Des McAnuff - Details


Des McAnuff is a two-time Tony Award-winner (Big River, The Who's Tommy (1975)) who made his feature film directorial debut on the 1998 Fox Searchlight black comedy, Cousin Bette (1998), starring Jessica Lange, Elisabeth Shue and Bob Hoskins.
A native of Toronto, Canada, McAnuff cut his teeth in the theatre as both a playwright and director. He first garnered acclaim for his play, Leave It to Beaver Is Dead, written while he was a student at Ryerson College. The original work won the Factory Lab Theatre Award for best play by a university student in 1973. Two years later, it received a full-blown theatrical staging at Toronto's Theatre Second Floor before legendary producer Joseph Papp brought it to New York. The new version, directed by McAnuff for Papp's N.Y. Shakespeare Festival, collected the SoHo Arts Award for best off-Broadway play for the 1978-79 season.
McAnuff relocated to New York City, where his career skyrocketed. He directed the Obie Award-winning production of The Crazy Locomotive at the Chelsea Theatre Center, where he became Associate Director and Literary Manager. In 1978, he co-founded the Dodger Theatre at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and directed the company's first production, Gimme Shelter, for which he won the SoHo Arts Award as Best Director. For the Dodger troupe, he also staged Holeville, How It All Began and Mary Stuart, the latter two for Papp's Public Theatre.
Continuing his affiliation with Papp, he directed Henry IV, Part One in Central Park's Delacorte Theatre and was awarded a Rockefeller grant for his original play, The Death of Von Richthofen As Witnessed from Earth, which he staged at the Public and earned a SoHo Villager prize as Best Director.
In 1983, McAnuff moved west to become artistic director of the famed La Jolla Playhouse, where he remained until 1994. During his tenure there, the company won more than 200 awards for excellence including the 1993 Tony for Outstanding Regional Theatre. Committed to both the classics and new plays and musicals, McAnuff directed for the playhouse such projects as Romeo and Juliet, A Mad World, My Masters, As You Like It, The Seagull, Shout Up A Morning (also at the Kennedy Center), Gillette, The Matchmaker, A Walk in the Woods (also on Broadway), Two Rooms, 80 Days, Down the Road, Macbeth, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Elmer Gantry, Twelfth Night, Three Sisters, Fortinbras, and Much Ado About Nothing. He also executive produced the Broadway-bound Barry Manilow-Bruce Sussman musical, Harmony, which premiered at La Jolla in 1997.
At La Jolla, he developed the original musical Big River, and took the Roger Miller show to Broadway, where it won seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical and another for his direction. Working with composer Pete Townsend, he also developed, co-wrote a new book and directed the acclaimed adaptation of The Who's Tommy (1975) , also taking it to the Great White Way, where it won five Tonys. For his work on the bold musical, McAnuff won his second Tony as well as the Drama Desk and Outer Circle Critics Awards. He also staged the musical in London, collecting an Olivier Award as Best Director, and in Toronto, where it won five Dora Mavor Moore Awards, including Best Director. His most recent Broadway triumph was the revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really trying, for which star Matthew Broderick won a Tony Award.
McAnuff has directed for the American Repertory Theatre at Harvard, Yale Rep and the Stratford Festival of Canada. He continues as Director-in-Residence at La Jolla and is a former faculty member of the Juilliard School and the University of California, San Diego.
Before making his feature debut on Cousin Bette, McAnuff directed a 30-minute short entitled, Bad Dates, which starred Nancy Travis as a kindergarten teacher who stops eating and the impact her act has on her students. He also produced last year's critically-acclaimed animated feature Iron Giant, The (1999).