Stage One Announces the Appointment of Deborah Lincoln as New Chair of the Board of Trustees

Stage One is delighted to welcome Deborah Lincoln as incoming Chair of the Board of Trustees. She takes over the leadership of Stage One’s Board from Mark Burch, who was Chair for the previous five years. Deborah comes to Stage One as a senior business executive in the media and entertainment industry, having worked for Warner Bros. and Pearson Plc, and with deep experience as a Chair and Trustee in the commercial and voluntary sector in theatre, music and arts education. Deborah also chairs the Guildhall School Trust, and was Chair of Watford Palace Theatre (2015-2022). She is a Board member of The Orwell Foundation and Political Quarterly (PQ).

Stage One supports, guides, trains and invests in emerging entrepreneurial theatre producers, providing a wide range of development programmes including industry-led new producer workshops, producer placements, bursary awards, mentoring by experienced West End producers, investment in new productions and Bridge the Gap, a one year course aimed at aspiring producers from underrepresented backgrounds.

Joseph Smith, CEO of Stage One commented:

“I’m immensely proud of what Stage One has achieved in providing opportunities to commercial producers. I would like to thank Mark Burch for the huge commitment he has shown during his time as Chair, overseeing Stage One throughout such a crucial period, and especially for his leadership in the development of our industry leading Bridge the Gap programme. I am delighted to welcome Deborah on behalf of the Board, myself and the Stage One team and look forward to working closely with her and her fellow Trustees as we continue to grow our support for and investment in the future of theatre producing.”

Deborah Lincoln – Incoming Chair, Stage One:

“As a lifelong theatre-goer, passionate about music, the arts and entertainment, I am excited to be championing Stage One as its new Chair. I look forward to supporting its extraordinary work in training, growing and investing in the next generations of talented commercial theatre producers – from all backgrounds and communities. It is an honour and a pleasure to work alongside my fellow Trustees, the excellent Stage One team and our generous partners to support the future of this vibrant and creative industry at such a pivotal time.”

Mark Burch – Outgoing Chair, Stage One:

“Stage One remains at the forefront of training the next generation of theatre producers. I am delighted to have Chaired Stage One over 5 years in which we have renewed and developed our programmes to support an exciting and diverse group of emerging producers in a period of great challenge for the theatre world.”


Notes to Editors

Deborah Lincoln is a senior Communications, Public Affairs and Corporate Responsibility professional working across the private, public and voluntary sectors. She was SVP, Corporate Communications and Public Affairs International, Warner Bros. Entertainment (2007-2020), and before that headed Communications for Pearson Plc (then owner of FT and Penguin Books). She was Political Adviser to Patricia Hewitt, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, and previously led The Labour Party’s women’s organisation, developing policy and campaigns to increase the representation of women. She also worked in senior roles for national charities including MacMillan Cancer Relief, The Prince’s Trust and Prince’s Foundation (HRH The Prince of Wales) and Friends of the Earth. She chairs the Guildhall School Trust, is Finance Committee Chair and Trustee for Oxford School of Drama and was Chair of Watford Palace Theatre (2015-2022). She is a co-opted Board member of Political Quarterly (PQ), representing PQ as a Trustee on The Orwell Foundation. She has an MSc Econ in Politics from the LSE.

Stage One is the operating name of the Theatre Investment Fund Ltd, a registered charity number 271349. Stage One supports theatre producers with industry-led training workshops, bursaries, Placements, Investment, mentoring and advice. Patrons of Stage One include Sir Cameron Mackintosh, Dames Judi Dench and Maggie Smith.

Stage One offer 4 core development programmes, to support commercial producers;

1) Bridge the Gap, a one year training programme for aspiring producers from underrepresented backgrounds. 10 candidates receive bespoke monthly workshops, mentoring and access to commercial opportunities to support their careers.

2) Once a year, Stage One host the New Producers Workshop. Over the three days, producers are taught by leading figures in the industry and cover all aspects of putting on a production including; marketing & PR, contracting, venue negotiations, budgeting, rights, raising funds & looking after investors.

3) The Stage One Producer Placements offer unique hands-on training and development opportunities within established producing companies for outstanding entrepreneurial individuals. There are two strands of the producer placement, London and across the regions. In the past we have placed trainee producers London offices such as Playful Productions, ATG Productions, Sonia Friedman Productions and Mark Rubinstein Ltd. We also have four regional placements at producing venues; our current hosts are Birmingham Hippodrome, Hull Truck, Sheffield Theatres and MAST Mayflower Studios.

4) The Bursary Award provides up to £15,000 financial assistance to help get producers’ companies up and running, and to support their overall development. Alongside the financial support the successful candidates are also paired with a mentor and offered office space free of charge.

Stage One is incredibly grateful for all the financial and practical support given by productions, individuals and businesses across the industry.

To find out more, please visit

For all queries, please contact Stage One:

Louise Goodman | | 020 7557 6737

Olivia Polglase | | 020 7557 6772