What is influence? The capacity to make something happen, to cause something to change. In The Stage 100, in association with Spektrix, this has often translated into the ability to put on shows and, specifically, shows that are critically acclaimed, popular or both. For much of the near quarter-century that the list has been compiled, its upper echelons have been populated by those responsible for productions and theatres: producers and theatre owners.
Last year, The Stage 100 recognised a different type of influence: the ability to change the working conditions of the British theatre workforce. In the wake of the allegations against Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey, among others, Royal Court artistic director Vicky Featherstone topped The Stage 100 in recognition of the central role she played in instigating crucial conversations that called out abuse and challenged historic, unhelpful power structures in theatre.
This year, we have again embraced a broad interpretation of influence. Our 2019 number one is not conventionally powerful. In person, he is understated and unassuming. He does not produce shows or run a theatrical empire, but has been responsible for a quiet revolution when it comes to the way that both artists and audiences experience theatre. In another quarter-century – and even more – we will look back on his achievements in re-imagining theatre buildings, their functions and forms, as a defining aspect of early 21st-century British theatre.
Elsewhere in the 100, others are wielding influence in less traditional ways. Many recent new entries rose further up the list this year – especially those looking to open up the theatre industry to a wider spectrum of theatregoers, artists and employees. Kwame Kwei-Armah, Madani Younis, Alan Lane and Simeilia Hodge-Dallaway are all significant risers, along with Cassie Raine and Anna Ehnold-Danailov, the driving forces behind campaign group Parents and Carers in the Performing Arts. Meanwhile, Charlene Ford, who made history by pushing for a job-share contract on the West End show 42nd Street, is among our new entries – as are Tobi Kyeremateng, founder of the Black Ticket Project, and David Mumeni, who has led a scheme to subsidise drama school audition fees for those who cannot afford them.
There is also space to recognise those who are playing a crucial role in advancing theatre in more traditional ways: Sonia Friedman is listed at number two based on the extraordinary quality of her work in the UK and US, while Sarah Frankcom’s ongoing march up the rankings is a reflection of the impressive output of the Manchester Royal Exchange. Grandees such as Andrew Lloyd Webber and Cameron Mackintosh still feature prominently because they operate the West End’s most significant venues and are responsible for many of British theatre’s most popular hits at home and around the world. But they are also both recognised as major philanthropists who are investing back into their theatre stock for future generations.
Others feature as much for their work off stage as on: Rufus Norris and the team at the National, for example, are creating some extraordinary theatre while leading on innovative schemes such as its smart caption glasses and community projects like Public Acts and its groundbreaking production of Pericles.
If 2017 was an earthquake, the aftershocks were still being felt in 2018 – and they rumble on into 2019. As we wrapped up The Stage 100 this year, there were several appointments that may change the make-up of future lists, but they have not yet had time to make an impact in their new roles. As in many other walks of life, theatre is facing a time of unprecedented change – and with that comes risk, but also great opportunities.
Now in its 23rd year, The Stage 100 is the definitive list of the most influential figures working in the UK theatre and performing arts industry. It focuses on achievements in the past 12 months, but also takes into account overall standing within the industry. Anyone working in theatre and the performing arts (on stage, off stage or in support roles) is eligible.
As with any such list, the final 100 is subjective. However, we go to great lengths to make sure that our final 100 reflects the full breadth of the industry and its most influential people.
In its first couple of years, the list was decided by industry vote, but the decision-making process was soon taken in-house after it threatened to turn into a popularity contest. Now, it is judged from the point of view of The Stage as an industry publication. This means that as well as artistic achievement, we look at factors such as financial performance, number of jobs created and the wider impact on the sector’s development.
Large-scale commercial theatre and the major subsidised houses tend to feature heavily, as they account for most theatregoing in the UK. But we also try to feature names from across the industry, at all scales and in all places.
We invited 30 leading figures from the theatre and performing arts industry to anonymously submit the five people they would place from number one to five in the list, plus one other name they believed should feature in the list and why. The 30 people were drawn from different areas of the industry and different professions within it.
We invited senior editorial contributors to The Stage to submit their suggestions for the final list.
A final judging panel (comprising editor Alistair Smith, associate editors Mark Shenton and Lyn Gardner, features editor Nick Clark, news editor Matthew Hemley, reviews editor Natasha Tripney and senior reporter Georgia Snow) considered all the names submitted in stages one and two, added their own submissions and decided on the final list.
The Stage 100 is intended to reflect who are the 100 most influential people working in the theatre and performing arts industry. It is considered from the point of view of The Stage, as a trade publication, and so focuses both on theatre as a business and an art form. Inclusion within the list and ranking is weighted towards achievements in the past 12 months, but also takes into account continuous achievement. We also aim to have a list that – as much as is possible and plausible – reflects the astonishing breadth of the theatre industry. However, we do not weight the list to attempt to make it gender-balanced or ethnically diverse: we believe the list should aim to reflect how the theatre and performing arts industry is, not what it aims to be, or we would like it to be.
‘New entry’ denotes that person did not feature in the 2018 list.