During his tenure, Langham returned to England to direct Hamlet (Stratford-upon-Avon, 1956), The Two Gentlemen of Verona (The Old Vic, 1957), The Merchant of Venice (Stratford-upon-Avon, 1958) and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (The Old Vic, 1960). He was offered the artistic directorship of The Old Vic in 1958, but turned it down.
Meanwhile, he also contributed to the establishment of the Canada Council and the National Theatre School.
He first directed what would become his signature work, Love’s Labour’s Lost, at Stratford in 1961. He directed the same play three more times at Stratford in addition to productions elsewhere. His 1963 production of Timon of Athens, with John Colicos in the title role, featured music from jazz great Duke Ellington and a dazzling modern design from Brian Jackson. He tackled Timon again in 1991 with Brian Bedford in the title role. That production transferred to Broadway in 1993, winning three Tony nominations for best director, best actor and best revival of a play.
When Langham took a sabbatical during the 1965 season, a committee consisting of Douglas Campbell, Jean Gascon, John Hirsch and Stuart Burge ran the theatre under Campbell’s acting artistic directorship. Achievements and accolades continued to mount, and in 1967, the last year of Langham’s tenure, the Festival officially opened a second performance space: the renovated Avon Theatre.
Langham’s subsequent career included such highlights as The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie on Broadway in 1967 and The Way of the World at Britain’s National Theatre in 1969, as well as such acclaimed Stratford productions as The School for Scandal (1970), Arms and the Man (1982), Henry IV, Part 1 (1984) and The Merchant of Venice (1989).
In 1971, at the request of Tyrone Guthrie, he became artistic director of the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, a position he held until 1977. From 1979 to 1992, he served as director of the drama division of the Juilliard School in New York, and in 1983 and 1984 he headed the Festival’s Young Company at the Third Stage.
The last production Langham directed at Stratford was in 2008. Presented by members of the Birmingham Conservatory for Classical Theatre, it was, fittingly, a production of Love’s Labour’s Lost, the play with which his name will forever be associated. He died in England at his home near Cranbrook, Kent, on January 15, 2011.
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Executive Artistic Director 1968–1969
Artistic Director 1969–1974
Born in Montreal, Quebec, on December 21, 1921, Jean Gascon began acting with Emile Legault’s Compaignons de Saint-Laurent while studying medicine at the University of Montreal. Giving up his medical studies after five years to pursue a stage career, he left for Paris in 1946 to study with the great actress and teacher Ludmilla Pitoëff, and then with Julien Bertheau at L’École du Vieux-Colombier. In 1950, he directed Molière’s L’Avare at the Centre Dramatique de L’Ouest.
He also acted at the Phoenix Theatre in New York, where in 1951 he directed Molière’s An Evening of Farces. That same year he returned to Montreal, where he helped found Le Théâtre du Nouveau Monde, serving as its artistic director for the next fifteen years.
In 1956, when Gascon and other members of Le Théâtre du Nouveau Monde played the French court in Michael Langham’s production of Henry V, they also presented three farces by Molière at the rented Avon Theatre. The company returned to Stratford two years later with Molière’s La Malade Imaginaire, and in 1959 Gascon was invited (with George McCowan) to co-direct Othello at the Festival Theatre.
Instrumental in founding the National Theatre School in Montreal in 1960, Gascon served as its first director general from 1960 to 1963. At Stratford, he directed a commedia dell’arte production of The Comedy of Errors in 1963, and his 1964 Festival production of Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme was well received on its tour to Chichester, England.
Gascon’s love of music was demonstrated in his musical and operatic productions at the Avon Theatre, including the North American première of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny (1965). In 1966 he directed and acted in a renowned production of Strindberg’s The Dance of Death.
After the 1967 season, Gascon was appointed Executive Artistic Director of the Stratford Festival with John Hirsch as Associate Artistic Director. In 1968 and 1969 he directed his signature production of Tartuffe, Jonson’s The Alchemist and Peter Luke’s Hadrian VII, which toured the U.S. for thirty-eight weeks.
