Hannah Moscovitch, playwright (born 5 June 1978 in Ottawa, ON). Winner of multiple Dora Mavor Moore awards and a nominee for the Governor General’s Award, Hannah Moscovitch’s most acclaimed works thus far are herplays East of Berlin, Essay, and The Russian Play. She isone of Canada’s most produced and prominent contemporary playwrights.
Early Life and Education
Hannah Moscovitch was raised in Ottawa’s Glebe neighborhood. Her father, Allan Moscovitch, worked as a social policy professor at Carleton University; her mother, Julie White, was a labour researcher. Both were heavily involved in left-wing politics, and the household teemed with lively political debate, an environment that greatly influenced Moscovitch as a writer: her plays tackle complex and often politically charged contemporary issues. Hannah was encouraged to write from a young age; as a child she put plays on in her living room, charging her parents for tickets, and dressing up her brother and cat in costumes.
After graduating from high school in 1996, Moscovitch applied to The National Theatre School in Montréal for acting, but wasn’t accepted. She decided to travel abroad for a year, first to Israel, where she worked on a kibbutz in the Golan Heights for four months, and then to Uxbridge, England, where she did temp work for various companies. Upon her return to Canada, she reapplied to The National Theatre School, and this time was accepted into the program. As an acting student, she took a mandatory playwriting class, taught by Sheldon Rosen, and excelled immediately. Impressed by her wide-ranging and instinctive writing talents, she was encouraged by professors at The National Theatre School to switch from the acting program to the playwriting program, but she stuck with acting and graduated in 2001. One of the plays she wrote as a student, Cigarettes and Tricia Truman,was workshopped at Ottawa’s Great Canadian Theatre Company.
In 2001 Moscovitch moved to Toronto, where she studied literature at The University of Toronto and worked as a server at Teatro Restaurant on College Street to support herself. Buttressed by the encouragement of a number of older playwrights, including Lise Ann Johnson, Peter Hinton, Marti Maraden, and Brian Quirt, she continued to write plays throughout this time.
Moscovitch first gained widespread recognition for two plays she wrote for SummerWorks Theatre Festival in Toronto. The first, Essay (2005), tackled gender politics in contemporary academia, a work Moscovitch has called a response to David Mamet’s play, Oleanna,which according to many interpretations villainizes a young female student for her feminist leanings. Essay received rave reviews, and the next year at SummerWorks Moscovitch put on The Russian Play, a romance set in Stalinist Russia, in which Sonya, a young Russian woman, falls in love with a gravedigger. The Russian Play won the SummerWorks Jury Prize for Best New Production. Moscovitch’s reputation as one of Canada’s most talented young playwrights was growing.
Moscovitch developed her first full-length play, East of Berlin,as a member of the Tarragon Playwrights Unit, and itpremiered at Tarragon Theatre in 2007. Revolving around the son of a Nazi war criminal who grows up in Paraguay, East of Berlin tackles the legacy of the Holocaust, a theme that had been brewing in Moscovitch since she worked alongside the grandson of a Nazi at a kibbutz in Golan Heights 10 years earlier. The play was also influenced by Legacy of Silence,a book about children of Nazis. A great success, East of Berlin was nominated for the Governor General’s Award and returned to the Tarragon Theatre in 2009 and 2010. Moscovitch’s next play, The Children’s Republic,which takes place in a Warsaw orphanage, premiered at Tarragon in 2011, and in 2013 Tarragon presented a double bill featuring her latest work, Little One and Other People’s Children.
Moscovitch was a contributing writer for the CBC Radio drama series Afghanada from 2006 to 2011. The unique access she gained to Canadian soldiers coming home from Afghanistan while working on Afghanada had a large influence on her most recent play, This is War, which premiered at Tarragon Theatre in 2013. In Moscovitch’s continuing vein of writing about socially relevant and challenging subject matter, This is War is a complex and harrowing exploration of soldiers fighting a war in Canada’s name.
Awards and Upcoming Projects
Moscovitch’s work has won multiple Dora Mavor Moore Awards, and she’s been nominated for the Governor General’s Award, the Carol Bolt Award, the Toronto Arts Council Foundation Emerging Artist Award, the K.M. Hunter Award, and the international Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. She is currently writing plays for the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, Prairie Theatre Exchange, Volcano Theatre, 2b theatre, Studio 180 Theatre, as well as Tarragon Theatre. She is also collaborating with Alisa Palmer on the adaptation to stage of Ann-Marie MacDonald’s novel, Fall on Your Knees. Her short opera with composer Lembit Beecher, commissioned by the Gotham Chamber Opera, will premiere at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in February 2014.