May 3, 2013… Des McAnuff was invested into the Order of Canada at a ceremony presided over by the Governor General in Ottawa this morning. The Stratford Festival extends heartiest congratulations to Mr. McAnuff, who was Artistic Director from 2008 through 2012, and is currently directing Tommy, a musical based on the album by The Who, which he helped composer-lyricist Pete Townshend create.
The country’s highest civilian honour, the Order of Canada recognizes a lifetime of outstanding achievement, dedication to community and service to the nation.
Mr. McAnuff’s citation is as follows:
Des McAnuff, C.M.
Des McAnuff has made outstanding contributions to the arts. An accomplished director of Shakespeare, opera and musical theatre, as well as a writer and composer, he has been the creative force behind such award-winning productions as the Broadway hits Jersey Boys and The Who’s Tommy. He has also distinguished himself as the artistic director of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, where he has created opportunities for Canadian playwrights and has cultivated the talents of Canadian directors and actors.
“On behalf of all of us at the Festival, I congratulate Des on this richly deserved honour,” says Artistic 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.
“We are very fortunate to have Des with us at the Festival again this season, directing his spectacular rock musical Tommy, on the 20th anniversary of its Broadway première. Tommy swept the Tony Awards in 1993. Des was recognized as Best Director of a Musical, and the members of his creative team – most of whom are with us for this production – were similarly honoured, as was Mr. Townshend for his score. At the time Tommy was the most technologically advanced musical Broadway had ever seen. And tomorrow, when Tommy blows the roof off the Avon Theatre at its first preview, audiences will see an even bigger vision realized by this great director.”
Last year theatregoers were delighted by Mr. McAnuff’s productions of Henry V andA Word or Two, a new work written, arranged and performed by Christopher Plummer. At the conclusion of the season, Mr. McAnuff returned to La Jolla Playhouse in California to première another remarkable new musical, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, which he co-created with Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips.
In 2011 Mr. McAnuff directed the Festival’s celebrated production of Twelfth Nightstarring 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 2012, after enjoying an extended run at Stratford and then at La Jolla Playhouse.
Also that year, Mr. McAnuff opened the second North American tour of Jersey Boysin 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.
During his tenure as Artistic Director, Mr. McAnuff 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 built a diverse company that more truly reflects the ethnic makeup of the Canada we live in today, with outstanding actors of colour constituting a significant proportion of the company.
He 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 25 emerging Canadian directors an unparalleled opportunity to develop their skills.
He 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 made the Festival a natural home for Canadian playwrights, with more than 60 playwrights participating in these programs. In addition, roughly a dozen playwrights were commissioned during Mr. McAnuff’s tenure.
Mr. 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 last year.