Des McAnuff will stay on as artistic director of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival for two more years, but is to exit after the 2013 season.

McAnuff made the announcement Saturday as the theatre festival in southwestern Ontario released its playbill for 2012.

The 2012 season includes three Shakespeare plays, a tragedy by Sophocles and three new Canadian works.

McAnuff, a Tony Award-winning director, is in high demand internationally  — he brought Jersey Boys to Broadway in 2005 and helmed a production of Dr. Zhivago in Australia earlier this year.

Extended reach of festival

Lee Myers, chair of the Stratford board of governors, hailed McAnuff's accomplishments as artistic director, including strengthening the acting company and increasing the diversity in Stratford productions, as well as building audiences.

" He has successfully expanded the festival's work into other media, filming productions of Caesar and Cleopatra and The Tempest for cinema release and television broadcast," Myers said in a statement.

"At the same time, our work is finding a home further afield with the co-production of Phèdre in San Francisco, the transfer of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum to Toronto, and the extended run of Brian Bedford's hugely successful production of The Importance of Being Earnest in New York, for which Bedford received a Tony Award nomination," he added.

Plummer in one-man play

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Christopher Plummer as Caesar and Nikki M. James as Cleopatra in the 2008 version of Caesar and Cleopatra at Stratford. ((David Hou/Stratford Shakespeare Festival))

The 2012 season — the festival's 60th anniversary — will feature a return of Christopher Plummer to the Stratford stage.

Plummer is to adapt, arrange and perform the one-man show — A Word or Two — described as "a deeply personal work that focuses on his love of literature" with selections from Stephen Leacock, Bernard Shaw and William Shakespeare.

Plummer last appeared at Stratford as Prospero in The Tempest and in 2008 played Caesar in Caesar and Cleopatra.

McAnuff is planning three world premieres in 2012, including a new Canadian musical commissioned by the festival, titled Wanderlust.

Play about Robert Service

Wanderlust, about the life poet Robert Service, who immortalized Yukon in The Shooting of Dan McGrew, is to be written and directed by Morris Panych, with music by Marek Norman.

The Shakespearean plays include:

  • Henry V, directed by McAnuff.
  • Much Ado About Nothing, directed by Christopher Newton, former artistic director of the Shaw Festival and a member of the Stratford Festival acting company in the 1960s.
  • Cymbeline, to be directed by Stratford general director Antoni Cimolino.

Canadian actor Rick Miller will also bring MacHomer, his popular comic mashup of Macbeth and The Simpsons  to Stratford in 2012.

Other plays planned for the season:

  • Elektra, the Greek tragedy in a translation by Canadian poet Anne Carson, to be staged by Athenian director Thomas Moschopoulos.
  • 42nd Street, a musical directed by Gary Griffin, whose Stratford productions include West Side Story, Evita and Camelot.
  • The Matchmaker, a Thornton Wilder comedy to be directed by Chris Abraham, who helmed For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again in 2010.
  • The Pirates of Penzance, Gilbert and Sullivan's comic operetta, to be directed by Ethan McSweeny.
  • You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, to be directed by Donna Feore.

Two Canadian plays that have emerged from Stratford's new play development program will see the stage in 2012:

  • The Hirsch Project, by Alon Nashman and Paul Thompson, based on the life of former festival artistic director John Hirsch, with Nashman playing Hirsch.
  • The Best Brothers, by Daniel MacIvor, about brothers examining their relationship after the death of their mother.