Des McAnuff to be honoured with a Governor General’s Performing Arts Award

March 6, 2012… The Stratford Shakespeare Festival extends heartiest congratulations to Artistic Director Des McAnuff, who is the recipient of the National Arts Centre Award of the Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards in recognition of his extraordinary accomplishments over the past performance year.

“Des is very deserving of this recognition,” says General Director Antoni Cimolino. “He has indeed had an extraordinary year, directing two large-scale productions at the Festival, filming one and taking the other on to La Jolla and then to Broadway. This is all in addition to his international accomplishments, which in themselves required super-human strength to complete. We all congratulate him on his achievements and this very great honour.”

At the Stratford Shakespeare Festival Mr. McAnuff directed a celebrated production of Twelfth Night starring Brian Dennehy and Stephen Ouimette. His acclaimed production of Jesus Christ Superstar enjoyed an extended run at Stratford, moved to La Jolla Playhouse in California, and is set to open on Broadway this month with its Stratford cast.

Mr. 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 is now being performed in Seoul with an all-Korean cast. He directed Gounod’s Faust for the Metropolitan Opera starring Jonas KaufmannRené Pape, and Marina Poplavskaya. Mr. McAnuff’s achievements over the past year also include film, with his production of Faust shown in cinemas worldwide and his production of The Tempest, starring Christopher Plummer released in cinemas. (His production of Caesar and Cleopatra, which also features Christopher Plummer, enjoyed a similar release in 2009, while Twelfth Night is scheduled for cinema release this week).

The year 2011 also saw Mr. McAnuff planning Stratford’s 60th anniversary playbill, half of which are Canadian works, including three world premières – Morris Panych and Marek Norman’s WanderlusThe Best Brothers by Daniel MacIvor, and Hirsch by Alon Nashmon and Paul Thompson, about the former Stratford artistic director and legendary theatre artist John Hirsch. Mr. McAnuff will also be directing Shakespeare’s Henry V and Christopher Plummer’s one-man show A Word or Two.

The Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards will be presented in Ottawa in early May.

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Twelfth Night hits theatres this weekend!

By: Christi Rutledge

On March 10, 2012, at 12:45 p.m. local time, Des McAnuff’s production of Twelfth Night will hit the big screen at Cineplex Theatres! I know that I’m not alone when I say that Twelfth Night was one of my favourite productions last season – and one of the best things about capturing it on film is that we get to share the magic of Shakespeare and Stratford to an increasingly wide audience. So, if you live in Coquitlam, British Columbia, and can’t make it to Stratford each year, you can still experience our productions from the comfort of your home town!

If you’re a Festival fan, we have a special deal just for you! When you go to the theatre to see Twelfth Night, present this coupon at the front desk and save a few dollars on your ticket (maybe buy some popcorn with your extra cash). If you love this production as much as I do, you might want to see the encore screening on March 21 at 7 p.m.

Can’t make it to the theatre on either of those dates? No worries – the Twelfth Night DVD will be available through our Theatre Store on May 1, 2012. You can pre-order a copy today!

Read more about the film version of Des McAnuff’s Twelfth Night here!

Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased at participating theatre box offices and online at www.cineplex.com/events – or through the Cineplex mobile site, m.cineplex.com.

Psssst, we’ll be giving away tickets to Twelfth Night all week on Twitter (use them at any participating theatre). Follow us @stratfest and @stratfestchris for a chance to win!

Participating theatres

BRITISH COLUMBIA
Coquitlam
SilverCity Coquitlam and VIP Cinemas, 170 Schoolhouse Street

Kamloops
Cineplex Odeon Aberdeen Mall Cinemas, 700-1320 Trans Canada Highway

Langley
Colossus Langley Cinemas, 20090 91A Avenue

Nanaimo
Galaxy Cinemas Nanaimo, 213-4750 Rutherford Road

Powell River
Max Cameron Theatre,5400 Marine Avenue

Prince George
Famous Players 6 Cinemas, 172-1600 Fifth Avenue

Richmond
SilverCity Riverport Cinemas,14211 Entertainment Way

Sechelt
Raven’s Cry Theatre,5559 Sunshine Coast Highway

Vancouver
Scotiabank Theatre Vancouver, 900 Burrard Street

Victoria
SilverCity Victoria Cinemas,3130 Tillicum Road

ALBERTA
Calgary
Scotiabank Theatre Chinook, 6455 Macleod Trail SW

Edmonton
Cineplex Odeon South Edmonton Cinemas, 1525-99th Street NW
Scotiabank Theatre Edmonton, 8882-170 Street

Lethbridge
Galaxy Cinemas Lethbridge, 501-1st Avenue SW

Red Deer
Galaxy Cinemas Red Deer, 357-37400 Highway #2

MANITOBA

Winnipeg
SilverCity Polo Park Cinemas, 817 St. James Street

SASKATCHEWAN
Moose Jaw
Galaxy Cinemas Moose Jaw,1235 Main Street N

Regina
Galaxy Cinemas Regina, 420 McCarthy Boulevard N

Saskatoon
Galaxy Cinemas Saskatoon, 347 2nd Avenue

ONTARIO
Ajax
Cineplex Odeon Ajax Cinemas, 248 Kingston Road

Ancaster
SilverCity Ancaster Cinemas,771 Golf Links Road

Barrie
Galaxy Cinemas Barrie, 72 Commerce Park Drive

Belleville
Galaxy Cinemas Belleville, 160 Bell Boulevard

Bracebridge
Rene M. Caisse, 100 Clearbrook Trl.

