Stratford Shakeup: McAnuff Will Be Sole Artistic Director of Ontario Fest; Maraden and Shipley Resign

News   Stratford Shakeup: McAnuff Will Be Sole Artistic Director of Ontario Fest; Maraden and Shipley Resign Even before The Stratford Shakespeare Festival begins its first season under three artistic directors — an unusual arrangement, to be sure — the famed Ontario company has announced that only one will reign in 2009.
Des McAnuff
Des McAnuff

Tony Award winner Des McAnuff (The Who's Tommy, Jersey Boys, The Farnsworth Invention) will be the sole artistic director following the current 2008 season in which McAnuff shares the title with Marti Maraden and Don Shipley.

Maraden, a longtime fixture at Stratford, will continue to direct All's Well That Ends Well and The Trojan Women in 2008.

General director Antoni Cimolino and the Festival's Board of Governors have asked 2008 co-artistic director Des McAnuff to serve as sole artistic director, according to a March 13 announcement.

"Marti, Des and Don have worked together successfully for 21 months and have planned a phenomenal 2008 season," stated Cimolino. "I have the utmost respect for Marti and Don's work. I chose them for these roles and it is with great sadness that I have accepted their resignations."

Seven productions are now in rehearsal for 2008. The three artistic directors had been focusing on planning for the 2009 season, a process that will now be undertaken by McAnuff with support from Cimolino. The Toronto Star reported that Shipley is dropping out as director of 2008's Krapp's Last Tape. The announcement of a leadership trio to replace retiring artistic director surprised the Canadian theatre community in 2006.

"Des is one of the most innovative creative minds working in theatre today and I know his artistic leadership will serve the Festival extremely well," stated Cimolino.

Along with Cimolino and McAnuff, Richard Rooney, chair of the Festival's Board of Governors, addressed a full company meeting Thursday.

"We on the board have given Antoni and Des our full support," stated Rooney. "We welcome Des' increased participation and know that both Antoni and Des will ensure a smooth transition and the Festival's continued success."

McAnuff was artistic director of La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego for 20 years. He is the director of the award-winning musical Jersey Boys, which is now playing throughout the U.S.; it will open in London, England, on Tuesday and in Toronto in August.

The two-time Tony Award winner is a native of Scarborough, Ontario. He spent a number of years working with Joseph Papp at the New York Shakespeare Festival's Public Theater, where he directed classics. He was a director at the Stratford Festival in the 1980s during the tenure of John Hirsch. McAnuff will helm the Festival's 2008 productions of Romeo and Juliet and Caesar and Cleopatra.