The Stratford Shakespeare Festival artistic director Des McAnuff has been appointed as a Member of the Order of Canada.
The country’s highest civilian honour, the Order of Canada recognizes a lifetime of outstanding achievement, dedication to community and service to the nation.
McAnuff is being recognized for his contributions to theatre, notably the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, and as a director of award-winning musicals.
“On behalf of all of us at the Festival, I extend heartiest congratulations to Des on this richly deserved honour,” says general director Antoni Cimolino. “His outstanding accomplishments, both here in Canada and on the world stage, have given this country much to be proud of, and I am delighted to see them recognized in this most befitting manner.”
McAnuff has been artistic director of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival since 2008.
During his tenure he has worked to reaffirm the Festival’s status as a leading international institution, where the great Canadian masters of theatre stand shoulder to shoulder with acclaimed actors and directors from beyond Canada’s borders.
He has built a diverse company that more truly reflects the ethnic makeup of the Canada we live in today, with outstanding actors of colour now constituting a significant proportion of the company.
He has created new opportunities for the Festival to cultivate young talent through the Michael Langham Workshop for Classical Direction, which since 2010 has given more than 20 emerging Canadian directors an unparalleled opportunity to develop their skills.
He has also increased the Festival’s commitment to the commissioning, development and production of new Canadian drama. Through the annual Playwrights Retreat, established in 2008, and a series of other residencies, he has made the Festival a natural home for Canadian playwrights, with more than 60 playwrights participating in these programs.
In addition, roughly a dozen playwrights have been commissioned during McAnuff’s tenure. The 2012 season sees the première of three new Canadian works, including a musical, and half of the productions being presented have been written by Canadians.
This season, McAnuff is directing Henry V and A Word or Two, a new work written, arranged and performed by Christopher Plummer.
In 2011 he directed a celebrated production of Twelfth Night starring Brian Dennehy and Stephen Ouimette, which was also filmed for release in cinemas.
His acclaimed production of Jesus Christ Superstar opened on Broadway in March, after enjoying an extended run at Stratford and then at La Jolla Playhouse in California.
McAnuff opened the second North American tour of Jersey Boys in Philadelphia. He directed a new musical production of Doctor Zhivago, which played in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, Australia, and then in Seoul with an all-Korean cast. He directed Gounod’s Faust for the Metropolitan Opera starring Jonas Kaufmann, René Pape and Marina Poplavskaya. This production was filmed and shown in cinemas worldwide.
His Stratford production of The Tempest, starring Christopher Plummer, was also released in cinemas in the U.S. and Canada, as was his production of Caesar and Cleopatra, with Mr. Plummer, in 2009.
McAnuff concludes his tenure as artistic director of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival after the 2012 season but will be returning to direct a production in 2013.
His other upcoming projects include a new musical he has been developing with Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, which will première at La Jolla Playhouse in November; a new production at New York’s Metropolitan Opera; and the continued proliferation of Jersey Boys across the globe.
McAnuff, who is a two-time Tony, Olivier and Dora award-winning director, received an honorary doctorate from his alma mater, Ryerson University, in 2011, and was presented with the Governor General’s Performing Arts NAC Award earlier this year.
The investiture ceremony for the Order of Canada will take place at a date to be announced.