Monks Will Succeed Ayckbourn as Artistic Director at Stephen Joseph Theatre

News   Monks Will Succeed Ayckbourn as Artistic Director at Stephen Joseph Theatre Chris Monks will become artistic director of the Stephen Joseph Theatre on April 1, taking over for longtime leader Alan Ayckbourn, whose many works have premiered at the regional British theatre.

A theatre director and writer, Monks' work has been seen at The New Vic, The Orange Tree Theatre, Bolton Octagon and the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester. Monks will direct his first production as SJT artistic director in the summer season.

Since 1972 renowned British playwright Ayckbourn has been running Scarborough's Stephen Joseph Theatre — then called the Library Theatre and later named after Ayckbourn's mentor. He announced his plan to leave the job in June 2007.

Ayckbourn is the author of more than 70 plays, including Absurd Person Singular, A Small Family Business, House and Garden, Bedroom Farce and Comic Potential. A revival of The Norman Conquests was a fall 2008 hit in London that will play Broadway starting this spring. He was hospitalized in 2006 following a stroke.

Since Ayckbourn's recovery, the prolific playwright and director has taken on a reduced workload, but following his retirement as artistic director will continue to be closely involved with the theatre that has premiered nearly all of his plays.

Monks' writing for the stage and his music theatre adaptations have won him critical acclaim. Monks' adaptation of Don Giovanni for the New Vic was nominated for Best Musical Production at the Theatrical Management Association awards last year. Born in Sheffield, he studied woodwinds and jazz composition at The Leeds College of Music. After graduating he joined The Royal Exchange Theatre Company, where he composed the scores for over 50 productions including The Count of Monte Cristo, Riddley Walker, Oedipus and Class K. He remains an associate director of the company.

During the 1980s he wrote the songs for Trafford Tanzi for Contact Theatre, Manchester and was musical director on Lennon for the Everyman, Liverpool. Tanzi eventually took him to New York, working alongside Debbie Harry and Andy Kaufman. Lennon, arguably the first successful actor/musician show, transferred to the West End, New York and Australia.

Following several years working as an actor, musician, composer and musical director, Monks began to direct. His first professional production was Music Hall at The Bolton Octagon in 1990. In 2006 he returned there to direct Absurd Person Singular.

Through the 1990s his freelance directing career included productions for D'O'yly Carte Opera (The Count of Luxembourg), The Belgrade, Coventry (Romeo and Juliet) and Salisbury Playhouse (Blues in the Night).

In 1995 he directed his reworking of Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado for The New Vic, Newcastle-under-Lyme. Since then his music theatre adaptations have been an essential part of the company's repertoire. His work at the New Vic includes Sizwe Banzi is Dead, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Amadeus, Sweeney Todd, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Billy Liar, Oliver! and On Golden Pond.

His writing for the stage includes The Bat (2005), Beauty and the Beast (2003) and Trojan Women (2000). Big Nose! (1999) was co-written with Kwame Kwei-Armah. Don Giovanni (2008) completes a trilogy of Mozart adaptations, alongside The Magic Flute (1999) and The Marriage of Figaro (2002).

He said in a statement, "Over the past few months, since my appointment, I've been getting to know the SJT. This company has so much potential: an iconic building; dedicated, friendly staff and a national reputation. Few places in the U.K. have such an asset. I want to contact the people of the Borough and the Region, particularly those who've never been to the SJT and offer them this simple invitation: 'Come and enjoy our shows.' You'll be surprised, because we've something for everyone. We've cheap tickets, and what's more if you can't come to us, we'll come to you: your school, your college, your workplace, your local hall. We are going to reach out into the community like never before, and make a difference. We won't be satisfied until you've accepted our invitation."

For more information visit SJT.uk.com.

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