Saturday, May 24, 2008

Growing Up McAnuff

From Richard Ouzounian at the Toronto Star:

"To tell the story of Des McAnuff, the new artistic director of the Stratford Festival, you actually have to begin three months before he was born, on Dec. 15, 1951.

"That was the night his father William died at the age of 26 on an ice-slicked highway just outside of Princeton, Ill.

"For years, that's all that McAnuff knew, and he assumed it was one of those unfortunate coincidences of bad weather and careless driving that could happen to anyone.

"But, in his 40s, he went back to Princeton and discovered the truth. His father had been drinking that night and was drag-racing.

"'There's a very good chance,' says McAnuff, '"that one of the kids he was racing knocked him off the road.

"'That kid was the mayor's son; that's why there wasn't any investigation.'

"Speed, danger and going against the odds. Three things that may have killed his father, but three things upon which McAnuff has built a successful career.

"It's a few weeks before the opening of his first season as artistic director of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival and McAnuff is taking a journey into his past to examine how he got to the exalted position he holds today.

"But he's not exploring the years at California's La Jolla Festival, where he took a sleepy suburban theatre to international glory, nor is he bathing in the bright lights of Las Vegas or Broadway, where his mega-hit Jersey Boys is breaking box-office records each week.

"In recent months, the press have been anxious to paint him as a Lamborghini-racing playboy with money to burn.

"In actuality, he drives a hybrid and labours with a puritan fervour that puts work ahead of pleasure at all times.

"And, on this humid Tuesday night, McAnuff is creeping through the rush-hour traffic on the Don Valley Parkway to get back to where it all began for him: in Scarborough.

"Sure, there were a few tricky steps along the way, but he relates them with a nostalgia devoid of sentimentality."

Continue reading.

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