Brampton
SilverCity Brampton Cinemas, 50 Great Lakes Drive

Brantford
Galaxy Cinemas Brantford, 300 King George Road

Brockville
Galaxy Cinemas Brockville,2399 Parkedale Avenue

Burlington
SilverCity Burlington Cinemas,1250 Brant Street

Chatham
Galaxy Cinemas Chatham, 760 St Clair Street

Collingwood
Galaxy Cinemas Collingwood, 6 Mountain Road

Cornwall
Galaxy Cinemas Cornwall,1325 Second Street E

Guelph
Galaxy Cinemas Guelph, 485 Woodlawn Road W

Kingston
Cineplex Odeon Gardiners Road Cinemas, 626 Gardiners Road

London
Cineplex Odeon Westmount and VIP Cinemas, 755 Wonderland Road S
SilverCity London Cinemas, 1680 Richmond Street

Midland
Galaxy Cinemas Midland,9226 County Road 93

Mississauga
Coliseum Mississauga Cinemas, 309 Rathburn Road W

Newmarket
SilverCity Newmarket Cinemas and XSCAPE Entertainment Centre, 18151 Yonge Street

Niagara Falls
Cineplex Odeon Niagara Square Cinemas, 7555 Montrose Road

North Bay
Galaxy Cinemas North Bay,300 Lakeshore Drive

Oakville
SilverCity Oakville and VIP Cinemas, 3531 Wyecroft Road

Orangeville
Galaxy Cinemas Orangeville,85 Fifth Avenue

Orillia
Galaxy Cinemas Orillia, 865 West Ridge Boulevard

Oshawa
Cineplex Odeon Oshawa Cinemas, 1351 Grandview Street N

Ottawa
Cineplex Odeon South Keys Cinemas, 2214 Bank Street
Coliseum Ottawa Cinemas, 3090 Carling Avenue
SilverCity Gloucester Cinemas, 2385 City Park Drive

Owen Sound
Galaxy Cinemas Owen Sound, 1020 10th Street

Peterborough
Galaxy Cinemas Peterborough,320 Water Street

Picton
The Regent Theatre,224 Main Street

Port Hope
Capitol Theatre,20 Queen Street

Richmond Hill
SilverCity Richmond Hill Cinemas,8725 Yonge Street

Sarnia
Famous Players Lambton 9 Cinemas,1450 London Road

Sault Ste. Marie
Galaxy Cinemas Sault Ste. Marie, 293 Bay Street

Sudbury
SilverCity Sudbury Cinemas, 355 Barrydowne Road

Thunder Bay
SilverCity Thunder Bay Cinemas, 850 North May Street

Toronto
Cineplex Odeon Queensway Cinemas, 1025 The Queensway
Cineplex Odeon Sheppard Cinemas, 4861 Yonge Street
Cineplex Odeon Varsity and VIP Cinemas, 55 Bloor Street W
Coliseum Scarborough Cinemas, 300 Borough Drive
Scotiabank Theatre Toronto, 259 Richmond Street W
SilverCity Fairview Mall Cinemas, 1800 Sheppard Avenue E
SilverCity Yonge-Eglinton Cinemas, 2300 Yonge Street

Waterloo
Galaxy Cinemas Waterloo,550 King Street N

Windsor
Cineplex Odeon Devonshire Mall Cinemas, 3100 Howard Avenue

QUEBEC
Brossard
Cineplex Odeon Brossard Cinemas, 9350 boul. Leduc

Kirkland
Coliseum Kirkland Cinemas, 3200 rue Jean Yves

Montreal
Cineplex Odeon Cavendish Mall Cinemas, 5800 boul. Cavendish
Scotiabank Theatre Montreal, 977 rue Ste-Catherine O

Film of Des McAnuff’s Twelfth Night to première at Cineplex theatres on March 10

January 30, 2012… The Stratford Shakespeare Festival and Melbar Entertainment Group are pleased to announce the cinematic release of Twelfth Night, directed for the stage by Des McAnuff, and produced and directed for film by Barry Avrich.

This joyous play, filled with music and song, will première in select Cineplex Entertainment theatres across Canada on March 10 at 12:45 p.m. local time with an encore performance on March 21 at 7 p.m.

Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased at participating theatre box offices and online at www.cineplex.com/events or through the Cineplex mobile site m.cineplex.com.

The production features Stephen Ouimette as Sir Andrew Aguecheek, Brian Dennehy as Sir Toby Belch, Ben Carlson as Feste, Trent Pardy as Sebastian, Cara Ricketts as Maria, Tom Rooney as Malvolio, Andrea Runge as Viola, Mike Shara as Orsino, and Sara Topham as Olivia.

Mr. McAnuff’s production of Twelfth Night thrilled Festival audiences during the 2011 season and was one of the most successful Shakespeare productions of his tenure so far as Artistic Director of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. It features an eclectic score reflecting the history of rock and roll, composed by Michael Roth and Mr. McAnuff.

“Films are important to us not just because they preserve great performances for posterity,” says Mr. McAnuff. “They enable us to extend the Festival experience far beyond Stratford itself. Last season’s production of Twelfth Night was a huge hit with our patrons, and now we can share this comedic and musical feast with a much wider audience, spreading the joy of live theatre across the country.”

“Since 2008 we have filmed three of our productions for release through Cineplex and have been thrilled with the response from audiences,” says General Director Antoni Cimolino. “It has been most rewarding to be part of Cineplex’s commitment to share classical theatre, ballet and opera with Canadians who might otherwise not be able to attend such performances.”

