Des McAnuff's dance card filling up

Artistic Director of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, Des McAnuff, is shown in this 2007 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, SSF - David Hou

TORONTO - Des McAnuff, the renowned outgoing artistic director of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, says it's not in his nature to get emotional with his goodbyes.

So, while he feels privileged to have worked at the repertory theatre, he's also looking forward to his next projects once he leaves at the end of this season.

"I'm very proud of the work we've done here and I will of course miss the acting company. This has got to be the most talented acting company in the world, in my opinion," the two-time Tony Award-winning director said in a recent telephone interview.

"But you know, I'm also really looking forward to my artistic freedom. All artists covet the opportunity to concentrate on the projects that are closest to their hearts and that's certainly what I'll be doing in this next period."

"Henry V," the second-last production McAnuff is directing at the festival in southwestern Ontario this season, opens Friday.

The last show he's helming there this year, Christopher Plummer's one-man play "A Word or Two," opens August 2.

When the 2012 season closes, McAnuff's tenure will have encompassed 69 festival productions, 10 of which he's directed.

Other productions McAnuff has helmed at the festival over the years include "The Tempest," "Caesar and Cleopatra" and "Twelfth Night," all three of which were filmed and broadcast in movie theatres.

McAnuff also directed the festival's production of "Jesus Christ Superstar" that recently closed on Broadway.

Antoni Cimolino, the festival's general director, will replace McAnuff at the end of the festival's 60th season.

When McAnuff leaves, he'll turn his attention to several projects, including a stage adaptation of the Flaming Lips album "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots" he's developing with frontman Wayne Coyne. He said it will include some of his Canadian colleagues in San Diego, Calif., where he's been artistic director of the La Jolla Playhouse theatre.

McAnuff is also working with rapper-poet Will Power on his play "Fetch Clay, Make Man," as well as a couple of productions for the Metropolitan Opera.

"My dance card, it seems to be filling up," said the Illinois-born, Toronto-bred McAnuff, who recently won a Governor General's Performing Arts Award and an appointment to the Order of Canada.

"I'm also looking forward to just having some writing time, and we've been talking about doing movie. When you have a job like this, it's very hard to pursue motion pictures just because they're so time-consuming and they behave with a certain amount of fluidity. When it comes to the calendar, you have to keep yourself available for them, so they don't always go comfortably with the schedule we have in the theatre and the opera.

"So this will give me a chance to perhaps spread my wings a little bit, and I hope I'll get a chance to do another movie."

One of those movies possibilities is an adaptation of Mordecai Richler's short novel "Cocksure" he plans to direct. Jason Sherman is writing the screenplay.

"That's one thing that we'd love to do. There are a couple of other things that are cropping up as well," said McAnuff, who directed the films "The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle" and "Cousin Bette."

Will any of those films include Plummer?

"Well, he'll be in any movie I do. If I can talk him into it, that's for certain," McAnuff said with a laugh.

"Even if it's a female part that I have to rewrite — or maybe I don't have to rewrite it. As far as Christopher Plummer is concerned, I wouldn't put anything past him. He can play Romeo with his talent, so I would love to have him. Anything I do, he's got an open invitation."

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version reported that Aaron Sorkin was attached to 'Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots.'