Des McAnuff to Depart from La Jolla Playhouse in 2007
Two-time Tony® Award winner McAnuff served as Artistic Director of La Jolla Playhouse from 1983 to 1994, reviving the dormant Playhouse as an important cultural resource for San Diego and as a nationally renowned theatre center. Since his return to the Playhouse in 2001, more than half of the plays and musicals that the Playhouse has produced in that time have been original works, including the McAnuff-helmed Jersey Boys recently awarded four Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Also during his tenure, the Playhouse opened the Joan and Irwin Jacobs Center for La Jolla Playhouse featuring the Sheila and Hughes Potiker Theatre, the Playhouse's first permanent home for rehearsals, administration and enhanced production space.
"Des has brought inspired, visionary leadership to La Jolla Playhouse," said Board President Ralph Bryan. "Since his return in 2001, he has re-energized our theatre's reputation, garnering national accolades as a center for new play development and as a creative haven for our nation's leading artists. Des has also rejuvenated the community's interest in the Playhouse, significantly increasing the number of donors and subscribers and extending the reach of our educational programs."
The Board of Trustees has approved the formation of a search committee to undertake the process of recruiting a new Artistic Director. They are utilizing the services of Management Consultants for the Arts, a multi–service consulting firm nationally recognized for its work in executive leadership searches for arts organizations.
Bryan commented, "It is our challenge to find a new artistic director who can build on Des' strong foundation of excellent artistry, unfettered creativity and exemplary leadership. And, we look forward to a rewarding continued relationship with Des in his new role as Director Emeritus."
Playhouse Managing Director Steven B. Libman noted, "The ample notice that Des has given us will ensure the Playhouse has appropriate time for our search. Our goal is to have a new Artistic Director by April 2007 so that he or she will be in place to plan the 2008 season. Until that time, we all look forward to continuing to work with Des as he plans the 2007 season, directs The Wiz, which begins performances on September 26, and directs the Page To Stage workshop production of The Farnsworth Invention, which begins performances on February 20, 2007. And we look forward to working with him on projects in the future."
"I have deeply enjoyed serving as Artistic Director and look forward to making my new role as Director Emeritus as meaningful and impactful as possible," said McAnuff. "It is my intention to continue to direct plays, raise funds for the Playhouse and serve as an ambassador for the institution far into the future. There is no doubt in my mind that La Jolla Playhouse is absolutely at the forefront of the American resident theatre movement and we expect to attract exceptionally strong leadership after a rigorous search."
When asked about his decision to leave the Playhouse, McAnuff noted, "This decision has been motivated by both outside opportunities that have recently presented themselves and by my commitments to projects born from my work at La Jolla Playhouse. It is imperative to me as well as to the Playhouse that I honor these obligations to the artists involved. For these professional reasons — and for personal reasons — it has become crucial for me to spend more time in New York."
Further information on McAnuff's artistic plans will be announced in the near future.
"I consider my role in the rebirth and development of La Jolla Playhouse as the single greatest accomplishment of my career," said McAnuff, "And I expect that I will always feel that way."
LA JOLLA PLAYHOUSE has received more than 300 awards for theatre excellence, including the 1993 Tony® Award as America's Outstanding Regional Theatre. Located in La Jolla, California, the Playhouse is nationally acclaimed for its innovative productions of classics, new plays and musicals. Led by two-time Tony Award winner Des McAnuff, artistic director; Steven Libman, managing director; and Shirley Fishman, associate artistic director, the Playhouse was founded in 1947 by Gregory Peck, Dorothy McGuire and Mel Ferrer. More than 30 Playhouse productions have moved to Broadway, garnering 23 Tony Awards, including Big River, The Who's Tommy, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, A Walk in the Woods, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Dracula, the Musical, Billy Crystal's 700 Sundays and the Pulitzer Prize-winning I Am My Own Wife, fostered as part of the Playhouse's Page To Stage New Play Development Program. In June 2006, La Jolla Playhouse's Broadway hit Jersey Boys was recently awarded four Tony Awards including Best Musical. Visit www.lajollaplayhouse.org.
Des McAnuff is a two-time Tony Award-winning director. He is currently represented on Broadway by the 2006 Tony Award-winning production for Best Musical, Jersey Boys. A dual citizen of Canada and the United States, he has written, composed and directed for theatre and film companies around the world.
He began his career in Toronto as a composer/lyricist before turning to playwriting in the early 1970s. His musicals and plays, Urbania (Poor Alex Theatre, 1971); Silent Edward (Young People's Theatre, 1972), both of which he wrote and composed; A Lime in the Morning (Toronto Center for the Arts, 1973), Troll (Toronto Free Theatre, 1974); Leave it to Beaver is Dead (Factor Theatre Lab Workshop, 1974, Theatre Second Floor, 1975); The Pits (scripted with John Palmer, Toronto Free Theatre, 1975) and his adaptation of Marlowe's Doctor Faustus (which he composed and directed, Theatre Passe Muraille, 1976) all received productions in the burgeoning Toronto theatre scene.
He was the composer for Michael Ondaatje's The Collected Works of Billy the Kid (Toronto Free Theatre, 1974, the Manitoba Theatre Center, 1975 and the Folger Shakespeare Theatre, Washington D.C., 1975).
In the summer of 1975 his band, "The Choke Sisters," performed Trash – a compilation of rock and roll songs that he wrote and composed with Larry Davis – at Harborfront Theatre and in various venues around Toronto, and, in 1976, he directed The Bacchae for Green Theatre which toured Toronto schools.
His New York directorial debut was the Obie Award-winning production of The Crazy Locomotive at the Chelsea Theatre Center in 1977.
