Robert Stanton 1918-2007
February 16, 2007A Personal Tribute by Richard Pilbrow
On Wednesday, February 14th 2007, British stage manager and Honorary LAMDA (London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art) Fellow, Robert Stanton, passed away at the age of 88.
Bob picked me out of drama school to be assistant stage manager for the London production of Teahouse of the August Moon in 1953. He then sent me out as deputy stage manager on the UK National Tour. After promising to look after my career, six months later he brought me back to Her Majesty's Theatre for a new production, No Time For Sergeants.
During that successful run, Bob allowed me to take over the bandroom under the stage to create the first Theatre Projects office. It contained my model theatre, with which I hoped to lure unsuspecting producers into thinking that lighting design might be a good idea!
Bob then offered me the job of Deputy Stage Manager for the forthcoming London production of My Fair Lady at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. With a very deep breath I declined, in order to start my new company.
Five years later when My Fair Lady closed, Bob joined TP Associates (our production company) as Production Stage Manager. With the founding of the Theatre Projects Trust Stage Management and Technical Theatre course at LAMDA, he became our headmaster there and later Administrator of the whole drama school.
LAMDA became the top technical theatre school in Britain. Literally hundreds of young stage managers and technicians passed through his hands during his 25 years service. Many are still enjoying distinguished careers. All owe so much to Bob.
When I was Bob's assistant stage manager he demanded the highest standards of professionalism. No matter how far it was into the run, every morning at 10:00AM (not 10:01AM) we were on duty in the office — neatly dressed with collar and tie. Just in case the need for anything might arise.
Bob was a stickler, a perfectionist. A man of the theatre, a true gentleman and a dear friend for over 50 years.
Bob was a child actor in the 1930s. He had a distinguished career in the British Army's Royal Artillery during World War II. I never learnt details of his service, but he was apparently associated with intelligence work, landed at very short notice in Normandy on D-Day to work behind German lines. For his service he was awarded the French "Croix de Guerre with Silver Star". He was very diffident about his war-stories. He did say that due to his rush to Normandy he had no time to leave his dinner jacket, so had to take it with him to the landings — he claimed to be the only officer to be so well equipped on that occasion. He also reported that he was following a 'call of nature' behind a bombed Normandy farmhouse. On looking up he found himself next to a German officer in a similar position. He told me that they both fled!
After demobilization he became a production stage manager for the famous British director, Basil Dean, who he remembered as a monster martinet. (Apparently he was, but when I later knew him, he was a benign old man, who nominated me up to membership of the Garrick Club.)
Then Bob moved to stage managing American productions in London for Williamson Music (the UK production office of Rogers and Hammerstein). It was Williamson who produced Teahouse. Williamson who were for 25 years our production partners in London, and Williamson who (at Bob's behest) sold me in 1957 for £150 a huge stack of old lighting equipment — last used onstage in Oklahoma! — from storage at Drury Lane that became the foundation for TP's business success.
I — and all who have been involved with Theatre Projects — owe Bob a giant debt.
LAMDA paid tribute to Bob by saying:
"In a career that spanned almost eight decades, Robert Stanton's name became synonymous with the very best in British stage management and technical theatre. As Stage Management Consultant to Theatre Projects Ltd and the original Director of LAMDA's innovative Stage Management and Technical Theatre Course, his talent and experience influenced the careers of many of the industry's leading technicians and practitioners.
Robert officially handed over the reins of LAMDA's Stage Management and Technical Theatre Course twenty years ago, but his influence as its pioneer continues. Expressing his deepest sadness at the news of Robert's passing, LAMDA Principal, Peter James said, 'Robert Stanton was an inspirational teacher and friend, who bore testimony to the many rewards that a career in this wonderful industry can bring. He will be greatly missed by all those whose lives he touched.'