John Herbert (playwright)

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This article is about the playwright. For others, see John Herbert (disambiguation).

John Herbert was the pen name of John Herbert Brundage (13 October 1926 – 22 June 2001), a Canadian playwright and theatre director best known for his 1967 play Fortune and Men's Eyes.[1]


Born and raised in Toronto, Ontario,[2] after completing high school he worked in the advertising department of Eaton's.[1] During this time, he began competing in drag pageants.[1] After being the victim of a robbery in 1947, Herbert himself was arrested for being dressed as a woman in public,[1] and was sentenced to four months in a youth reformatory.[1] His time in jail would later inspire Fortune and Men's Eyes,[1] in which he included the character of Queenie as an authorial self-insertion.[1]

After being released from the reformatory, he spent some time travelling across North America, doing odd jobs to support himself, before returning to Toronto in 1955.[1] He studied at the National Ballet School of Canada and at Dora Mavor Moore's New Play Society,[2] and cofounded the Garret Theatre with his sister Nana Brundage in 1960.[3]

Fortune and Men's Eyes was written in 1964,[4] but faced struggles being staged in Canada. It received a workshop production at the Stratford Festival in 1965, but Herbert was unable to find a theatre company willing to mount a full production.[5] It ultimately premiered in New York City as an off-Broadway production in 1967.[4] Because of the 1947 conviction, however, Herbert frequently faced difficulties entering the United States to attend productions of his work.[3]

Fortune and Men's Eyes remains the most widely-produced play in the history of Canadian theatre, both in Canada and internationally.[2] None of Herbert's other plays were as successful,[2] although Herbert remained active as a dancer, a theatre director, an acting teacher and a theatre lecturer at Ryerson University, Glendon College, York University and the University of Toronto.[1]

He died in 2001.[3]

Selected works[edit]

  • Felice (1955)
  • Pearl Divers (1956)
  • Beer Room (1957)
  • Close Friends (1958)
  • A Ruby Fell (1959)
  • Time To a Waltz (1959)
  • Private Club (1960)
  • A Household God (1961)
  • World of Woyzeck (1963)
  • Born of Medusa's Blood (1965)
  • Fortune and Men's Eyes (1967)
  • Omphale and the Hero (1971)
  • The Dinosaurs (1973)
  • The Token Star (1976)
  • The Power of Paper Dolls (1979)
  • Magda (1981)
  • The Butterfly and the Nightingale (1984)
  • The Biographers (1985)
  • Blanche and Rose's Dream Song (1986)
  • The Primadonna (1988)
  • Broken Antique Dolls (1991)
  • Merchants of Bay Street (1993)
  • Family of a Monster (1995)
  • Marilyn at Seventy (1995)
  • Marlene Richdiet (1998)
  • One Castle Court (1999)


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i John Herbert at the Canadian Theatre Encyclopedia.
  2. ^ a b c d John Herbert at The Canadian Encyclopedia.
  3. ^ a b c "John Herbert Dies at 75; Wrote of Prison Life". The New York Times, June 27, 2001.
  4. ^ a b John Herbert at The Literary Encyclopedia.
  5. ^ "That Man's Scope: John Herbert now". The Body Politic, Vol 10 (1973).

External links[edit]