Saturday, March 15, 2008

Festival Shakeup at the Star

From Richard Ouzounian at the Toronto Star:

"The Ides of March came two days early for the Stratford Shakespeare Festival this year.

"In a move that shocked the Canadian arts community, general director Antoni Cimolino announced yesterday afternoon the resignation of two of his three artistic directors, Marti Maraden and Don Shipley.

"The third, Des McAnuff, will remain as the sole artistic director.

"'I am profoundly saddened by this,' Cimolino told the Star yesterday. 'No one was more invested in this model than I was and we only went down this path when all other avenues were exhausted. I still think it brought enormous benefits to the festival, but it just wasn't working out among these three individuals.'

"Neither Maraden nor Shipley responded to interview requests.

"The artistic directorate was revealed on June 19, 2006, meaning they hadn't yet survived two years in their roles.

"Stratford's earlier attempt at a group directorate also ended badly. It was led briefly by Martha Henry, Peter Moss, Urjo Kareda and Pam Brighton, who were hired on Sept.18, 1980 and fired by the board on Nov.10 that same year.

"The current scenario was somewhat different, with Cimolino in overall control of three artistic directors whom he selected, and these departures are resignations, not firings.

"Maraden is scheduled to direct two shows this season (The Trojan Women and All's Well That Ends Well). She will stay on to complete her duties on those productions.

"Shipley will step down as the director of Krapp's Last Tape, which stars Brian Dennehy, who will continue in the role.

"Cimolino would give no reason for the departure of Maraden and Shipley. But sources close to the festival suggested they had been displeased with the preferential treatment allegedly accorded McAnuff in artistic issues, as well as those of budget and scheduling.

"'In any situation, people are going to put out rumours,' said Cimolino, denying the accusations. 'Human affairs are such that people will always speculate, but we're talking about mature people here who wouldn't resign over such petty things.'

"Cimolino did concede there had been areas of disagreement among the directorate last fall, 'but I thought they had all been resolved.'

"He found himself mistaken recently when 'one or two things that happened' plunged the group into dissent again, and 'it finally unfolded over a very brief period of time,' with Cimolino himself realizing on Wednesday 'it couldn't be fixed.

"Again Cimolino wouldn't specify what the 'things that happened' were, but festival insiders point to annoyance from Shipley and Maraden about the amount of time McAnuff was absent, working on his worldwide hit Jersey Boys and other non-Stratford projects.

"Cimolino denied those accusations and said, 'Des understands perfectly what this workload will represent and there was strong support for him from the board of governors.'

"McAnuff elaborated on the issue in an interview. 'Yes, I have other contractual obligations, but I'm very good at managing my time. I'm a hardworking man and that's not going to change,' he said.

"'[The solo artistic directorship] is nothing I looked for or lobbied for, but I felt a sense of loyalty and commitment to Stratford and I couldn't let them down.'

"Asked for his feelings about his new position, he paused, then answered. 'It's going to change my life. It already has.'"

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