As Lou Stein prepares for his new role as artistic director at Chickenshed, he describes the journey that led him here as a “Cinderella story”.

Born and raised in New York, he left the Broadway stage behind as a student to pursue a career as a writer and director in London, with the aim of introducing international works to a British audience.

Within a year of arriving, he managed to gain widespread attention with his plays at the Gate Theatre, despite it being a small venue above a pub in Notting Hill and from there, he directed endless shows across the capital, with performances from top names including Helen Mirren, Jerry Hall and Stephen Fry.

Fast forward 35 years, he is beginning a new chapter as the first appointed artistic director at the theatre company in Southgate since it began in 1974, after seeing his nine-year-old son, Ethan, who has Down’s Syndrome, "prosper" in the inclusive atmosphere there.

He says: “Chickenshed opens doors to new communities and goes beyond a profile of people who usually get involved in theatre, which is of interest to me.

“To me, this was a real 'click' moment about what I could bring to the company in terms of my professional background and my interest in the importance of theatre and inclusion.

“Before starting, l learnt how the organisation worked through the eyes of my nine-year-old. He is thoroughly enjoying being a member, so it was certainly interesting to start my new role with this perspective.”

Since joining the theatre company as artistic director at the beginning of April, he has already been impressed with the “positive energy” both staff and students bring to each production but also hopes to raise the bar in future shows.

He says: “With each show, I like respond to the actors’ style and let the show speak for itself, rather than let my directing dominate.

“One of the things I’m interested in developing is looking more at text-based dramas and getting the students involved in the writing and creative side of theatre.”

Growing up, writing was Lou's childhood passion and it wasn’t until he started studying journalism at the Northwestern University in Chicago that he realised he wanted to be a director.

He recalls: “At college, I met a particular lecturer who introduced me to the power of fiction and imagination and so I got really interested in turning my writing interest into directing.

“All my shows have been very diverse over the years as a result. The other day I was speaking with great fondness about directing Jerry Hall and one of my favourite shows in my career was with Helen Mirren in Madame Bovary, as she is such a beautiful actress.”

Lou has certainly built up an impressive CV over the years. The Gate has seen appearances from performers such as Hugh Grant and Pamela Stephenson and he also had a stint as artistic director of the Palace Theatre, in Watford too.

Now he is turning his attention to Chickenshed, a theatre company with the mantra that everyone can get involved no matter their ability, as it holds a place close to his heart.

He explains: “As well as my son being a member, my wife also wrote a piece of music for a recent production there called Sharing Stages.

“She is a contemporary music composer and has been involved in operas for places like BBC symphony orchestra but has also enjoyed working with Chickenshed. She is classically orientated so who knows, we may be looking at an opera show for the company in the future.

“I can’t speak too much about upcoming performances just yet but we have got a very exciting show starting at the end of the month called “In the absence of silence”, which the main creative directors here have been working on for two years, interviewing dozens of women who have been through domestic violence and abuse.

“The show is about how they have bonded and shared their experiences, which I think holds a very powerful message as it links back to Chickenshed’s theme of inclusivity once more, by helping people realise they are not alone in such situations.”

In the absence of silence runs from April 27 to May 14 in the Studio Theatre, Chickenshed, Chase Side, Southgate. Details: 020 8292 9222,