Twelfth Night is the story of Viola, a young woman shipwrecked on the coast of Illyria, who adopts a male disguise to enter the service of Duke Orsino, only to find herself part of a triangle of unrequited love. Meanwhile in the household of Orsino’s love interest, the Countess Olivia, Sir Toby Belch and his unruly companions trick Olivia’s strict and disapproving steward, Malvolio, into believing that she loves him.

“This film is a virtual kaleidoscope of colour, music and performance,” says Mr. Avrich, who also produced the Festival’s recent films of The Tempest and Caesar and Cleopatra. “Des McAnuff takes Shakespeare and gives it the musical inspiration of The Beatles and the theatricality of Cirque du Soleil.”

“Cineplex Entertainment is celebrating 100 years of movie memories in 2012,” says Pat Marshall, Vice President Communications and Investor Relations for Cineplex Entertainment. “We are so proud to add Twelfth Night and all the other incredible Stratford Festival productions to the entertainment we offer our theatre guests across Canada. Not everyone can make it to Stratford so capturing these live productions on film, and playing them on our big screens, makes it the next best thing to actually being there.”

Production sponsors include the Slaight Family Foundation, Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership, Violet Productions and Richard Rooney.

Support for the original stage production was provided by Scotiabank Group, Dr. M.L. Myers and Dr. W.P. Hayman.

The music of Twelfth Night has been released on CD and is also available for download on CD Baby. The CD, along with DVDs of The Tempest and Caesar and Cleopatra, are available to purchase through the Festival’s website: stratfordshakespearefestival.com.

This year, the Stratford Shakespeare Festival celebrates its 60th season, with 14 productions presented from April 12 to October 28:  Much Ado About Nothing42nd StreetThe MatchmakerHenry VYou’re a Good Man, Charlie BrownThe Pirates of PenzanceA Word or TwoCymbelineWanderlustElektraMacHomerThe Best BrothersHirsch; and The War of 1812. .

Participating theatres

BRITISH COLUMBIA

Coquitlam

SilverCity Coquitlam and VIP Cinemas, 170 Schoolhouse Street

Kamloops

Cineplex Odeon Aberdeen Mall Cinemas, 700-1320 Trans Canada Highway

Langley

Colossus Langley Cinemas, 20090 91A Avenue

Nanaimo

Galaxy Cinemas Nanaimo, 213-4750 Rutherford Road

Powell River

Max Cameron Theatre, 5400 Marine Avenue

Prince George

Famous Players 6 Cinemas, 172-1600 Fifth Avenue

Richmond

SilverCity Riverport Cinemas, 14211 Entertainment Way

Sechelt

Raven’s Cry Theatre, 5559 Sunshine Coast Highway

Vancouver

Scotiabank Theatre Vancouver, 900 Burrard Street

Victoria

SilverCity Victoria Cinemas, 3130 Tillicum Road

ALBERTA

Calgary

Scotiabank Theatre Chinook, 6455 Macleod Trail SW

Edmonton

Cineplex Odeon South Edmonton Cinemas, 1525-99th Street NW

Scotiabank Theatre Edmonton, 8882-170 Street

Lethbridge

Galaxy Cinemas Lethbridge, 501-1st Avenue SW

Red Deer

Galaxy Cinemas Red Deer, 357-37400 Highway #2

MANITOBA

Winnipeg

SilverCity Polo Park Cinemas, 817 St. James Street

SASKATCHEWAN

Moose Jaw

Galaxy Cinemas Moose Jaw, 1235 Main Street N

Regina

Galaxy Cinemas Regina, 420 McCarthy Boulevard N

Saskatoon

Galaxy Cinemas Saskatoon, 347 2nd Avenue

ONTARIO

Ajax

Cineplex Odeon Ajax Cinemas, 248 Kingston Road

Ancaster

SilverCity Ancaster Cinemas, 771 Golf Links Road

Barrie

Galaxy Cinemas Barrie, 72 Commerce Park Drive

Belleville

Galaxy Cinemas Belleville, 160 Bell Boulevard

Bracebridge

Rene M. Caisse, 100 Clearbrook Trl.

