Memorable Manitobans: John Steven Hirsch (1930-1989)
Born at Siofok, Hungary in 1930, he was orphaned during the Second World War and immigrated to Canada in 1947, settling at Winnipeg. He attended the University of Manitoba and began a career with a puppet theatre, but in 1957 he and Tom Hendry founded Theatre 77, which in 1958 was combined with the Manitoba Little Theatre to form the Manitoba Theatre Centre. He became its first artistic director.
The MTC served as the model for regional theatre in Canada. Hirsch co-directed the Stratford Festival from 1967 to 1969 and was head of television drama at the CBC from 1976 to 1979. He was a founding board member of the Manitoba Centennial Corporation (1963). In 1980 he became artistic director at Stratford, Ontario. He often directed abroad, and he won several important awards. He was given the Manitoba Golden Boy Award (1960), the University of Manitoba gave him an honorary doctorate (1966), and he was one of the first people inducted into the Order of Canada (1967).
He died at Toronto, Ontario on 1 August 1989 of a complication resulting from AIDS. In 1993, he was inducted posthumously into the Winnipeg Citizens Hall of Fame. He is commemorated by John Hirsch Place in Winnipeg.
“These twelve Manitobans to receive Golden Boy Awards,” Winnipeg Free Press, 18 June 1960, page 12.
“These Manitobans will help plan centennial,” Winnipeg Free Press, 13 September 1963, page 9.
“Honour 4 city people,” Winnipeg Free Press, 7 July 1967.
“Special man mourned,” Winnipeg Free Press, 3 August 1989, page 35.
Dictionary of Manitoba Biography by John M. “Jack” Bumsted, Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 28 January 2023