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Antoni Cimolino to be interviewed for job of Stratford artistic director in February

Stratford Festival General Director Antoni Cimolino at the Theatre in Stratford, Ontario April 22, 2011.

Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail

Antoni Cimolino has not only openly expressed that he wants the job of artistic director at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival - he's currently the only candidate with an interview for the position lined up.

Stratford's seven-person artistic director search committee will next meet in early February, where Cimolino will be on hand to make his case for why he's the man to run Canada's largest theatre company.

No other interviews are scheduled at the moment. Does that mean Cimolino, general director at Festival, is a shoe-in for the job?

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On Thursday, I spoke to the chair of Stratford's board of governors, M. Lee Myers (love that initial), who is also heading up the search committee.

"We recognize that we do have a strong internal candidate," she said, referring to Cimolino, currently general director of the festival. "But we recognize the importance of process. We're looking at all the potential possibilities for the festival."

Myers explained to me exactly how the search has unfolded since Des McAnuff announced in June that he was leaving after the 2013 season.

In the summer, a committee was formed - comprised of Myers and four other current board members, plus former board chair Richard Rooney and actor and director Martha Henry.

Toronto's Searchlight Recruitment was hired to help out and launched a "stakeholder consultation process" that involved interviewing almost 100 people, including past and present board members, senior staff, senior production people, over 20 actors at the festival and few key external figures from the Canadian theatre world.

A report was filed and a wish list of characteristics in an artistic director was put together.

Myers tells me the committee's dream candidate is someone who "cherishes the role of the Stratford Festival and sees its potential" and who "certainly has some experience with Shakespeare, and has a commitment to classical theatre in general".

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Other important characteristics: Experience directing at Stratford and/or on a thrust stage like the one in the Festival Theatre; administrative experience; and an ability to play a strong role in fundraising.

At this point, the committee has, Myers tells me, "gone through a fairly comprehensive review of potential candidates, both Canadian and non-Canadian." There was a long list (she wouldn't tell me how long); now there is a short list (ditto).

Of the next committee meeting in February, says Myers, "We will be interviewing Antoni Cimolino at that meeting and further considering our shorter list of potential candidates."

Then, will those candidates on the short list be invited in for interviews? This is a question Myers says she cannot answer: "I don't want to preempt the discussion of the committee."

Does that mean Cimolino might be the only candidate interviewed by the committee? "I can't say for sure at this point," says Myers. "I guess, Kelly, I'd say anything's possible…"

"It's very clear that we do have a strong internal candidate and no one is hiding from that. At the same time, we do want to clearly consider other possibilities."

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Take from that what you will, but it certainly sounds to me that, at the very least, Cimolino is the frontrunner.

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