During Gascon’s tenure, the Festival emerged as a national theatre, spending two winter seasons at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa in 1968 and 1969, and touring to Holland, Denmark, Poland and the Soviet Union in 1973 and to Australia in 1974. Gascon introduced many works to the Festival’s repertoire, including his acclaimed productions of John Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi, Shakespeare’s romance plays Cymbeline and Pericles, and Feydeau’s farce There’s One in Every Marriage.
It was also under Gascon’s artistic directorship that the Festival opened the Third Stage as a theatre hospitable to new and experimental work. Many important productions of new Canadian operas and plays took place during this era, including Michael Ondaatje’s The Collected Works of Billy the Kid and R. Murray Shafer’s Patria II: Requiems for the Party Girl.
After his tenure as Artistic Director, Gascon continued to work as both actor and director, working on such productions as John Coulter’s Riel and a French adaptation of Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night at Le Théâtre du Nouveau Monde. His post-tenure productions at the Festival include Dürrenmatt’s The Visit and Molière’s The Misanthrope (1981). In 1977 he was appointed director of theatre at the National Arts Centre, a position he held until 1984. He participated as actor and director in the work of both the English and French companies of the NAC.
Among his many honours, Gascon was a Companion of the Order of Canada and a recipient of the Royal Bank Award, the Molson Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Arts in Canada and the Prix du Québec.
In 1988, after performing in Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard at Le Théâtre du Nouveau Monde, Gascon returned to Stratford, where he died on April 13 while directing Lerner and Loewe’s My Fair Lady.
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Artistic Director 1975–1980
Robin Phillips was born on February 28, 1942, in Haslemere, Surrey, England. He trained at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and made his professional stage debut with the Bristol Old Vic company in June 1959, as Mr. Puff in The Critic. Continuing to act with the Bristol Old Vic, he became an associate director there in 1961.
He acted in Laurence Olivier’s first Chichester season in 1962 and with the Oxford Playhouse company in 1964. In 1965 he was assistant director with the Royal Shakespeare Company, and from 1967 to 1968 he served as associate director of the Northcott Theatre, Exeter. He returned to the RSC in 1970 to direct Edward Albee’s Tiny Alice and had a great success with Roland Miller’s Heloise and Abelard (in London and on Broadway) in 1970. Among his other early directorial achievements were The Two Gentlemen of Verona (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1971), Caesar and Cleopatra (Chichester, 1971) and Christopher Fry’s The Lady’s Not For Burning (Chichester, 1972).
Having helped to found the Company Theatre in Greenwich, England, he became its artistic director in 1973, directing, among other plays, The Three Sisters and The House of Bernarda Alba.
Phillips was appointed Artistic Director of the Stratford Festival in 1974. Major innovations with long-range implications were introduced in his first season, 1975. The balcony on the Festival Theatre stage became removable, broadening the scope of future productions; Shakespeare was performed at the Avon Theatre for the first time; the first Young Company was established; and the first national tour in years was launched.
Phillips also set his directorial standard that first season with his legendary production of Measure for Measure, revived in 1976. Successive seasons saw significantly increased revenues, more productions and performances and a heightened international profile for the Festival. Among Phillips’s major productions were A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1976 and 1977), The Importance of Being Earnest (1975, 1976 and 1979), King Lear (1979 and 1980), The Seagull and Virginia (both 1980).
Phillips handed in his written resignation in January 1979, to be effective at the end of the 1980 season. A collective artistic directorate consisting of Pamela Brighton, Martha Henry, Urjo Kareda and Peter Moss was appointed to succeed him, but was later disbanded.
Following his departure from Stratford, Phillips directed in England, Canada and the United States, including productions of Antony and Cleopatra (Chichester, 1985), Les Liaisons Dangereuses (Pittsburgh, 1990), Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Aspects of Love (Edmonton, Toronto and U.S. tour, 1991–92) and the premières of John Murrell’s Farther West (Calgary, 1982) and New World (National Arts Centre, Ottawa and CentreStage, Toronto, 1985). He was artistic director of the Grand Theatre in London, Ontario, for its ambitious 1983–84 season, which included his admired productions of Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens, Shaw’s The Doctor’s Dilemma and Murrell’s Waiting for the Parade (the latter filmed for television).
