Broadway's McAnuff Will Return to Ontario Roots as One of Three Stratford Artistic Directors

News   Broadway's McAnuff Will Return to Ontario Roots as One of Three Stratford Artistic Directors La Jolla Playhouse artistic director Des McAnuff will be one of three artistic directors directors at Canada's Stratford Festival, effective 2008, according to a June 26 announcement.
Des McAnuff
Des McAnuff

Antoni Cimolino, general director of the Stratford Festival of Canada, will oversee the next stage of the festival's new vision for artistic leadership. Along with the appointment of McAnuff, the festival named Marti Maraden and Don Shipley as co-artistic directors. The successors to Stratford's current artistic director Richard Monette had been previously reported in Canadian papers without confirmation by Stratford officials.

As announced on June 21, McAnuff will continue with his current commitments to the La Jolla Playhouse until April 2007 and will then assume a newly created position as director emeritus. This new position "will allow McAnuff to pursue other creative opportunities while maintaining his relationship with La Jolla Playhouse."

Two-time Tony Award winner McAnuff served as artistic director of La Jolla Playhouse from 1983 to 1994, reviving the dormant Playhouse to a place of national prominence. "Since his return to the Playhouse in 2001, more than half of the plays and musicals that the Playhouse has produced in that time have been original works, including the McAnuff-directed Jersey Boys, recently awarded four Tony Awards, including Best Musical.

McAnuff is perhaps best known for directing Broadway's Big River, The Who's Tommy, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, 700 Sundays and A Walk in the Woods.

McAnuff last worked in Stratford in 1983, when he directed Shakespeare's Macbeth. "Stratford Festival of Canada was in my life even before La Jolla Playhouse," McAnuff said in prepared remarks. "In fact, the festival first approached me about playing a leadership role even before I met with the search committee for the Playhouse in 1982. On a couple of occasions since that time, the representatives of Stratford have approached me again about getting involved. I'm thrilled to finally accept a senior position with this prestigious company, which is surely one of the leading classical theatres in the world." McAnuff added, "I consider my role in the rebirth and development of La Jolla Playhouse as the single greatest accomplishment of my career. And I expect that I will always feel that way. But while I greatly enjoy directing new plays and musicals, my first loves are the plays of William Shakespeare. Stratford gives me the much desired opportunity to explore the classic theatrical repertoire while continuing to do new work. The fact that Stratford has created a model in which I could also continue my outside projects had a great deal of appeal. Sharing the artistic director position will give me the opportunity to carry on the work I've been developing the past few seasons in La Jolla and also allow me to continue a relationship with the Playhouse."

Marti Maraden is a renowned classical theatre director and a champion of Canadian work, with 16 Stratford seasons to her credit. Her production of The Merchant of Venice in 1996 at Stratford "showcased her deft hand with Shakespeare," according to Stratford's announcement. She directed Elliott Hayes' Homeward Bound, which went on to stages across the continent. Maraden recently completed her term as the artistic director of English Theatre at the National Arts Centre (NAC) in Ottawa. Maraden was one of the driving forces behind the Magnetic North Theatre Festival, which is the first-ever national festival dedicated to Canadian work. She is an accomplished director of classical and contemporary pieces, having directed at various stages such as CanStage, the Shaw Festival, the Manitoba Theatre Centre, the Saidye Bronfman Centre for the Arts and Chicago Shakespeare Theater.

Don Shipley has been engaged in almost every capacity in the theatrical arena over the course of his career. He was the founding artistic director of the Belfry Theatre in Victoria, B.C., and served as artistic director of The Grand Theatre, the Vancouver Playhouse (Touring Division), Harbourfront Centre and the du Maurier World Stage Festival, the only contemporary English-speaking theatre festival of its kind in North America. During his stay at the du Maurier World Stage Festival, Shipley brought artists from around the world to the Toronto stage. Shipley has also been the national casting director at CBC Drama and has directed at major Canadian theatres, including the Shaw Festival, the National Arts Centre, the Manitoba Theatre Centre and Theatre Calgary. Shipley is currently the artistic director and CEO at the Dublin International Theatre Festival. A child actor at the Stratford Festival, Shipley was also artistic associate under Robin Phillips as well as director of workshops at the Stratford Festival.

"The Festival will benefit immensely from the wide ranging experience that Marti, Des and Don bring to us," Cimolino said in a statement. "They have all spent time here in Stratford and they know the repertory system. Together with the diverse influences that have shaped them, they make the perfect artistic leaders to help our actors and artists push beyond their creative boundaries."

McAnuff grew up in Southern Ontario. "Stratford was only a car ride away," he said. "I consider it a great privilege to return to the stages where my love for theatre was born."

McAnuff is a dual citizen of Canada and the United States. He began his career in Toronto as a composer-lyricist before turning to playwriting in the early 1970s.

McAnuff's production of Macbeth opened the 1983 season at the Stratford Festival of Canada, and in that same year, La Jolla Playhouse in California was reborn under his leadership.

McAnuff will direct two productions in the upcoming months at La Jolla Playhouse: a new version of The Wiz and a Page To Stage Workshop Production of Aaron Sorkin's new play, The Farnsworth Invention.

His production of Lucy Simon's world premiere musical Zhivago opened the 2006 season.

Effective April 2007, McAnuff will step down as artistic director of La Jolla Playhouse and assume the newly created position of director emeritus.

Visit www.stratfordfestival.com.