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Interview with the executive producer of the Stephen Joseph Theatre

For Scarborough’s seaside venue the Stephen Joseph Theatre, a summer season is the focus. Georgia Snow talks to Amanda Saunders to find out how they programme around it.

What does your role at the theatre entail?
I have responsibility for programming the presented work, which pretty much fits into the two or three months in spring and a couple of months in the autumn around our produced summer season, which is the highlight of the year. So I programme the presented work, which means looking at work and devising a programme that I think is going to complement our produced season and fit with our audiences. Then, of course, I’m negotiating and contracting. I set up tours – we tour quite extensively, both in the UK and also in New York. I set up all of that, all the planning and budgeting of it. For our produced work, I have responsibility for the budgets across the whole season. It’s a combination of the creative and the practical. It’s realising a vision, but with a practical element.

Do you ever have to play the bad guy as a producer?
Certainly sometimes we have to put our foot down, but not much, or you have to re-imagine something in a way that you could help make it work. If a director has a vision for something that just doesn’t quite work, but you know what they would like, we are able to work with them, think round the problems and come up with a way that means you can do it.

How long have you worked at the Stephen Jones Theatre?
This time I’ve been here for nearly 20 years, but I was here earlier in my career. The first time was almost 40 years ago. Earlier in my career, I worked around a range of theatres across the country, which informed my understanding of how all the different elements work. I also ran the Platforms department at the National Theatre. That was probably the transition into the producing field, because I was devising the programme and working out how that could fit in around the full programme at the National.

How does the theatre’s location affect the way it works?
A lot of visitors come to the town during the summer. That would tend to be the quietest time for a theatre, but the majority of our producing is focused on then. The shows run in repertoire during the summer, in order to maximise the number of things we can do. We have certain weekends where you could arrive on a Friday evening and leave Sunday tea time, and have seen seven different things. It’s very complex to work out, but it has a real festival atmosphere.

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