Phillips returned to Stratford to direct highly praised productions of Shakespeare’s Cymbeline (1986), Sheridan’s The School for Scandal (1987) and Shakespeare’s King John (1993). He was appointed Director of the Young Company at the Third Stage for the 1987 and 1988 seasons, directing six acclaimed productions, including As You Like It and a double bill of Oedipus and The Critic.
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Associate Artistic Director 1968–1969
Artistic Director 1981–1985
Born on May 1, 1930, in Siofok, Hungary, John Hirsch was the sole member of his immediate family to survive the Holocaust. In 1947 he emigrated to Canada, where he was adopted by a family in Winnipeg. He studied English and graduated from the University of Manitoba.
Hirsch’s early theatre work included the founding of a touring puppet theatre and a long association with the Winnipeg Little Theatre, where he directed his first play, William Saroyan’s The Time of Your Life (1951). In 1957 he founded Theatre 77, which merged with the Winnipeg Little Theatre in 1958 to become the Manitoba Theatre Centre, an institution that became a model for regional theatre development in North America. As MTC’s artistic director from 1958 to 1966, he mounted such productions as Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire, Gore Vidal’s Visit to a Small Planet, James Reaney’s Names and Nicknames and the first Canadian production of Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage.
In 1964 he directed Mère Courage, a French-language production of Mother Courage featuring Jean Gascon, for Montreal’s Théâtre du Nouveau Monde. The following year he directed his first play at the Stratford Festival, Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard. This was followed by Shakespeare’s Henry VI in 1966 and Richard III in 1967. It was also in 1967 that he directed the world première of James Reaney’s Colours in the Dark and was appointed Associate Artistic Director of the Stratford Festival, with Jean Gascon as Artistic Director.
In 1968 Hirsch directed an acclaimed production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the première of Peter Raby’s adaptation of The Three Musketeers. The following year he directed Hamlet and a rock musical adaptation by Tom Hendry and Stanley Silverman of Petronius’s The Satyricon.
Hirsch resigned as Associate Artistic Director at the end of the 1969 season and spent the next five years working primarily in the United States, where he won an Obie Award for his direction of AC/DC at the Chelsea Theatre in Brooklyn. In 1970 he also directed Chekhov’s The Seagull for the National Theatre of Israel, at the invitation of its then artistic director, David William.
Head of CBC Drama for English-language television from 1974 to 1977, Hirsch also directed several noted productions for the theatre during this tenure, including Ansky’s The Dybbuk at the Manitoba Theatre Centre (1973–74), the St. Lawrence Centre, Toronto, (1974) and the Mark Taper Forum, Los Angeles (1975). He returned to Stratford in 1976 to direct an acclaimed production of The Three Sisters.
In 1979 Hirsch was appointed consulting artistic director of the Seattle Repertory Theatre, and in December 1980 he accepted the post of Artistic Director of the Stratford Festival. During his five-year tenure he significantly heightened the profile of the Young Company at the Third Stage, redefining its character and intention as a training program for young professional actors.
He set his personal directorial standard with a magnificent production of Molière’s Tartuffe in 1983 and 1984, and evolved highly personal and widely praised interpretations of Shakespeare’s The Tempest (1982), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1984), As You Like It (1983) and King Lear (1985). In his final season, the Festival company embarked on an extensive North American tour with two productions, King Lear and Twelfth Night.
After leaving Stratford, Hirsch continued to coach and teach at several American universities and in 1987 directed a powerful production of Coriolanus at the Old Globe Theatre, San Diego. He was awarded the Order of Canada in 1967 and in 1976 the Molson Prize for Outstanding Contribution to the Arts in Canada. He died on August 1, 1989.
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Artistic Director 1986–1989
John Neville was born in Willesden, London, England, on May 2, 1925. Educated at Willesden and Chiswick County schools, he served in the Royal Navy from 1943 to 1945 and trained as an actor at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London from 1945 to 1947.
