Antoni Cimolino to Replace Des McAnuff as Stratford Shakespeare Festival's Artistic Director
Dr. Lee Myers and members of the Board of Governors announced that Antoni Cimolino will be the next Artistic Director of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, following on the tenure of Des McAnuff.
As Chair of the Board, Dr. Myers led a seven-person search committee that included other Board members as well as actor and director Martha Henry. The six-month process included extensive consultations with a large number of internal and external stakeholders that ultimately provided very strong support for Mr. Cimolino’s candidacy. “His visionary presentation to the committee, with its impressive combination of enthusiasm, experience and new ideas, absolutely convinced us that Antoni is the best person to be our next Artistic Director,” said Dr. Myers.
“His artistic vision includes a deep commitment to Shakespeare and classical theatre, great enthusiasm for the development of large-scale new works, terrific ideas about artist training and audience outreach and an inspiring perspective on the Festival’s role within the broader Canadian theatre landscape. We have absolute confidence that he will build on the outstanding accomplishments of Des McAnuff and all of our other great Artistic Directors to further the success of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival.”
“This is a day of enormous joy for me,” said Mr. Cimolino. “This great theatre changed my life as it has changed the lives of countless others in its almost 60 seasons. It has given me 25 years of growth as an artist and introduced me to wonderful people, great talents and a world of plays, characters and writing that have brought me as close as any man can be to heaven on earth.
“Today I am being asked to make a new and deeper contribution to the Stratford Festival. I’m thrilled and honoured. I’m indebted to the Artistic Directors who came before me – many of whom I’ve had the pleasure to work with and learn from. I must particularly thank the late Richard Monette for his mentorship and Des McAnuff for his support.
“I have seen that each of my predecessors made their own unique contribution to the Festival. I have also seen that for each one it came at a personal cost – sometimes a great one. So I go in with my eyes open to both the joys and the challenges. But while my eyes are open, they also sparkle with excitement at the opportunities for this Festival. For while we face challenges, we also have an enormous abundance of talent, energy and creativity in our artists, as well as loyal audiences and generous donors.
“I want to build on our current momentum to make the Stratford Shakespeare Festival the world’s leading theatre, presenting the world’s greatest plays performed to the highest standards, because I believe that the artist and the spoken word are the heart of our experience. I see Stratford as a place of new creation and innovation – a place about talent and ideas.
“I want to see a Festival that reaches out to people, engages their hearts and minds, and makes us a force for good in this world.”
In the past, the announcement of a new Artistic Director has been followed by a season of transition, to give the appointee time to become familiar with the organization. In this case, however, Mr. Cimolino’s thorough inside knowledge of the Festival, both as an artist and as its current General Director, makes that transitional season unnecessary. Accordingly, Mr. McAnuff felt it would be fitting to let the celebratory 2012 season mark the culmination of his tenure, and that Mr. Cimolino should assume the artistic directorship for the 2013 season.
“I want to congratulate Antoni on his appointment, which I know is the completion of a long-held dream,” said Mr. McAnuff. “Last June, when I negotiated a contract through the 2013 season, I believed that I was giving the Board a suitable amount of time to conduct a search for my replacement. With the completion of the search process, it has become possible to announce the next Artistic Director several months earlier than I had anticipated. This means that we no longer need so lengthy a transition period.
“Antoni comes from inside our institution and has been my partner for more than four years. Rather than making him wait until 2014 to take the artistic reins, it is much more sensible for the two of us to pass the baton at the end of this, our 60th season.
“I will direct for Antoni in what will become his first season in 2013 and will be in residence through opening week, and I am committed to give him any support he asks for. He and I know that this will be a graceful and elegant transition.
“Serving as the artistic leader of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival has been a great honour, and I am as determined as ever during this coming period to do everything possible with Antoni and our entire team to see that our institution flourishes.”
Upon its conclusion, Mr. McAnuff’s tenure will have encompassed 69 Festival productions, including 19 plays by Shakespeare. Mr. McAnuff will have directed 10 of those productions himself, including six by Shakespeare and three (including the upcoming A Word or Two) starring Christopher Plummer.
