Playwright and screenwriter Sir Tom Stoppard has been named as Oxford’s next Cameron Mackintosh Visiting Professor of Contemporary Theatre.
Sir Tom Stoppard OM CBE FRSL has been named as the next Cameron Mackintosh Visiting Professor of Contemporary Theatre, based at St Catherine’s College at the University of Oxford. He will succeed Claude-Michel Schönberg in October 2017.
The Chair of Contemporary Theatre, founded through a grant from the Mackintosh Foundation at St Catherine's College, aims to promote interest in, and the study and practice of, contemporary theatre. The Visiting Professorship has previously been held by actors, writers, directors, and producers including Arthur Miller, Alan Ayckbourn, Sir Richard Eyre, Stephen Sondheim, Phyllida Lloyd, Sir Richard Attenborough, Sir Nicholas Hytner, Sir Ian McKellen and Claude-Michel Schönberg.
Stoppard, whose theatre career began with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead in 1966, is regarded as one of the most successful and widely-performed writers of his generation.
Commenting on his appointment, he said: ‘Cameron is someone I have known and admired from our early days in the theatre. To occupy a “visiting chair” in his name is a special delight, particularly at Oxford where my plays have been performed by undergraduates for so many years.’
The Master of St Catherine’s College, Professor Roger Ainsworth, said: ‘We are honoured that Tom has agreed to take up the Cameron Mackintosh Visiting Professorship of Contemporary Theatre next year. We are absolutely delighted to be welcoming such a pioneering and widely-admired intellectual playwright into the College community, and we eagerly look forward to receiving his great artistic insight and wisdom over the next academic year.’
The Professorship is for one academic year. Usually the tenure is marked by a public event where the incumbent presents a personal perspective on an aspect of contemporary theatre. In addition, workshops or seminars involving students take place throughout the year. However, the approach taken to tenure as Cameron Mackintosh Professor is very much up to the individual incumbent. No teaching obligation is attached to the role.
Stoppard’s inaugural lecture will take place this autumn.
His career started in journalism in 1954, writing for the Western Daily Press in Bristol, followed by the Bristol Evening World in 1958. He was writing short radio plays during this time and had finished his first stage play A Walk on the Water by 1960.
This was staged first in Hamburg, then broadcast on British Independent Television in 1963, by which time he was working as a drama critic for the magazine Scene. In 1964, he was awarded a grant enabling him to spend five months writing in Berlin.
He wrote the one-act play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Meet King Lear during this time, later reworked to become the award-winning Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. Premiering at the Edinburgh Fringe in 1966, this play was brought to the National Theatre in 1967 to great critical acclaim and, after transferring to Broadway, it won the Tony Award for Best Play in 1968. Further successes were achieved with Jumpers (1972), Travesties (1974), The Real Thing (1982), Arcadia (1993), The Invention of Love (1997), The Coast of Utopia (2002) and Rock ’n’ Roll (2006) — to name but a few of his highly regarded stage works.
In a prolific career now spanning more than fifty years, Stoppard has also written for radio (Albert’s Bridge, 1967; In the Native State, 1991; Darkside, 2013), television (Professional Foul, 1977), and film (Shakespeare in Love, co-written with Marc Norman in 1998, which won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay; Anna Karenina, 2012).
His contribution to theatre and screen has been recognized with numerous awards and honours, including Tony awards, Evening Standard awards, New York Drama Critics’ Circle awards for his theatre plays; Giles Cooper awards for his radio plays; and the Laurel Award for Screenwriting Achievement (2013). He was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1972, was awarded the CBE in 1978, and in 2000 was given the Order of Merit. In 2002 he became President of the London Library and in 2013, Oxford made him an Honorary Doctor of Letters.
Portrait courtesy of Sir Tom Stoppard.