He made his professional acting debut with Open Air Theatre, Regent’s Park, playing Lysander in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Chatillon in King John. He spent the 1949–50 season with the Birmingham Repertory Theatre and the subsequent three seasons with the Bristol Old Vic. In 1953 he joined The Old Vic in London, where he was a leading member of the company through the 1959 season. His roles there included Bertram in All’s Well That Ends Well, Berowne in Love’s Labour’s Lost, Orlando in As You Like It, Hotspur in Henry IV, Part 1, Mark Antony in Julius Caesar, Autolycus in The Winter’s Tale, Troilus in Troilus and Cressida, Romeo in Romeo and Juliet, the title role in Richard II, both Othello and Iago in Othello (alternating with Richard Burton) and the title role in Hamlet.
In 1956 and 1957 he toured the United States with The Old Vic, playing Richard II, Romeo, Macduff in Macbeth and Thersites in Troilus and Cressida. In 1958 and 1959 he again toured the U.S. with The Old Vic, playing Hamlet and Sir Andrew Aguecheek in Twelfth Night. His numerous credits in London’s West End at this time included Nestor in Irma La Douce and the title role in Alfie.
In 1961 he became associate producer and then theatre director of the Nottingham Playhouse. He held that position until 1967, during which time he established the Playhouse as Britain’s foremost provincial repertory theatre. In 1968, he appeared in numerous West End productions and in 1969 ran a repertory season at London’s Fortune Theatre.
Neville came to Canada in 1972 to play Brack in Hedda Gabler at the Manitoba Theatre Centre in Winnipeg. The following year he played leading roles at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, then accepted the post of artistic director at Edmonton’s Citadel Theatre. He spent the next five years at the Citadel directing, among other plays, Romeo and Juliet and Michel Tremblay’s Hosanna. His tenure culminated in the opening of the Citadel’s theatre complex in downtown Edmonton. In 1978 he became artistic director of the Neptune Theatre in Halifax, a post he held for the next four years.
In 1983 Neville made his debut with the Stratford Festival. As a senior member of the Young Company at the Third Stage (now the Tom Patterson Theatre), he played Don Armado in Love’s Labour’s Lost and Leonato in Much Ado About Nothing. The following winter he was a member of Robin Phillips’s Grand Theatre company, appearing in Arsenic and Old Lace and Dear Antoine, while also directing Hamlet.
In Stratford’s 1984 season, he again played Don Armado as well as Shylock in The Merchant of Venice, both at the Festival Theatre. In 1985 he was Director of the Young Company and Artistic Director Designate, becoming Artistic Director in November 1985.
The first season of his tenure saw a significant change in the repertoire, which included Shakespeare’s rarely seen romance plays Pericles, Cymbeline and The Winter’s Tale, and the first Broadway musical to be presented on the Festival Theatre stage, The Boys from Syracuse. Another innovation was his doubling of complementary plays at the Avon Theatre, placing Hamlet, which he directed, in repertory with Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, and Henry VIII with Robert Bolt’s A Man for All Seasons.
Neville directed two Festival productions in 1987, Othello and Mother Courage, and played Anton Chekhov in Richard Epp’s Intimate Admiration. The following year, he played Henry Higgins in the Festival’s first production of My Fair Lady, and in the final season of his tenure, he directed a highly praised production of Chekhov’s Three Sisters. Under his leadership, the Festival recovered from a significant deficit and established a sound financial base for the future.
His roles after Stratford included Sir Peter Teazle in The School for Scandal at Britain’s National Theatre (1990), along with many appearances in film and television, including the title role in Terry Gilliam’s 1988 film The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Mr. Laurence in the 1994 film adaptation of Little Women and the recurring role of the Well Manicured Man in the science-fiction television series The X-Files.
Named an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1965, John Neville was appointed to the Order of Canada in 2006. He died on November 19, 2011, at the age of 86.
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Artistic Director 1990–1993
David William was born on June 24, 1926, in London, England. He began his career in the theatre as an actor at University College, Oxford, where he played several leading roles with the Oxford University Dramatic Society, including Hamlet and Richard II.
He made his first professional stage appearance at The Old Vic in September 1953, as Rosencrantz in Hamlet. After two years as a director with the Guildford Repertory Theatre, he resumed his acting career in 1956, joining the Stratford Memorial Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, England. There he played several principal roles, including Dumaine in Love’s Labour’s Lost.
