation, originality and excitement, pursued through the highest achievable artistic standards."

Stephen initially joined the Scarborough company in May 1976 as the press officer just as the company was transitioning from its original home at Theatre in the Round at the Library Theatre to Theatre in the Round at Westwood (later the Stephen Joseph Theatre in the Round).

He worked at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in the Round until 1982 and formed a close bond with the company's Artistic Director, Alan Ayckbourn with both sharing a passion and enthusiasm for the unlikely combination of cricket and Pink Floyd.

Stephen joined the National Theatre in 1982 as a press officer and later became Head of Press. But he was destined to have an even greater impact on theatre in the round when, in 1995, Alan Ayckbourn asked him to become the first Executive Director (then titled General Administrator) of the soon to be opened Stephen Joseph Theatre.

He ran the theatre in tandem with Alan Ayckbourn as Artistic Director from 1996 to 2009 and played a huge role in the move of the company to its new home, more than twice the size of the previous venue. He navigated the company through a series of financial crisis in the early years of the new theatre and played a significant part in the development of the theatre's new Education Department. In 2006, he oversaw the running of the theatre following Alan Ayckbourn's stroke.

Stephen also played a pivotal role in the transition between Artistic Directors in 2009 when Alan Ayckbourn stepped down and was succeeded by Chris Monks, whom he would work with until both stepped down in 2015.

Stephen left his role as Executive Director in 2015 during the 60th anniversary celebrations of the Stephen Joseph Theatre to move to London to be closer to his family and to pursue other career opportunities. On his departure he noted he had never worked longer for a single company than at the SJT.

Helen Boaden, the chair of Scarborough Theatre Trust, also pad tribute to Stephen's contributions to the SJT: "Stephen was an irrepressible force of nature who loved cricket, newspapers and the SJT. He championed our theatre through thick and thin and we send our sincere condolences to his family.”

Stephen - a self-declared fan of Alan Ayckbourn and theatre in the round from when he first joined the company in 1976 - was also passionate about the history of theatre in the round in Scarborough and a keen supporter of The Bob Watson Archive at the SJT; which he was instrumental in renaming after the company's original archivist, Bob Watson, died in 2003.

He was also a great supporter of local artists and arts organisations and regularly hosted a lunch for independent artists and writers at the SJT, nicknamed the Lonely Arts Club Lunch, over which he presided.

Stephen's trained at RADA as a stage manager before working at the Lincoln Theatre Royal. He then worked as PR officer for Manchester Library Theatre Company for three years before moving to Scarborough.

Between 1982 and 1995, he worked at the National Theatre as a Publicist before later becoming Head of Press. He then joined the Stephen Joseph Theatre as General Administrator in 1996, staying in the role for 19 years.

Stephen Wood (13 February 1950 - 9 June 2023) died at the age of 73 in London.

Article by and copyright of Simon Murgatroyd with image © Tony Bartholomew. Please do not reproduce without permission of the copyright holder.