“Des’s contributions to the Festival have been tremendous,” said Dr. Myers. “His productions have introduced some of the most exciting stagecraft ever seen in our theatres, and he has brought new lustre to our international reputation. He has attracted many new talented directors to Stratford and has shaped one of the finest ensembles in English theatre.
“He has added a whole new dimension to our training initiatives by introducing the Michael Langham Workshop for Classical Direction. He has also reinvigorated our New Play Development program with an abundance of commissions and productions of new Canadian works, along with the introduction of playwright residencies and the Playwrights’ Retreat.
“He has done all of this while maintaining his international profile, directing productions in New York and throughout the U.S., in London, Australia, New Zealand and Korea, at the Metropolitan Opera and at the English National Opera. He has taken three Festival productions to the silver screen, including Twelfth Night, which opened in Cineplex theatres on March 10, and is about to open the 2011 Stratford hit production of Jesus Christ Superstar on Broadway, giving the Festival a brand new revenue stream that will be a great additional legacy of his tenure.
“Des has designed a stellar 2012 season – our landmark 60th season – and we look forward to seeing it come to fruition under his skilful hand. In 2012, he will direct Henry V, featuring Aaron Krohn, Ben Carlson, Tom Rooney, Lucy Peacock and Gareth Potter, and A Word or Two, starring Christopher Plummer.
“Just a few days ago, we learned that Des is to receive a Governor General’s Performing Arts Award: the prestigious National Arts Centre Award, which recognizes his extraordinary accomplishments in the past performance year.
“The Board of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival congratulates him on this honour and extends its profound gratitude to him for the enormous contributions he has made over the last five years during a period when his own star was also rising to great heights on the international stage. We look forward to the forthcoming season with great anticipation, and we are very pleased that he will continue his association with the Festival. We know that audiences will eagerly await his next Stratford production.”
Antoni Cimolino first joined the Festival as an actor in 1988 and played Romeo opposite Megan Follows’s Juliet in 1992. Assistant director of Pirandello’s The Rules of the Game in 1991, he co-directed The Merry Wives of Windsor in 1995 with then Artistic Director Richard Monette and directed his first solo Festival production, Filumena (in which Mr. Monette played a leading role), in 1997.
Since then, he has directed several classical works at Stratford including Ben Jonson’s Bartholomew Fair in 2009 – the first professional production of that 400-year-old play ever staged in North America – as well as Shakespeare’s Coriolanus, with Colm Feore; As You Like It with Sara Topham; King John, with Stephen Ouimette; Love’s Labour’s Lost with Brian Bedford; and Twelfth Night, with William Hutt.
He has also won acclaim for his productions of more contemporary repertoire, including last season’s The Grapes of Wrath, with Tom McCamus and Evan Buliung, and The Night of the Iguana, with Seana McKenna. His most recent directing credit elsewhere was the enthusiastically received Canadian première of Enron, featuring Graham Abbey, which had a sold-out run at Theatre Calgary earlier this year.
In 2012, his 25th season with the Festival, Mr. Cimolino is directing Shakespeare’s rarely produced Cymbeline, with a cast that includes Graham Abbey, Tom McCamus, Cara Ricketts and Geraint Wyn Davies. In all, he has directed, co-directed or assistant directed 20 productions at the Festival, including 11 Shakespeare plays, while also fulfilling a series of leadership roles that culminated in his appointment as General Director in 2006.
In that capacity, he administers an annual budget of $60 million and oversees 1,000 employees. He was instrumental in the formation of the Festival’s Endowment Foundation (which has raised more than $50 million to date), the renovation of the Avon Theatre and the establishment of the Studio Theatre.
Mr. Cimolino has also been a strong advocate for the arts, serving as Chair of the Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership Board and Chair of the National Steering Committee of Culture Days, a coast-to-coast celebration of culture and the arts in Canada. He spearheaded and remains an active volunteer with the Festival’s EsArtes project, a joint endeavour with CUSO, which has established a performing arts and educational centre in the city of Suchitoto, El Salvador.
“In his new role with the Festival, Antoni will stand on the shoulders of many artistic giants,” said Dr. Myers. “We have great confidence that he will move the Festival to great heights under his enthusiastic artistic leadership.”