Brampton

SilverCity Brampton Cinemas, 50 Great Lakes Drive

Brantford

Galaxy Cinemas Brantford, 300 King George Road

Brockville

Galaxy Cinemas Brockville, 2399 Parkedale Avenue

Burlington

SilverCity Burlington Cinemas, 1250 Brant Street

Chatham

Galaxy Cinemas Chatham, 760 St Clair Street

Collingwood

Galaxy Cinemas Collingwood, 6 Mountain Road

Cornwall

Galaxy Cinemas Cornwall, 1325 Second Street E

Guelph

Galaxy Cinemas Guelph, 485 Woodlawn Road W

Kingston

Cineplex Odeon Gardiners Road Cinemas, 626 Gardiners Road

London

Cineplex Odeon Westmount and VIP Cinemas, 755 Wonderland Road S

SilverCity London Cinemas, 1680 Richmond Street

Midland

Galaxy Cinemas Midland, 9226 County Road 93

Mississauga

Coliseum Mississauga Cinemas, 309 Rathburn Road W

Newmarket

SilverCity Newmarket Cinemas and XSCAPE Entertainment Centre, 18151 Yonge Street

Niagara Falls

Cineplex Odeon Niagara Square Cinemas, 7555 Montrose Road

North Bay

Galaxy Cinemas North Bay, 300 Lakeshore Drive

Oakville

SilverCity Oakville and VIP Cinemas, 3531 Wyecroft Road

Orangeville

Galaxy Cinemas Orangeville, 85 Fifth Avenue

Orillia

Galaxy Cinemas Orillia, 865 West Ridge Boulevard

Oshawa

Cineplex Odeon Oshawa Cinemas, 1351 Grandview Street N

Ottawa

Cineplex Odeon South Keys Cinemas, 2214 Bank Street

Coliseum Ottawa Cinemas, 3090 Carling Avenue

SilverCity Gloucester Cinemas, 2385 City Park Drive

Owen Sound

Galaxy Cinemas Owen Sound, 1020 10th Street

Peterborough

Galaxy Cinemas Peterborough, 320 Water Street

Picton

The Regent Theatre, 224 Main Street

Port Hope

Capitol Theatre, 20 Queen Street

Richmond Hill

SilverCity Richmond Hill Cinemas, 8725 Yonge Street

Sarnia

Famous Players Lambton 9 Cinemas, 1450 London Road

Sault Ste. Marie

Galaxy Cinemas Sault Ste. Marie, 293 Bay Street

Sudbury

SilverCity Sudbury Cinemas, 355 Barrydowne Road

Thunder Bay

SilverCity Thunder Bay Cinemas, 850 North May Street

Toronto

Cineplex Odeon Queensway Cinemas, 1025 The Queensway

Cineplex Odeon Sheppard Cinemas, 4861 Yonge Street

Cineplex Odeon Varsity and VIP Cinemas, 55 Bloor Street W

Coliseum Scarborough Cinemas, 300 Borough Drive

Scotiabank Theatre Toronto, 259 Richmond Street W

SilverCity Fairview Mall Cinemas, 1800 Sheppard Avenue E

SilverCity Yonge-Eglinton Cinemas, 2300 Yonge Street

Waterloo

Galaxy Cinemas Waterloo, 550 King Street N

Windsor

Cineplex Odeon Devonshire Mall Cinemas, 3100 Howard Avenue

QUEBEC

Brossard

Cineplex Odeon Brossard Cinemas, 9350 boul. Leduc

Kirkland

Coliseum Kirkland Cinemas, 3200 rue Jean Yves

Montreal

Cineplex Odeon Cavendish Mall Cinemas, 5800 boul. Cavendish

Scotiabank Theatre Montreal, 977 rue Ste-Catherine O

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Family

By Aaron Kropf

Family. One simple word that means so much. A word that stirs up emotion. An idea that brings up a different set of emotions for each of us. Not only does the word family evoke thoughts of our own families and what it each member means to you but it brings to the forefront of our minds families that we have seen on stage and screen. This season alone we have seen several different families.  On the Festival stage we have a few different family dynamics going on in Camelot. Twelfth Night presents the uniting of twins. Over at the Studio Theatre we saw the struggles of one woman in a close knit family in The Little Years. In The Grapes of Wrath the Joad family shows us what is means to stick together as a family in difficult times. Then we saw different families in Richard III and Titus Andronicus that brought a whole new meaning of family conflicts.

Then along came The Homecoming. This all male family might make us shine a whole new light on our own family. We consider our family because these men really teach us what it means to be dysfunctional.

This is really a family we would like to avoid, and The Homecoming presents a family that is different than many that we see on stage or screen.  The dynamic seems a little strange but when we look at each relation I’m sure it’s something we can all connect to.  What makes watching the action on the stage so uncomfortable is that we are so present.  It’s voyeurism to the extreme because it feels as though we are sitting in the room with everyone because of the incredible set design.

As it is with the word “Family” different reactions and thoughts come out of viewing The Homecoming. It’s interesting to hear from each of you what you were thinking when watching. Cara Ricketts talks about her views on the show in this video created earlier in the year. Her perspective in so unique because she is the only woman in the show, which makes this so interesting:

What’s your take on this unique show?

Twelfth Night: Where worlds collide!

By Christi Rutledge

I’m not sure if I’ve ever enjoyed a production of Twelfth Night so much. It was so engaging, funny, fresh, and the music blew me away.  Most scenes take place around a sporting event or some leisure activity – the perfect venue for the characters in Twelfth Night to – quite literally – play around in.  I don’t think anything could replace the pleasure of seeing Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Stephen Ouimette) and Sir Toby Belch (Brian Dennehy) zoom on stage in a golf cart.  I lied – maybe one thing might be better, and that is seeing Mr. Ouimette moonwalk as he prides himself in saying that he has “the back-trick simply as strong as any man in Illyria.” (Twelfth Night I.iii)

Check out this clip to see some fabulous dancing:

I am sure you all noticed that this production doesn’t look like “traditional” Shakespeare. For all of the skeptics, check out this great video clip of our Artistic Director and Twelfth Night director, Des McAnuff, explaining why this production of Twelfth Night just couldn’t be earthbound!

This eclecticism is perhaps best marked by the great variety of original music that has been built into the production. The lyrics are Shakespeare’s own words – as well as a few penned by Christopher Marlowe and Sir Walter Raleigh – and the score invokes all the musical greats of the past 60 years. It is a fabulous collection of the old and the new that highlights just how much Shakespeare’s works resonate with our culture today. Check out the closing number of the production and see how his words have been fused together with a new tune!

If you want to take home the soundtrack to this production, check out our Twelfth Night CD.  (I’m listening to mine right now!)

