A game-changing encounter with Hirsch

As the opening of HIRSCH, a play about Canadian theatre legend John Hirsch (1930 – 1989), nears, we continue our series of blog posts featuring a series of Canadian theatre makers talking about the impact the great man had on their career.  

From Firehall Arts Centre Artistic Producer Donna Spencer

Donna Spencer

I remember my first vision of John Hirsch – the man we in the Vancouver theatre scene at that time, had heard so much about.  It was at a party after a closing night and he had been invited by Ray Michal, who was the Artistic Director of City Stage and the host of the party.  Ray had encountered John in Winnipeg and John was the person who had encouraged him to get involved in theatre and so he had – going back to school as an older student to study and eventually start his own company – the quixotic City Stage.  And there Mr. Hirsch was standing very tall (or so it seemed to me, a lowly house manager at the time) and very proud as the current head of CBC drama, drink in hand, talking passionately to a group gathered around him about the power of theatre.  I stood to the side and listened just as passionately.   This man was talking about what I felt – how did he know? He even spoke with his head tilted to one side as my drama teacher kept telling me not to do. I was wowed and at that moment believed everything I wanted to do in theatre was possible.

Alon Nashman as John HirschSo when he began working with Seattle Repertory Theatre and they announced him as lead speaker of their Director’s Conference and a bunch of us cobbled together enough cash to head south of the border and listen to him speak and watch as he guided actors through scenes. We sat on the edge of our seats, pens poised to capture the words of wisdom as they fell from his lips. He talked about our role as directors and Artistic Directors. He spoke of having vision and being daring, challenged us to use our work to make people think, to question the status quo and to tell good stories whether through using classical or original scripts. It was obvious he had a love of all kinds of performance, a passion for the power of the word and that he wanted to share this passion, this love for the theatre with all kinds of audiences.

And now, I am so proud to have the opportunity to share Alon Nashman and Paul Thompson’s HIRSCH with Vancouver audiences through our partnership with Touchstone Theatre and the Chutzpah Festival.  This production allows us all to take a small glimpse at the life of this incredible man who gave so much to Canadian theatre and radio drama and I applaud the creators.

Donna Spencer

Artistic Producer

Firehall Arts Centre

Hirsch is on at the Firehall Arts Centre Feb 25 – Mar 1. Tickets are $15-30 and can be purchased online or by phone (604-689-0926).

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