Sankoff was born in North York, Ontario, and double-majored in psychology and creative writing at York University, where she met Hein. After graduating, the couple moved to New York City in 1999 where he worked at a music studio and she studied at The Actor's Studio and performed in theatres. They were in New York during the September 11, 2001 attacks.
After spending several years studying and working in New York the couple returned to Toronto where Hein wrote a song, "My Mother's Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding", about his mother and her later life partner. Sankoff and Hein expanded the song into a play that became a hit at the Toronto Fringe Festival in 2009 and then picked up by Mirvish Productions for a run at Toronto's Panasonic Theatre before touring Canada.
As a result of My Mother’s Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding's success, theatre producer Michael Rubinoff approached Hein and Sankoff with his idea about a show based on Operation Yellow Ribbon in which residents of Gander, Newfoundland, housed 7,000 airline passengers who had been stranded at Gander Airport as a result of the grounding of all North American air flights following the September 11 attacks. The couple visited Gander in 2011 during the 10-year reunion of passengers and locals, and subsequently wrote Come from Away based on the stories they learned there.
Drama Desk Award
- Come from Away (Outstanding Musical, Outstanding Book of a Musical), 2017
- Morrow, Martin (March 30, 2017). "Q&A: Irene Sankoff and David Hein, creators of the Toronto-born Broadway hit Come From Away". Toronto Life. Retrieved June 12, 2017.
- Nestruck, J. Kelly (February 17, 2017). "Landing on their feet". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved June 12, 2017.
- "W5: My Mother's Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding hits main stage". CTV News. November 21, 2009. Retrieved June 12, 2017.
- "Review: My Mother's Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding". CBC News. May 11, 2012. Retrieved June 12, 2017.
- Ouzounian, Richard (December 14, 2015). "From Sept. 11 tragedy, a theatrical triumph". Toronto Star. Retrieved June 12, 2017.
- Wong, Tony (November 13, 2016). "From Gander to Broadway". Toronto Star. p. E2. Retrieved June 12, 2017.
- "From Gander to Broadway" Archived November 14, 2016, at the Wayback Machine. Toronto Star, November 13, 2016, Page E2. Tony Wong.
- "Irene Sankoff Biography on BroadwayWorld.com". www.broadwayworld.com. Retrieved 30 March 2019.
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