"The position of artistic director at the Stratford Festival is an all-consuming one," he said in a statement. "At the end of this current term, I will have served 15 years, including the first challenging year of transition in 1993. I am proud of our accomplishments and feel that, at this term's end, the time will be right for a change of leadership. I look forward to continuing my creative work in the theatre at a less-demanding pace."
Monette, who became artistic director in 1994 and has spent 35 seasons at the Stratford Festival, will be the longest-serving leader in this position in the festival's history by the end of his tenure. "I am clarifying my plans now because a search for my successor will require time, and the new artistic director ideally should be on board to work with me throughout the 2007 season," Monette said. "When I began here, I worked closely with David William for a year in 1993 when he was artistic director and I was the designate for the job: it was an essential time, for me, and a most valuable way to pass the torch."
"Richard Monette has transformed the Stratford Festival for both artists and audiences over his tenure," said Tom Orr, chair of the festival's board of governors. "He created the Birmingham Conservatory for Classical Theatre Training, built the new Studio Theatre, expanded new play development and established the For All Time Endowment Campaign, to name some of his outstanding initiatives. In addition, he has guided the festival to achieve 11 fiscally successful seasons in a row."
Monette oversaw extensive renovations of the Festival and Avon theatres and helped the festival reach out to wider audiences through transfers to New York, Chicago, Ottawa and Edmonton, as well as through film, television and radio projects, Orr said.
On Monette's watch, the Festival received its first Tony nomination, for King Lear in New York in 2004, and Festival artists received three Gemini Awards and two ACTRA Awards honoring the film version of Elizabeth Rex, which premièred in Stratford in 2000. Monette has overseen productions of all of Shakespeare's work during his tenure "and is also committed to program plays suitable for families, to encourage future generations of theatregoers," Orr said. "Amid all that, he has found time to direct 27 productions on all four of the Festival's stages and will direct three shows in our upcoming season — The Tempest, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Edward II."
Monette informed the festival company of his decision Feb. 10. "I have been proud to serve as the Festival's artistic director," he said. "It has been the ultimate privilege. I still have much to accomplish in the next three seasons: I intend to build upon the key initiatives which have begun during my tenure, including the Endowment, the new play development program, the Family Experience program and the Conservatory. I have let our Board know that I will serve the Festival at least until the end of 2007, or until such time as a successor is in place."
The festival's board of governors will set up a special search committee, led by Kelly Meighen, chair of the board's governance committee, to begin the process of selecting the Festival's next artistic director.