John Herbert (playwright)
Born and raised in Toronto, Ontario, after completing high school he worked in the advertising department of Eaton's. During this time, he began competing in drag pageants. After being the victim of a robbery in 1947, Herbert himself was arrested for being dressed as a woman in public, and was sentenced to four months in a youth reformatory. His time in jail would later inspire Fortune and Men's Eyes, in which he included the character of Queenie as an authorial self-insertion.
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. He studied at the National Ballet School of Canada and at Dora Mavor Moore's New Play Society, and cofounded the Garret Theatre with his sister Nana Brundage in 1960.
Fortune and Men's Eyes was written in 1964, 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. It ultimately premiered in New York City as an off-Broadway production in 1967. Because of the 1947 conviction, however, Herbert frequently faced difficulties entering the United States to attend productions of his work.
Fortune and Men's Eyes remains the most widely-produced play in the history of Canadian theatre, both in Canada and internationally. None of Herbert's other plays were as successful, 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.
He died in 2001.
- 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)
- John Herbert at the Internet Movie Database
- John Herbert at the Internet Off Broadway Database
- John Herbert website
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