What Shakespeare Can Teach Us About Leadership

The following is a speech delivered by Antoni Cimolino to the Richard Ivey School of Business on Wednesday, January 26, 2011

“Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’em.”

Even if you’ve never been to a Shakespeare play in your life, or cracked open a copy of his works, I’m sure you all recognize those often-quoted words. They occur in the riotous comedy Twelfth Night—which, as it just so happens, we’re doing this season at Stratford.

The production stars Brian Dennehy, whom many of you will recognize from his film and TV roles, but who’s also a two-time Tony Award-winning stage actor who has just been inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame.

Twelfth Night also features Stephen Ouimette, Tom Rooney, Andrea Runge and Sara Topham, and tickets are available by calling 1.800.567.1600.

Okay, so there’s the first lesson I’ve learned from my career in Shakespearean theatre: never pass up a opportunity to promote your business. But I guess you don’t need me to tell you that.

Perhaps some people are indeed born great: into that category you could put someone like Mozart, who showed such extraordinary talent at a ridiculously early age. And I dare say there are people who have greatness thrust upon them by circumstance, though it’s harder to come up with obvious examples.

Perhaps one would be Rosa Parks, the department-store seamstress who was an active but relatively unremarkable figure in the American civil-rights movement until one day in 1955, when she created a turning point in her nation’s history by refusing to give up her seat on a bus.

But I think most of the people we consider to be great leaders in their field—like Shakespeare himself—have in some way achieved that status by working at it over a considerable period of time. We’re naturally intrigued by how they did it.

And perhaps even more intriguing than the journey up to a pinnacle of achievement is the sometimes precipitous journey down: we’re fascinated by the fact that you can be the head of a corporate empire one day and a convicted felon the next. How do smart people come to make such mistakes, we wonder?

I myself have learned a lot about leadership from Shakespeare. I don’t think I could have taken on my current job if I hadn’t spent so much time on stage as an actor, speaking and listening to Shakespeare’s language, or in the rehearsal hall as a director, trying to translate the words on the page into action on the stage.

Working as an actor or a director accustoms you to the process of trying to get underneath the surface, to recognize patterns, to understand why things happen the way they do. And having that kind of insight is essential, I think, to effective leadership.

But you don’t have to work in the theatre to benefit from it. Being an engaged audience member can also help you cultivate some of that sensibility.

The best way to gain insight is from experience, and the theatre offers us a safe way of undergoing experience at its most extreme. Attending a Shakespeare play lets you get caught up in wars and revolutions and deadly dynastic disputes without getting hurt. It lets you be an eyewitness as people vie for kingdoms, commit murder and take revenge, plan stratagems that blow up in their faces. And at the end, you come out unscathed but perhaps a little more aware of the challenges, complexities and ambiguities that attend any human enterprise.

Human nature hasn’t really changed in the 400 years since Shakespeare stopped writing for the stage, nor have the basic dynamics of rise and fall, conflict and resolution, in the stories of human lives. So the more you get to know Shakespeare’s plays, the more you’ll see our own world reflected in them.

Leadership is largely about the exercise of power—and power is a central theme in Shakespeare. All of his history plays, from King John to Henry VIII, and his Roman plays—Coriolanus, Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra—are about aspects of political power: how it is obtained, how it is used and misused, how it affects the user, how it is lost.

Shifts of power lie at the heart of the tragedies, too, from King Lear, in which the title character makes the fatal mistake of letting go of power while still expecting to enjoy the respect and privileges it commands, to Othello, in which a subordinate, Iago, brilliantly uses the power of suggestion to turn his commanding officer into his puppet.

The struggle for power is a significant theme even in the comedies, which we think of as being more about love than about war or politics. It’s certainly central to The Taming of the Shrew, but it’s there in other comedies too. The action of As You Like It, for instance, takes place in the wake of—and largely in consequence of—a palace coup: the amiable Duke Senior has been deposed by his nasty brother, Duke Frederick, and has gone off to lead a government-in-exile in the Forest of Arden.

And when Rosalind, Duke Senior’s daughter, flees to find her father in the forest, she dons male disguise. Like other cross-dressing Shakespearean heroines, she is empowered by assuming a male role: she can act with a freedom and authority that would have been denied her had she stayed in a dress.

Shakespeare remained preoccupied with issues of leadership and power to the very end of his career. The Tempest, which we believe to have been the last play he wrote on his own, is—among other things—an extended meditation on various kinds of power. Its central figure, Prospero, is another ex-duke who has been deposed by his brother, having allowed himself to get distracted from the practical business of ruling by his interest in the “magical arts”—which, if you feel so inclined, you can interpret as a metaphor for being too wrapped up in the life of the imagination. In the end, Prospero exercises what may be the hardest power of all to acquire: the power to forgive.

Perhaps Shakespeare’s most exhaustive study of leadership is found in the two great cycles of history plays—four in each cycle—that together tell the story of how the Tudor dynasty (the family of his own monarch, Elizabeth I) came to power. Shakespeare didn’t write these in chronological order: like George Lucas with the two Star Wars trilogies, he did it backwards, writing the second cycle first and then returning to the subject later to write the first one.

The first cycle of plays begins with Richard II. Then we get two plays about the reign of Henry IV, and we finish with Henry V. Then in the second cycle we get three parts of Henry VI, plus Richard III.

It’s all right; there won’t be a test on this. And I’m not going to talk about all eight. Let’s just look at the first one for now.

