John Hirsch arrived in Winnipeg in 1947, a 17-year-old Hungarian orphan of the Holocaust, knowing no English. Ten years later, he co-founded the Manitoba Theatre Centre, establishing a model for regional theatres across North America. He went on to direct award-winning productions in Los Angeles, New York, Stratford and Toronto - everything from Guys and Dolls to The Tempest--and to work with actors like Len Cariou, Martha Henry, Anthony Hopkins, and Maggie Smith. Notorious for his fiery temper, budget--blowing sets, and artistic risk-taking, he had a stormy four years as CBC's head of TV drama in the 1970s (high and low points include King of Kensington and Peter Lougheed's lawsuit over The Tar Sands), and an even stormier tenure as Artistic Director at the Stratford Festival from 1981 to 1985. He died in 1989 of AIDS.
Vancouver author Fraidie Martz is a psychiatric social worker by training. She became interested in John Hirsch when she wrote Open Your Hearts [Véhicule Press, 1996], the story of the Jewish war orphans who came to Canada after World War II, of whom Hirsch was the most famous.
Andrew Wilson is a writer, translator and editor who worked with Fraidie Martz on Open Your Hearts . He lives in England, where he also serves as a magistrate.
Praise for John Hirsch: "In life and on stage, John Hirsch knew how to corrupt his audience with pleasure. Swift of mind and of gesture, Hirsch was a dazzling director--playful, witty, and daring; as a friend and collaborator, he was some kind of rabbinical Hungarian mensch. Unforgettable." --John Lahr, Senior Drama Critic, The New Yorker
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