From that point on, William maintained a reputation as an actor and an accomplished director for both the opera and the theatre. His extensive international experience included a tour of Pakistan, India and Ceylon for the New Shakespeare Company, at which time he played the title role in his own production of Richard II.
William was both the founder and artistic director of the Ludlow Festival, where he directed Macbeth and Comus among other productions. In 1962, he helped to found and served as the artistic director for the New Shakespeare Festival at the Open Air Theatre in Regent’s Park, London. While there, he appeared as Oberon in his own production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
The Mermaid Theatre soon invited him to become its associate director, and as part of that role he directed a highly acclaimed production of The Shoemakers’ Holiday (1964), as well as Left Handed Liberty, a new play by John Arden that had been commissioned by the City of London as part of the Magna Carta celebrations.
William then became director of productions at the Glasgow Citizens’ Theatre, where he directed James Reaney’s The Killdeer as part of the Commonwealth Festival in 1965. The following year, he was invited by Michael Langham to direct Twelfth Night for the Stratford Festival, thus commencing his long association with this theatre.
Over the next two decades, William directed numerous productions around the world, including The Misanthrope for American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco; Purcell’s opera The Fairy Queen for the Gulbenkian Festival in Lisbon; Handel’s Xerxes for Sadler’s Wells Opera in London, England; the American première of Peter Barnes’s The Ruling Class; Richard II for the National Theatre of Great Britain; The Way of the World and King Lear for the Actors’ Company in Edinburgh, London and New York; and The Martyrdom of St. Magnus, Le Jongleur and Peter Maxwell Davies’s opera The Lighthouse for Maggio Musicale in Florence.
In addition, he was director of the National Theatre of Israel from January 1969 to April 1970, and acting artistic director of the Nottingham Repertory Theatre in 1972. Among the world première productions he directed were The Lighthouse, Denis Cannan’s Dear Daddy and John Tavener’s operas The Gentle Spirit and Thérèse.
Productions he directed at the Stratford Festival include Volpone (1971); King Lear (1972), which toured Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union; The Winter’s Tale (1986); Murder in the Cathedral (1988); and The Shoemakers’ Holiday (1989).
In 1990, his first season as the Festival’s Artistic Director, William directed Love for Love and co-directed Macbeth, while also playing Jaques in As You Like It. He introduced a critically acclaimed international repertoire at the Tom Patterson Theatre, including Racine’s Phaedra, Beaumont’s The Knight of the Burning Pestle, Michel Tremblay’s Forever Yours, Marie-Lou and Euripides’s Bacchae.
In his second and third seasons, William demonstrated his commitment to Canadian drama by programming two more of Tremblay’s plays, Les Belles-soeurs and Bonjour, là, Bonjour. He also, in 1991, produced the Festival’s first world première of a Canadian play in twelve years: Elliott Hayes’s Homeward Bound.
William’s fourth and final season as Artistic Director included another new Canadian play, Sharon Pollock’s Fair Liberty’s Call, as well as The Illusion, the Festival’s first ever production of a play by Pierre Corneille. Two of that season’s other productions, The Importance of Being Earnest (directed by William) and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, were remounted in Ann Arbor, Michigan, after their Stratford run.
William taught extensively in Canada, the United States and Great Britain and is the author of The Tempest on the Stage and Hamlet in the Theatre, both published in the Stratford-upon-Avon Studies series. He died on July 28, 2010.
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Artistic Director 1994–2007
Born in Montreal on June 19, 1944, Richard Monette made his professional stage debut – as Hamlet with the Crest Theatre in Toronto – at the age of nineteen. His association with the Stratford Festival began shortly afterwards, in 1965, when he joined the company to appear in Julius Caesar and the two parts of Henry IV.
After three seasons at Stratford, he played several roles for Theatre Toronto, travelling to New York with the company’s production of the controversial play Soldiers. He then went to Britain, where he performed in Regent’s Park with the New Shakespeare Company, toured with the Welsh Theatre Company and, in 1970, became one of the original cast members of Kenneth Tynan’s groundbreaking erotic revue Oh! Calcutta!
