Des McAnuff To Exit Stratford; Christopher Plummer, New Musical, Trio of Shakespeares Planned for 2012

By Kenneth Jones
05 Jun 2011

Des McAnuff
Des McAnuff
Photo by Aubrey Reuben

Tony Award-winning director Des McAnuff will leave the position of artistic director of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival after the 2013 season, he and the Stratford board of governors announced on June 4. They also revealed the shows for the 2012 season — the Canadian company's 60th.

The 2012 slate includes the world premiere of a new musical, Wanderlust, inspired by and using the work of Canadian Yukon poet Robert Service. Acclaimed international actor Christopher Plummer, whose roots are deep in the festival, is creating a one-man show for the coming season, as well. Expect three works by Shakespeare and three world premieres in 2012, plus much more.

"Mr. McAnuff is a very gifted director and leader who is much in demand, and we are delighted that he has agreed to continue as our artistic director for an additional two years," Dr. Lee Myers, chair of the board of governors said in a statement.

McAnuff, who won the Tony for Best Direction for his work on The Who's Tommy, said, "I've completed the planning on our 2012 season, the Festival's milestone 60th, and have some preliminary plans in place for 2013. Although I have some exciting projects emerging in my work outside of Stratford that will pull me away following the 2013 season, I do hope to serve as a director in the future here and to continue to play an active role in the development of this magnificent theatre."



Among his achievements since starting as artist director there in 2008 is his commitment to new play development, resulting in world premieres staged over the last four years. This year's The Little Years by John Mighton was commissioned by the Festival."

Here's the 2012 Stratford Shakespeare Festival season at a glance:

FESTIVAL THEATRE

McAnuff will direct Shakespeare's Henry V, "perhaps Shakespeare's most penetrating study of kingship."

Shakespeare's popular comedy Much Ado About Nothing, directed by Christopher Newton, former artistic director of the Shaw Festival and a member of the Stratford Festival acting company in the 1960s.

42nd Street, the showbiz musical about dancers in a Broadway show, with music by Harry Warren, lyrics by Al Dubin and book by Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble, directed by Chicago and Broadway director Gary Griffin, who directed Stratford productions of West Side Story, Evita and Camelot.

Thornton Wilder's The Matchmaker, the comedy about living life fully, which "owes its existence in part to the Stratford Festival's first artistic director, Tyrone Guthrie, who in the early 1950s urged Wilder to rework its earlier incarnation, The Merchant of Yonkers." Chris Abraham, who directed For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again at Stratford, will direct.

AVON THEATRE

Christopher Plummer takes to the stage to present his one-man show A Word or Two, "a deeply personal work that focuses on his love of literature and the way it has shaped his life." Expect selections from Stephen Leacock, Bernard Shaw and, of course, William Shakespeare. McAnuff will supervise and direct.

Gilbert and Sullivan's comic operetta The Pirates of Penzance, directed by Ethan McSweeny, who staged Dangerous Liaisons at the Festival in 2009.

Donna Feore will direct You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, inspired by the comic strip "Peanuts," with book, music and lyrics by Clark M. Gesner.

TOM PATTERSON THEATRE

Shakespeare's late-career romance, Cymbeline, directed by Stratford managing director Antoni Cimolino, whose acting and directing credits there are many.

Sophocles' ancient Greek play Elektra, in a translation by Canadian poet Anne Carson. The "timeless tale of vengeful matricide and the price that must be paid for it" will be staged by acclaimed Athenian director Thomas Moschopoulos.

Robert Service, who immortalized the Yukon in such beloved poems as "The Shooting of Dan McGrew" and "The Cremation of Sam Magee," inspired the world-premiere musical Wanderlust. Written and directed by Morris Panych, with music by Marek Norman (Larry's Party), this Festival commission "celebrates both the allure of the frontier and the power of the imagination with a wit that matches the best of Service's poetry."

STUDIO THEATRE

The Hirsch Project (working title), developed through the Festival's New Play program, writer-actor Alon Nashman and director Paul Thompson "paint an intimate portrait of former Festival artistic director John Hirsch. Compiled from documents, letters and interviews, this play for a solo performer tells the story of Hirsch's escape from the Holocaust, his arrival in Canada and his rise to national and international acclaim as a theatre director."

Daniel MacIvor's The Best Brothers, another world premiere developed with the New Play Department, involves two brothers who re-examine their lives and relationships — with their partners and with each other — after the death of their beloved mother. The "brilliant and biting comedy" will be directed by Dean Gabourie, the Festival's assistant artistic director, who directed 2009's The Two Gentlemen of Verona.

MacHomer, multi-media comedy production in which Shakespeare’s Macbeth meets the animated TV show "The Simpsons." Created and performed by Canadian Rick Miller, the work (seen around North America) "adopts more than 50 different Simpsons character voices while retaining most of Shakespeare's text."

Stratford Shakespeare Festival in located in Stratford, Ontario. Visit stratfordshakespearefestival.com.