Des McAnuff, the Tony-winning director of “Jersey Boys,” will step down from his position as artistic director of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival after the 2013 season.
McAnuff announced his decision Saturday to extend his contract for a sixth year, but to depart after that time.
Toronto-raised McAnuff originally joined the festival as one of a three artistic directors in 2007, but before their initial 2008 season could even open, the other two (Marti Maraden and Don Shipley) resigned over personal and professional disagreements with McAnuff. General director Antoni Cimolino swiftly offered the position to McAnuff, who opened the season as scheduled.
Major achievements to date have been his productions of “Caesar and Cleopatra” and “The Tempest.” both starring Christopher Plummer and both filmed for screenings in movie theaters across North America. He just opened a new revival of “Jesus Christ Superstar,” which has received some the most enthusiastic reviews in the fest’s recent history.McAnuff will also be remembered for bringing in high-level guest directors, including Gary Griffin, Frank Galati and Ethan McSweeny, as well as developing new work from Canadian authors like Morris Panych, John Mighton, Daniel MacIvor and George F. Walker
In addition, he saw productions from his theatre flourish away from their home base, with the current hit Roundabout version of “The Importance of Being Earnest” having originally started at Stratford in 2009.
While at Stratford, McAnuff has also directed “The Farnsworth Invention” on Broadway, “Faust” at the English National Opera (moving to the Metropolitan Opera in fall, 2011), “Doctor Zhivago” in Sydney/Melbourne earlier this year and “Fetch Clay, Make Man” at the McCarter Theatre in January, 2010.
He also announced the 2012 season, Stratford’s 60th, which will include three Shakespeare plays, four musicals, four Canadian plays and the return of Plummer, Griffin and McSweeny. “I still have almost 40% of my tenure ahead of me,” he said.
“I think six years is a very healthy term given the challenges and the importance of the job,” McAnuff said.