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Hirsch, John Stephen


HIRSCH, JOHN STEPHEN (1930–1989), Canadian theater director. John Hirsch was born in Siofok, Hungary. He lived with his family in Endrod (today Gyoma Endrod). When he was 14, his parents and brother were murdered during the Holocaust. Hirsch was first hidden from the Nazis by a maid who secreted him to the Budapest ghetto where he survived the war. A Jewish orphan in postwar Europe, he was part of a group of 175 Jewish children smuggled out of a Displaced Person's camp into Romania. From there he was taken to Greece, then Palestine, before finally coming to Canada. He arrived in Winnipeg, Manitoba, in 1947, where he and another orphan boy were welcomed into the home of a local Jewish family.

Hirsch first studied English in classes organized by the National Council of Jewish Women and went on to study at the University of Manitoba. In 1957 he co-founded (with Tom Hendry) Theatre 77, which, in 1958, joined with Winnipeg Little Theatre to become the country's first regional theater, the Manitoba Theatre Centre. Hirsch was the company's first artistic director. He went on to become associate director of the Stratford Festival in 1967–69 and was its director between 1981 and 1985. He was head of cbc television drama from 1974 to 1978. He directed at the National Arts Centre, Toronto Arts Productions (now Can Stage), Young People's Theatre (now Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People), and the Shaw Festival. He also directed in the United States, where he won Obie, Outer Critics, and Los Angeles Critics awards for his productions. Hirsch was awarded the Order of Canada in 1967 and was one of the first high-profile Canadian artists to die of aids. Before his death he made a bequest to the Jewish Immigrant Aid Service which has been used to set up a Scholarship Fund to support students in the arts and performing arts.


M. Knelman, A Stratford Tempest (1982).

[Joel Greenberg (2nd ed.)]

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