La Jolla Playhouse's President of the Board of Trustees Ralph Bryan announced that the director of the company will continue on as Director Emeritus to "allow McAnuff to pursue other creative opportunities while maintaining his relationship with La Jolla Playhouse."
McAnuff — who has, in the past two years, seen his stagings of Dracula, 700 Sundays and Jersey Boys come to Broadway — served as artistic director of La Jolla Playhouse from 1983 to 1994, then returned in 2001. (The company earned the Regional Tony Award in 1993 under his tenure.) He will still stage the Playhouse's upcoming re-imagining of The Wiz and the Page To Stage workshop production of Aaron Sorkin's The Farnsworth Invention.
"Des has brought inspired, visionary leadership to La Jolla Playhouse," said Board President Ralph Bryan in a release. "Since his return in 2001, he has re-energized our theatre's reputation, garnering national accolades as a center for new play development and as a creative haven for our nation's leading artists. Des has also rejuvenated the community's interest in the Playhouse, significantly increasing the number of donors and subscribers and extending the reach of our educational programs."
A search committee has been approved by the board to find a new artistic director for the company.
"I have deeply enjoyed serving as artistic director and look forward to making my new role as director emeritus as meaningful and impactful as possible," stated McAnuff. "It is my intention to continue to direct plays, raise funds for the Playhouse and serve as an ambassador for the institution far into the future. There is no doubt in my mind that La Jolla Playhouse is absolutely at the forefront of the American resident theatre movement and we expect to attract exceptionally strong leadership after a rigorous search." McAnuff noted "This decision has been motivated by both outside opportunities that have recently presented themselves and by my commitments to projects born from my work at La Jolla Playhouse. It is imperative to me as well as to the Playhouse that I honor these obligations to the artists involved. For these professional reasons — and for personal reasons — it has become crucial for me to spend more time in New York."
A Tony Award winner for his direction of Big River and The Who's Tommy, McAnuff's Broadway credits also include How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and A Walk in the Woods in addition to his numerous productions as producer with Dodger Theatricals. (Most of his Broadway work was developed at La Jolla.) His directorial film work includes "The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle" and "Cousin Bette."
"I consider my role in the rebirth and development of La Jolla Playhouse as the single greatest accomplishment of my career," concluded McAnuff, "and I expect that I will always feel that way."