Richard II is one of the prime Shakespearean examples of an ineffective leader. He seems to have no strategy, no clear idea of what he wants to use his power to achieve. He acts as if the rights and powers that accompany his office as king were privileges of his own person. He acts without regard to law—assuming that he himself is the law.

As a result, he makes arbitrary and impulsive decisions that earn him the enmity of the very people whose support he should most be cultivating: the nobility—his senior staff, if you like. One of the people he alienates is the man who will prove his downfall, his cousin Henry Bolingbroke.

Bolingbroke, as decisive and clear-headed as Richard is vacillating and self-absorbed, launches a rebellion and deposes Richard, assuming the throne himself as King Henry IV. To Richard, who still thinks he’s God’s anointed, this change in his fortunes is incomprehensible, and he reacts to it by wallowing in self-pity.

“For God’s sake,” he says, “let us sit upon the ground / And tell sad stories of the death of kings.” He calls for a hand mirror and gazes wistfully into it, asking, “Was this the face / That like the sun, did make beholders wink?” before smashing it on the ground. He goes so far as to compare himself to Christ delivered to the cross—and, indeed, he does end up being imprisoned by the new King Henry and, inevitably, murdered.

Richard’s problem is that he’s a narcissist with a fatal sense of entitlement. He believes in what was called the Divine Right of Kings: the idea that if you were king, you held that position because it was God’s will.

I admit I’ve never actually heard anyone speak of a Divine Right of CEOs, but I’m prepared to bet there are plenty of leaders in the corporate world who subscribe to the circular logic of entitlement: I am in this position, therefore I deserve this position, and nothing I do can be wrong. But it ain’t necessarily so.

Richard II is by no means a bad human being; he’d probably be quite charming company at a cocktail party. He’s imaginative, his language is gorgeously ornate, and in his own self-absorbed way he’s a philosopher. But he’s in the wrong job, and isn’t shrewd enough to realize it.

Nor is he able to play the part effectively. There’s an old theatrical joke that the key quality in a good performance is sincerity—and if you can fake that, you’ve got it made. Leadership is to some extent a role that you have to play, a persona you have to adopt, but the performance has to be a very carefully judged.

Richard lays on the histrionics, but he doesn’t understand the essence of his role: he thinks it’s all about him personally rather than about the office he happens to hold. And like many a bad actor, he can’t judge the effect that he’s having on his audience, so he goes too far.

Bolingbroke, by contrast, shows contempt for putting on a show. He comes across as an absolute non-actor—although, of course, it may just be that he’s infinitely better at faking sincerity than Richard. For Bolingbroke, things work out well enough: he becomes Henry IV and gets two plays of his own, then dies peacefully in his bed, which is quite an achievement for a Shakespearean monarch.

But there are dangers for the non-actor too, as the Roman hero Coriolanus discovers in the play that bears his name.

Coriolanus is about as different from Richard II as it’s possible to be. He is a consummate leader of men—at least on the field of battle. But leadership qualities in one field don’t necessarily translate into another, and the tragedy of Coriolanus is that of a great military hero who makes the fatal mistake of going into politics.

To get the people’s votes, he has to hit the campaign trail. He has to press flesh. He has to actually ask people for their support. And if you think Michael Ignatieff or Stephen Harper lack the common touch. . . .

Coriolanus refuses even to attempt to manipulate his audience. He sees playing the game of politics as beneath him. He doesn’t realize that the only leaders who survive, regardless of their sincerity, are those who master the art of political performance.

He utterly despises the common people, and can’t bring himself to pander to them. He knows he’s a better soldier than anyone else in Rome, and so the whole idea of casting himself in the role of supplicant for votes is anathema to him. He makes a stiff, half-hearted attempt, but it’s not long before his true feelings reveal themselves. “You common cry of curs,” he snarls at the populace, before going into exile.

Coriolanus is arrogant—and has indeed has every reason to be—but he cannot grasp that arrogance is not a quality that’s going to endear you to the electorate. His campaign is a public-relations disaster.

It’s not that he’s an ineffective communicator, far from it; it’s just that the message he delivers is unpalatable: “You know I’m the greatest warrior you’ve ever seen; why should I have to bow down to you in order to get your blessing as a civilian leader?”

Coriolanus learns the hard way that leadership is a contract that both sides have to buy into. It’s not enough to be way better than anyone else at what you do; if you want to lead people, you have to gain their trust and allow them some room for their own feelings of self-worth.

Rejected by his own people, Coriolanus ends up going over to his old enemies, and joins with them in an attack on his own city—and that proves to be an even bigger mistake, because he has put himself in an impossible position where his loyalties are inevitably going to be divided. He has declared that he’s going to sack Rome—but then his mother, Volumnia, comes out and begs him to reconsider.

There’s a lesson here for participants in political coalitions: before throwing your lot in with your opponents, try very hard to envisage in advance what the sticking points for your conscience are going to be.

Mention of conscience brings us to another military hero who seeks a larger role for himself. Macbeth is the prime Shakespearean example of the leader who sacrifices all principle in the pursuit of power and thereby plants the seeds of his own destruction.

Like Coriolanus, Macbeth starts out as a war hero, universally praised and heaped with high honour by King Duncan for his key role in putting down a rebellion. But he becomes obsessed by the idea—planted in his mind by that very dubious trio of career counsellors, the Weird Sisters—that he’s destined for even greater things: the kingship itself. That thought, coupled with the taunts and urgings of his wife, overcomes his better judgement and leads him to murder Duncan in his bed.

