Friday, March 14, 2008

Stratford in Shock at Festival Changes

From Laura Cudworth at the Stratford Beacon Herald:

"It was to be the first season under the stewardship of three artistic directors, but two have resigned as the Stratford Shakespeare Festival heads into rehearsals.

"Marti Maraden and Don Shipley have resigned, the Festival announced yesterday, leaving Des McAnuff the sole artistic director this season. He will continue to work closely with general director Antoni Cimolino.

"The triumvirate was meant to represent a new Festival headed in a new direction after 14 years under former artistic director Richard Monette.

"'I chose them. I was heavily invested in this,' Mr. Cimolino said of the three this morning. 'No one was more invested in this model and these people than I was.'

"A source close to the Festival acknowledged there was friction between Mr. McAnuff and the other artistic directors.

"'I don’t want to get into speculation as to the motives. People tried to find common ground,' Mr. Cimolino said.

"The three 'strove to avoid this' and it wasn’t done lightly, Mr. Cimolino said.

"What it really comes down to are artistic differences. Unfortunately, they turned out to be irreconcilable."

"The triumvirate model of artistic directors was chosen because the job has gotten too large for one person. The Festival won’t hire anyone else immediately, though the concept of adding an associate artistic director or resident director is being tossed around to ease some of the pressure on Mr. McAnuff.

"'We will look at a structure that supports Des,'” Mr. Cimolino said.

"Based on their long-term commitments to other projects, it’s not like Mr. Shipley or Ms. Maraden to walk out at a critical period in the season.

"Ms. Maraden will continue on with her directing duties for All’s Well That Ends Well and The Trojan Women.Mr. Shipley, however, will not direct Krapp’s Last Tape. 'I’m sorry that is the case,' Mr. Cimolino said.

"The hunt is on for a new director, and Mr. Cimolino has some people in mind but declined to say who.

"'We have shows to do and we’re going to do that.'

"This was the third time the Festival tried having multiple artistic directors at the helm. Jean Gascon and John Hirsch were co-artistic directors for a year between 1968-69 and in 1980 a group of four was set to lead the festival artistically, but the board changed direction.

"The fact it didn’t work this time either is a missed opportunity, Mr. Cimolino said. However, the Festival will still benefit from new talents, new programs and an exciting playbill as a result of the 21 months of collaboration between them, he stressed.

"Mr. Shipley grew up in Stratford and was a child actor at the Festival. He went on to become associate director under Robin Phillips. Mr. Shipley brought international theatre to Can-ada while running the Harbourfront Centre and the duMaurier World Stage Festival. He was the artistic director and CEO of the Dublin Theatre Festival for three years before resigning to come here.

"Mr. Shipley’s strength was his international cachet and connections. He had the potential to raise the Festival’s profile internationally and bring in foreign actors.

"Ms. Maraden has 16 Festival seasons under her belt as both an actor and director. The Festival is currently negotiating with her to direct a production next season.

"She was the artistic director of the National Arts Centre in Ottawa from 1997-2005. When she resigned she moved back to Stratford, where she maintained a home, and was offered one of the artistic director’s spots.

"She has also earned a reputation as a nurturer of Canadian work. In addition to her work at the National Arts Centre, she was instrumental in starting the Magnetic North Theatre Festival in St. John’s, N.L., which features some of the best contemporary Canadian theatre in English.

"Mr. McAnuff was named artistic director at La Jolla Playhouse in California in 1983, a position he held for a year and then took on again from 2001 to 2006. He was named director emeritus there. He has also had many successes on Broadway and with musicals."

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