Returning to Canada in 1972, he spent another season at Stratford and then, in 1974, won national acclaim for his electrifying performance in the title role of Michel Tremblay’s Hosanna. After reprising the role in New York, he returned to Stratford as a leading player, winning particular renown in 1978 for his solo performance in Judgement. In all, he played more than forty roles at the Festival, including Hamlet, Romeo, Mercutio, Henry V, Caliban in The Tempest and Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing. Over the course of his career, he also appeared in more than thirty film and television productions, including the feature films I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing, Dancing in the Dark and Iceman.
His work as a director began at the Festival in 1978 with Come and Go, a suite of four plays by Samuel Beckett. Ten years later, with the immense critical and popular success of his landmark 1950s-era production of The Taming of the Shrew, directing became the new focus of his career. Besides his work at the Festival during this period (including a fondly remembered As You Like It set in New France), he directed at The Grand Theatre in London, at Edmonton’s Citadel Theatre and in Toronto at Young People’s Theatre, Tarragon Theatre and Theatre Plus, where he won a Dora Mavor Moore Award for his 1990 production of Saint Joan. In 1991, he directed Beethoven’s Fidelio for the Canadian Opera Company.
Monette became Stratford’s Artistic Director in 1994, his twenty-third Festival season. During his tenure, in addition to returning to the stage in 1997 after a ten-year absence to play Domenico Soriano in Eduardo De Philippo’s Filumena, he directed more than forty productions, including Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, Hamlet, The Merry Wives of Windsor, King Lear, Much Ado About Nothing, The Tempest, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Merchant of Venice, All’s Well That Ends Well, Troilus and Cressida, King Henry VIII (All Is True), Henry IV, Part 1 and The Comedy of Errors; Molière’s The Miser (which transferred, with Much Ado About Nothing, to New York’s City Center in November 1998) and Tartuffe; a never-before-seen four-act version of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest that he compiled from Wilde’s original manuscripts; Christopher Marlowe’s Edward II; several contemporary dramas; and the musicals Camelot, My Fair Lady and Gigi.
His tenure also saw major renovations of the Festival and Avon theatres, the establishment of the For All Time Endowment Foundation, the founding of the Birmingham Conservatory for Classical Theatre, the establishment of a formal program of new play development and the creation of a long-dreamed-of fourth Festival venue, the Studio Theatre.
A recipient of the Queen’s Golden and Silver Jubilee Medals, Monette was awarded honorary doctorates by the University of Windsor, the University of Western Ontario and his alma mater, Concordia University. In 1997, he was named to the Order of Canada, and in 2006 the Canadian Theatre Critics Association awarded him the Herbert Whittaker/Drama Bench Award for Outstanding Contribution to Canadian Theatre.
Monette’s memoir, This Rough Magic, was published in 2007. He retired as Artistic Director at the end of the 2007 season and died on September 9, 2008.
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Co-Artistic Director 2008
Part of the team of Co-Artistic Directors (along with Marti Maraden and Des McAnuff) who planned the Stratford Shakespeare Festival’s 2008 season, Don Shipley was formerly artistic director of the Dublin International Theatre Festival, artistic director of the Grand Theatre in London, artistic director of the Vancouver Playhouse (touring division) and founding artistic director of Victoria’s Belfry Theatre.
Previously at Stratford, he served as an Artistic Associate of Robin Phillips and as Director of the Festival’s workshop program.
Shipley has directed at the Shaw Festival, the National Arts Centre and most of Canada’s regional theatres. From 1988 to 2002, he was artistic director of performing arts at Harbourfront Centre, artistic director of the WorldStage Festival and associate producer of A Festival of Creative Genius. He also served as associate producer of the inaugural Luminato Festival in 2007.
He has been honoured with Tyrone Guthrie and Canada Council awards, three Dora Mavor Moore Awards and France’s Prix Alliance Award.
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Co-Artistic Director 2008
A renowned classical theatre director and a champion of Canadian work, Marti Maraden was one of the three Co-Artistic Directors (along with Des McAnuff and Don Shipley) who planned the Stratford Shakespeare Festival’s 2008 season.
Her production of The Merchant of Venice at Stratford in 1996 showcased her deft hand with Shakespeare, and she was also entrusted with breathing life into Elliott Hayes’s Homeward Bound, which went on to stages across the continent. A former artistic director of English theatre at the National Arts Centre, she was also one of the driving forces behind the Magnetic North Theatre Festival, the first ever national festival dedicated to Canadian work.