Well, you don’t need me to point out the inadvisability of murder as a means of career advancement. But even leaving the killing out of it, this play offers a vivid illustration of the corrosive effect of seeking power for its own sake.

When Bolingbroke deposes Richard and causes his death, he is at least seeking power in order to achieve an end: to turn around the state of the country, which has gotten into a sorry mess under Richard. But there’s nothing in Macbeth to suggest that Duncan is a bad or weak king; quite the contrary. In committing an act of assassination, Macbeth does not believe, as Brutus does in Julius Caesar, that he is acting in the best interests of the country; he is quite clearly acting in what he imagines to be the best interests of himself.

Once he has achieved the throne, Macbeth’s thoughts are not “whither Scotland?” but solely about consolidating his own power. “To be thus is nothing,” he says, “But to be safely thus . . .” Thus ensues the wholesale termination of anyone he suspects could be a threat. And that’s “termination” in the Schwarzenegger sense, not the slightly gentler Human Resources Department sense.

Power, the old saying goes, tends to corrupt. But power is essential when it’s a means to an end; it’s when power is pursued as an end in itself that it becomes corrosive, sterile and self-defeating.

Any discussion of Shakespeare’s treatment of the theme of leadership sooner or later gets round to the most obviously brilliant leader in the canon: Henry V.

Unlike Richard II and Coriolanus, Henry V knows exactly how to get people on his side. He’s a brilliant performer, a brilliant communicator. His speech rallying the troops before the Battle of Agincourt is one of the most famous set pieces in all of Shakespeare, and rightly so. Henry scoffs at self-interest: I don’t care about wealth or status, he says—but I do care about honour. If we’re going to die here today, he says, so be it. But if we pull it off and survive, we will live forever in the annals of history:

“We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he today that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother.”

It’s an extraordinary statement for a monarch to make to his subjects: you will be my brother. But it’s exactly what the fearful, dispirited and hopelessly outnumbered army needs to hear: that they are united with their leader in an enterprise that has the potential to be glorious. Henry goes so far as to tell them that if they don’t want to be part of this battle, they can leave with a golden handshake and no recriminations; he makes it their choice to stay.

Unlike Richard, Henry knows his audience; knows exactly the effect his words will have. He knows in part because he has done his research: he has spent time with ordinary people.

Indeed, in the two parts of Henry IV, when his father was on the throne and he was just Prince Henry—Prince Hal to his friends—the future Henry V spends his time hanging out in taverns with the lowest of the low. This makes him the despair of his father—but, as he confides to us in a soliloquy, it’s all part of a strategic plan.

“Herein,” he says, “will I imitate the sun,
Who doth permit the base contagious clouds
To smother up his beauty from the world,
That when he please again to be himself,
Being wanted, he may be more wondered at.”

Hal knows he’s going to be king some day. And he knows that if the bar of expectation is set too high, nobody, however brilliant, can measure up to it. Maybe you could call that the Barack Obama syndrome.

So what Hal does is deliberately create low expectations of himself, so that when he reveals his true magnificence as king, he’ll seem all the greater in contrast with his former playboy prince image.

And even when he is king, he continues to keep his finger on the pulse of his people. On the eve of Agincourt, he goes round the camp incognito, drawing the men out on their true feelings about the campaign they’re engaged in and his own role as their leader.

Henry, in other words, is the kind of CEO who never loses touch with the shop floor. He takes every opportunity to shoot the breeze with the employees, get to know their names, find out what makes them tick.

Henry is a man of incredible ability, beyond all question. In 1989, when I was an actor, I played the role of the French Dauphin in a production of Henry V. I spent a six-month season watching the title character at work. At every performance, I’d watch Henry analyze, assess and act. I’d see him deal with dissention and disloyalty; I’d hear him use language brilliantly to rally support; I’d observe him going out into the rank and file to learn what they really think.

I was reminded over and over of the difference, in terms of seriousness of purpose, between Henry and my character: the difference between a mere braggart and someone who is in touch with something far greater. It was an instructive lesson.

If you’re looking for a role model in Shakespeare for effective leadership, look no further than Henry V: he has it all, and his reign is a triumphant success. In terms of how to succeed in rallying others to your cause, nobody does it better.

But what about the cause itself? Is it beyond question? And if there are questions about the cause, what does that say about its proponent? And here we run into the mystery you always encounter with Shakespeare: what does he really want us to make of all this? Henry V seems to be the hero of his play. But are we actually meant to admire him? Is he a force for good in the world?

There’s an early scene in Henry V that has tremendous resonance for us in view of our own recent history. Henry is conferring with the leaders of the church about his proposed invasion of France. He wants to know if it can be justified on legal grounds. In a long and complicated explanation of something called the Salic law, they assure him that it is.

No audience today can hope to follow the details of that explanation, and I rather suspect nobody could in Shakespeare’s day either. In any case, after about 60 lines of tortuous genealogy from the clerics, Henry cuts to the chase with the direct question, “Can I with right and conscience make this claim?”—which can get a laugh, depending on how impatiently the actor delivers it.

But after the laugh has to come the thought: weapons of mass destruction, anyone?

In this scene, Henry is seeking the stamp of legitimacy for what he is about to do: invade France in order to give the people at home a common cause to rally behind and thus defuse the potential for further insurrection in England. But is he truly concerned that his cause be legitimate—or only that it appear so? It’s a question Shakespeare leaves open, and it’s up to the director and the actor playing Henry to answer it as best they can.

