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Stephen Joseph Association launched to commemorate director’s legacy

A new association has been formed to celebrate the legacy of theatre director Stephen Joseph.

Dubbed the “great forgotten genius of British theatre” by the association, Joseph was the pioneer of theatre-in-the-round and gives his name to the Scarborough venue in that configuration.

Theatremakers including designer Alistair Livingstone, founder of Edinburgh’s Traverse Theatre Terry Lane, and actor Joanna Tope formed the society to promote legacy of the director, who died in 1967 aged 46.

Other founding members include actor Terry Wilton, designer Andrew Sanders, former vice principal of RADA Peter Ellis Jones, playwright and poet Csilla Toldy, and lyricist and musical theatre book-writer Athene Fielding.

The not-for-profit Stephen Joseph Association [1] aims to organise performances and events, undertake research and publish material related to Joseph, maintain websites on Joseph and raise funds to carry out the association’s work.

Membership fees of £18 (£10 for students) will help fund the association, which has been started with an undisclosed initial investment from its founders.

Livingstone, treasurer of the SJA, said: “What is interesting, is how many different forms of staging are taking place now that would not have happened were it not for Stephen Joseph.

“We believe his contribution to theatre is just as important as that of Peter Hall or Peter Brook, but because he died at such a young age we believe he is the great forgotten genius of British theatre.”

The founding of the SJA was inspired by two events celebrating Joseph this year: a weekend at Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre in September, at which playwright Alan Ayckbourn spoke in memory of Joseph, and a symposium at Manchester University, where Joseph was the first fellow in drama, in November.

Livingstone added: “Stephen, because of his charismatic magnetism, infected a whole batch of us, many of whom went on to be prominent theatre figures or academics.

“He was the man who really started theatre-in-the-round, he gave rise to experiments in all sorts of theatre forms and he encouraged new writing. One of those people he encouraged was Alan Ayckbourn.”