The John Hirsch Memorial Fund was established by a bequest to the Ontario Arts Council in 1989 from the late John Hirsch, one of Canada's most distinguished directors. The award is presented to a promising theatre director to further the recipient’s professional development.
An award committee composed of up to five recognized Canadian theatre professionals is responsible for nominating the candidates and selecting the award winner.
The Ontario Arts Council manages the selection process.
The OAC awards office does not accept unsolicited nominations for this award.
John Hirsch was born in Siófok, Hungary, in 1930. From the time he began producing puppet shows at age 16 in the refugee camps of war-torn Europe, he knew he wanted to direct.
In 1947, Hirsch immigrated to Canada and embarked on a directing and teaching career that took him all over Canada and the United States.
Hirsch co-founded Winnipeg’s first professional theatre when he was 28 years old. In 1967, he became Associate Artistic Director of the Stratford Festival. During Canada’s centennial year he chose to direct the world premiere of Ontario playwright James Reany’s Colours in the Dark.
In December 1980, Hirsch was appointed Artistic Director of the Stratford Festival. During his five-year tenure he significantly heightened the profile of the Young Company at the Third Stage, redefining its direction as a training program for young professional actors.
During the course of his remarkable career, Hirsch won the Outer Circle Critics’ Award for St. Joan at New York’s Lincoln Centre; an Obie Award for AC/DC at the Chelsea Theatre Centre in Brooklyn; and the Los Angeles Drama Critics’ Award for The Dybbuk at the Mark Taper Forum.
In addition to these awards for directing, Hirsch received the Literary Award of the Canadian Authors Association for the translation and adaptation of The Dybbuk. He was named to the Order of Canada in 1967, and won the prestigious Molson Prize in 1976 for outstanding contribution to the arts in Canada.
John Hirsch died in 1989.