There are some uncomfortable things about Henry. At one point in his campaign, he’s besieging the town of Harfleur, which refuses to yield. Henry issues an ultimatum: surrender now, and you’ll be treated humanely; resist, and I will give my soldiers licence to rape, burn and pillage. You will see, he says,

“Your fathers taken by the silver beards,
And their most reverend heads dash’s to the walls;
Your naked infants spitted upon pikes. . .”

He could be bluffing, of course. But you get the impression Henry isn’t the sort of man not to follow through on what he says he’ll do.

Perhaps Henry’s ends justify his means. If the worst thing that can happen to a country is civil war—complete with sons killing fathers and fathers killing sons—and if Henry’s foreign adventures have managed to prevent that, then perhaps he could succumb to infant-spitting and still be seen as a hero. But what are his motives?

You think back to that strategic role-playing of his in Henry IV, when he hangs out with the likes of Sir John Falstaff in the taverns of Eastcheap. And then you think back to his brutal repudiation of Falstaff, his old crony, once he becomes king. He does exactly what he said he’d do, so no quarrel there. But what does it say about him as a human being? What Henry does is certainly expedient. But is he being guided by any kind of moral compass? Practically speaking, he’s good at ruling. But does he in fact have the moral right to do it?

The question of who had the right to rule was a crucial one in Shakespeare’s time—hardly surprisingly, given the historical convolutions by which his own monarch had come to the throne. The desire for a legitimate heir had driven Henry VIII’s endless series of marriages and executions. And Elizabeth’s own lack of an heir threatened to open up the can of worms all over again.

Questions of legitimacy are central to the last Shakespeare play I’m going to mention. King John, which I directed in 2004, is a drama of survival in a cutthroat world that could just as easily take place in the corporate corridors or political lobbies of today.

In many ways, it’s a play about temptation. There’s a core group of characters, each of whom is offered something he or she really wants. To get the things they want, all that each of those characters has to do is something truly immoral.

By the end of the play, most of the tempted characters do the immoral thing and are destroyed—but there are a couple of exceptions. And one of those exceptions, ironically, is a character called Philip the Bastard, whose name reflects his parentage, not his personality.

Philip professes himself to be guided solely by the profit motive. “Gain, be my lord,” he says, “for I will worship thee.” But early in the play he also says this: “I am I, howe’er I was begot.” In other words, “Who cares if I was born on the wrong side of the blanket? I’m still me, and that’s all that matters.”

In that simple phrase, “I am I,” Philip the Bastard reveals a clear sense of self that can’t be claimed even by Bolingbroke, who is haunted throughout his reign as Henry IV by his angst about his legitimacy as a ruler who has taken the crown by force.

Philip, though, is secure enough in his self-knowledge that nothing else really matters. Ultimately, he doesn’t want anything so badly that he’s prepared to do anything, however self-destructive, to get it. He has found a firm place to stand in the muck of the world. In other words, he has integrity.

He doesn’t get to become king or anything like that, though he does pick up a knighthood early in the play. But even in his own eyes, that’s not the measure of his success. Where he really triumphs over almost everybody else in his play, and indeed over most of the rulers in Shakespeare, is in maintaining his integrity, his moral leadership.

Let me go back to the words I started with: “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’em.” To which we can perhaps add a fourth category: “And some redefine greatness in their own terms”—not as wealth or public acclaim, or worldly power, but as inspiring examples of how to be the best of which human beings are capable.

Shakespeare’s plays are full of characters who are, or aspire to be, leaders of one kind or another. Few, if any, of them are wholly admirable, and perhaps that’s the single most important lesson to be learned about leadership from those plays: treat it with a healthy dose of skepticism. Serious questions hang over even the most accomplished of Shakespeare’s leader figures.

There is ultimately only one kind of leadership that I think emerges from Shakespeare’s plays without taint, and it is not the kind that necessarily leads to glory, wealth or worldly power. It is the moral leadership of Philip the Bastard in King John; of Cordelia, in King Lear, who loses everything by daring to tell truth to power; of Prospero in The Tempest, who makes the momentous decision not to take the revenge for which he has so long and painstakingly prepared; of Hermione in The Winter’s Tale, who bears herself with grace and dignity through the most arduous and unjust of tribulations and is still able to love and forgive the insanely jealous husband who so needlessly inflicted them on her.

Such characters are our beacons in the darkness of the universe, and if there is a single lesson about leadership to be drawn from be drawn from the works of William Shakespeare, it is that through acquaintance with those characters and their kin and their kin that we that we will find our firmest way through the mazes and thickets of the world.

I realize I have rambled on at too great length and have barely even scratched the surface of my topic. Nor have I grappled, as I believe was advertised in the invitation to this talk, with the question of what Shakespeare might have thought about the most recent financial crisis.

I haven’t, because it’s an unanswerable question: we can’t actually be sure what Shakespeare thought about anything. Although his plays teem with ideas, those ideas are all articulated by dramatic characters, none of whom can safely be identified with the playwright himself.

“Neither a borrower nor a lender be”: that’s from Shakespeare all right—but it’s Polonius talking, in Hamlet, and does Polonius know what he’s talking about? Depends on how you play him.

So if you came hoping to hear my top 10 Shakespearean tips on how to succeed in business or politics, then I fear I will have disappointed you. But if I have at least planted in your minds the idea that experiencing the plays of Shakespeare will offer you some insight into the ways in which the world worked in his time, still works today, and will continue to work till the end of humanity as we know it, then perhaps our time has not been spent entirely in vain.

Thank you.