In the fall of 1978, as co-founder of Dodger Theatre, he directed the company's first production, Gimme Shelter. In the spring of 1979 he directed his play Leave it to Beaver is Dead at The Joseph Papp Public Theater. That season, for those two productions, he won the Soho Arts Award for Best Off Broadway Direction and Best Off Broadway Play.
In 1979 and 1980 he was a director and playwright in residence at the Banff Centre's Playwrighting Colony in Alberta, Canada. In 1980, he directed Barrie Keeffe's A Mad World, My Masters at the Toronto Arts Productions at the St. Lawrence Center. In 1980, he also directed Holeville and Sleak for the Dodgers in New York. In 1981 he directed Mary Stuart with Roberta Maxwell and How It All Began with Val Kilmer for the Dodgers at the Public Theater and Henry IV, Part One for Joseph Papp at the Delacorte in Central Park. In 1981, the SoHo News said, "At 28, Des McAnuff is well on his way to becoming one of the most important theatre artists of his generation."
As artist-in-residence at The Joseph Papp Public Theater in 1982 he wrote, composed, and directed The Death of Von Richthofen as Witnessed from Earth.
McAnuff's production of Macbeth opened the 1983 season at the Stratford Festival of Canada, and in that same year, La Jolla Playhouse in California was reborn under his leadership.
Founded in 1947 by Gregory Peck, Dorothy McGuire and Mel Ferrer, La Jolla Playhouse provided a theatrical home for many of Hollywood's brightest stars until 1964, after which it remained dormant for almost two decades. In 1982, the Board of Trustees named Des McAnuff, 30 at the time, Artistic Director.
Under his stewardship, from 1983 to 1994 and 2001 to the present, the Playhouse has won over 300 awards for excellence and fully a third of its productions have gone on to other theatres across the country and around the world, including 14 productions to Broadway. Since 2001, more than half of the plays and musicals produced at the Playhouse have been original works.
In 1985, McAnuff's production of Big River garnered seven Tony Awards including Best Musical and Best Direction of a Musical. Big River was just the beginning. Playhouse productions have earned 28 Tony Awards during McAnuff's tenure: seven for Big River, five for The Who's Tommy, including Best Direction of a Musical, one for How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, both of which he directed, six for Thoroughly Modern Millie, three for I Am My Own Wife, one for Billy Crystal's 700 Sundays, which he directed, and the 1993 Tony for Outstanding Regional Theatre. Most recently, the McAnuff-helmed Jersey Boys won four Tony Awards including the 2006 award for Best Musical.
In 1987, McAnuff directed Lee Blessing's A Walk in the Woods, which went on to Broadway and to theatres in Moscow, Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) and Lithuania. It was the first production ever performed at the Library of Congress for the Senate and is credited for changing Senate votes to support the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty with the former Soviet Union.
In addition to creating Broadway fare, McAnuff has transformed the Playhouse's summer operation into a full time resident theatre powerhouse for progressive work with three stages, design studios, rehearsal halls, state-of-the-art scene and costume shops and administrative offices. A restaurant is also soon to open on site. The Playhouse has expanded into a thriving theatre village under his direction. He created a new play program, "Page To Stage," that has nurtured such plays as the Pulitzer Prize award-winning I Am My Own Wife and Billy Crystal's 700 Sundays. During his tenure as Artistic Director, McAnuff has directed 34 plays and musicals and produced 124 shows.
Robert Blacker, McAnuff's first associate artistic director who went on to run the acclaimed Sundance Theatre Lab, remarks, "Some artistic directors are managers. Des is art-driven. He understands that the best way to get great work from artists is to let artists take themselves where their passions lie. An artistic director must be able to put together seasons and raise money. A great artistic director has the ability to work with artists to shape great work."
McAnuff's first feature film was 1998's Cousin Bette, starring Jessica Lange. In 1999, he produced the critically acclaimed Warner Brothers film Iron Giant, which won nine 1999 Annie Awards from the International Animation Society and a 1999 BAFTA Award from the British Academy. In 2000, McAnuff directed The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, starring Robert DeNiro, Jason Alexander and Rene Russo. He served as executive producer for Quills, in 2001, which was named Best Picture by the National Board of Review.
McAnuff will direct two productions in the upcoming months at La Jolla Playhouse: a new version of The Wiz and a Page To Stage Workshop Production of Aaron Sorkin's new play, The Farnsworth Invention. His production of Lucy Simon's world premiere musical Zhivago opened the 2006 season.
McAnuff has taught at Juilliard and has directed at Harvard's American Repertory Theatre and the Yale Repertory Theatre. He is a former Board member of the Wexner Center in Columbus, Ohio and Theatre Communications Group in New York, and currently serves on the Advisory Board of the Carnegie Mellon School of Drama. In addition, McAnuff is a member of the Eastern European Theatre Initiative, which fosters cultural exchange between American and European theatres. For his acclaimed work he has received grants from the Ontario Arts Council, The Canada Council and the Rockefeller Foundation.
In addition to the 18 Tony Awards his Broadway shows have garnered in various categories, including two Tonys for Outstanding Direction of a Musical, McAnuff has earned a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Direction, two Outer Critics Circle Awards for Best Musical and Best Direction, two Olivier Awards for Best Direction and Outstanding Musical, two Dora Awards for Outstanding Direction and Outstanding Production of a Musical and the SoHo Villager Award as well as awards from Critics Circles in Boston, Chicago, the Bay Area, Los Angeles and San Diego.
In May 2006, McAnuff was presented by the Drama League with the prestigious Julia Hansen Award for Excellence in Directing in recognition for the work he has done throughout his career.