Equally accomplished in classical and contemporary repertoire, she has directed for such organizations as Canadian Stage, the Shaw Festival, the Manitoba Theatre Centre, the Saidye Bronfman Centre for the Arts and Chicago Shakespeare Theater. She directed the Stratford Festival’s 2008 productions of The Trojan Women and All’s Well That Ends Well.
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Co-Artistic Director 2008
Artistic Director 2009–2012
Two-time Tony, Olivier and Dora Award winner Des McAnuff attended Ryerson Theatre School and was part of Toronto’s burgeoning theatre scene in the 1970s, writing, composing and directing plays and musicals for, among others, the Factory Theatre Lab, Toronto Free Theatre and Theatre Passe Muraille (his adaptation of Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus). He also composed music for Michael Ondaatje’s The Collected Works of Billy the Kid.
In 1976, he went to New York City, where he directed Glenn Close in Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz’s The Crazy Locomotive, Roberta Maxwell in Wolfgang Hildesheimer’s Mary Stuart and Dianne Wiest in his own play Leave It to Beaver Is Dead – the latter two at the Public Theater, where Joseph Papp also produced his play with music The Death of Von Richthofen as Witnessed from Earth.
McAnuff spent eighteen years as artistic director of La Jolla Playhouse in California, where he directed more than thirty productions of Shakespeare and other classics, new plays and musicals. His adventurous leadership won La Jolla a Tony for Outstanding Regional Theatre and sent fifteen productions to Broadway, beginning in 1985 with Big River, which received Tony Awards for Best Director and Best Musical, and also including A Walk in the Woods in 1988.
On Broadway, he has directed numerous other plays and musicals, including Guys and Dolls (2009), Aaron Sorkin’s The Farnsworth Invention (2007) and the smash hit Jersey Boys (2006), which won four Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and went on in its London production to receive an Olivier Award for Best Musical. Eventually there were as many as seven productions running simultaneously on three continents around the world.
McAnuff’s other Broadway productions include Billy Crystal’s 700 Sundays (2004 Tony Award), How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (1995) and The Who’s Tommy (1993), which he co-authored with Pete Townshend. That musical won him Tony and Olivier awards for Best Director and an Olivier for Best Musical.
Director of the films Cousin Bette, with Jessica Lange, and The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, with Robert De Niro, he was also executive producer for the film version of Doug Wright’s play Quills and producer for the award-winning feature animation Iron Giant, based on the novel by Ted Hughes.
McAnuff directed his first production at Stratford – Macbeth, with Nicholas Pennell and Roberta Maxwell – in 1983. In November 2007, he was appointed as one of a trio of Co-Artistic Directors (with Marti Maraden and Don Shipley) and became sole Artistic Director in March 2008.
Productions he directed at Stratford during his tenure include Romeo and Juliet, Caesar and Cleopatra, Macbeth, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, As You Like It, The Tempest, Twelfth Night, Jesus Christ Superstar (which transferred to San Diego’s La Jolla Playhouse before opening on Broadway), Henry V and Christopher Plummer’s one-man show A Word or Two. Caesar and Cleopatra and The Tempest, both of which also starred Plummer, were filmed for screenings at Cineplex Entertainment theatres across Canada and were broadcast multiple times on Bravo! and CTV, and as far away as Australia. The Tempest was released across the U.S. in the spring of 2012.
Recent productions elsewhere include his 2010 staging of Gounod’s Faust (English National Opera and Metropolitan Opera), which also was filmed and shown in cinemas worldwide, and the new musical Doctor Zhivago, which played in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, Australia, in 2011, and then in Seoul with an all-Korean cast. Current projects include Senna, a new opera commissioned for the English National Opera and the New York Metropolitan Opera, and the new musical Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, with Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips.
Appointed to the Order of Canada in 2012, McAnuff has also received the Drama League’s prestigious Julia Hansen Award for Excellence in Directing; an honorary doctorate from his alma mater, Ryerson University; and the National Arts Centre Governor General’s Performing Arts Award.