From “Jersey Boy” to Shakespeare Boy. Des McAnuff, the helmer behind this year’s Tony Award-winning musical about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, on Monday was named as one of a trio of artistic directors enlisted to shape the future of Canada’s renowned Stratford Festival. Move comes just days after McAnuff announced he would step down as artistic director of La Jolla Playhouse in 2007.
Antoni Cimolino was announced April 18 as the Stratford fest’s new general director, starting with the 2008 season, replacing Richard Monette, who has been artistic director since 1994. Cimolino indicated then that he would be joined by “three or four artistic directors” who would help put a new stamp on the festival.
McAnuff will be joined by Marti Maraden, former artistic director of Canada’s National Arts Center; and Don Shipley, current head of the Dublin Theater Festival.
All three have strong links to the Stratford fest and to Canada. McAnuff, although born in Illinois, moved to Toronto as an infant and began his career in the city’s underground theater movement in the 1970s. After establishing himself in New York, he returned to Canada to direct “Macbeth” at Stratford in 1983.
McAnuff confirmed that he had been thinking of leaving La Jolla for some time now (he remains in the newly created position of artistic director emeritus) and that the Stratford offer was just one of many factors.
The Minnesota-born Maraden came to Canada in the late 1960s and carved out a career for herself as a successful actress, appearing at Stratford through the 1970s. She took up directing in the 1980s, and her works at the festival have included “The Merchant of Venice” and “Love’s Labour’s Lost.” Maraden recently staged “Much Ado About Nothing” for Chicago Shakespeare Theater.
Shipley is a Canadian who worked as artistic director at various regional theaters before becoming a.d. of Toronto’s World Stage Festival, bringing cutting-edge international theater to Toronto. He was wooed away by the Dublin Theater Festival, where he recently mounted his first season. Shipley said he will oversee the 2006 Dublin season and hopes to have input in the 2007 season, the fest’s 50th anni edition.
The three artistic directors have agreed to be in residence at Stratford for six months a year during a minimum period of three years.