Don Hannah

Don HannahPhoto: Michael Holly; Penguin Random House
Don Hannah
Photo: Michael Holly; Penguin Random House

Don Hannah (playwright, poet, and novelist) was born in Moncton, New Brunswick in June 1951 to parents Douglas and Marion (Gillard) Hannah. Hannah was raised in Shediac, New Brunswick, where his father worked for CN Railway and his mother worked at home. He began school at Shediac Central, then went to King George School in Moncton and graduated from Moncton High School in 1969. He then attended Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick, where he studied both English and fine arts. After completing his degree, he pursued graduate studies at York University in Toronto, Ontario, where he remained for one year of study. Hannah did not move back to New Brunswick when he finished his education, although he frequently writes about the province. He now calls both Toronto and the South Shore of Nova Scotia home (“Don Hannah: New Face”).

Before Hannah began writing poetry and plays, he worked as a daycare worker (About the Author, Lobster). In the 1970s, he had his first poems published, but, according to Hannah, “calling it literature would be a stretch” (Email). Hannah quickly added plays to his list of publications. His first play was Rubber Dolly (1986), and his first production was Wedding Script (1986). Both plays were produced at the Tarragon Theatre in Toronto, Ontario (“2008 Atlantic Book Awards”).

Hannah has since written and produced many plays. In 1999, he released Shoreline: Three Plays, which included Father and Sons, Running Far Back, and Rubber Dolly. When asked about the success of his plays, Hannah stated, “I’m very happy with the three plays in the Shoreline collection. And I had two plays produced this year [2008] (While We’re Young in Edmonton, and There is a Land of Pure Delight in Sackville) that I’m very proud of” (Email).

Hannah has also produced two musicals to date, Love Jive! (1989) and Siren Song (1990). Both musicals were produced with the collaboration of singer/songwriter David Sereda and premiered at the Tarragon Theatre. He has also written an opera, Facing South (2003), along with composer Linda Caitlin Smith, which premiered at the 2003 World Stage Festival. In addition, Hannah has published two novels: The Wise and Foolish Virgins (1998) and Ragged Islands (2007). There have been rumors that Hannah may be working on a third novel, possibly to be titled The Narrow Sea (“Don Hannah”). In a recent interview, the author stated that his collection of novels is restricted to Ragged Islands and The Wise and Foolish Virgins … “so far” (Email).

Don Hannah has received many awards for his accomplishments in literature. The first play he produced, Wedding Script (1986), was granted the Chalmers Award for Creativity and Excellence in the Arts. The Wooden Hill (1994) was the first Canadian play to win an AT&T Onstage Award. In 1998, The Wise and Foolish Virgins was Shortlisted for the Thomas Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award.

Hannah has been writer-in-residence for the Canadian Stage Company, the University of New Brunswick, and the Yukon Public Library Service. He was the inaugural Lee Playwright in Residence at the University of Alberta, where he wrote While We're Young in 2008. Hannah has also been writer-in-residence at the Tarragon Theatre in Toronto, Ontario—an invitation-only playwright unit where writers are encouraged to produce and perform. While at the Tarragon Theatre, Hannah spent five years as the director of the Tarragon Youth Playwrights Unit. He has also been a fellow at the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire, which provides private studios for writers and artists.

Hannah has worked for the Playwrights Atlantic Resource Centre (PARC), which works to promote and develop Atlantic Canadian drama. It was at the PARC where Hannah began writing one of his most recent plays, There is a Land of Pure Delight. He has also previously worked as a professor at the National Theatre School of Canada in Montreal. Hannah is currently [2008] a faculty member of the Banff PlayRites Colony, where he works as the program dramaturge (“Don Hannah,” “Banff”). He is also currently a member of the Playwrights Guild of Canada.

Don Hannah’s accomplishments and work experience are extensive and impressive. He has written and produced plays and worked in many theatrical facilities across the country. When asked why he chose to leave his home town of Shediac and native province of New Brunswick, Hannah stated,

It wasn’t easy to be gay in NB in the 1970s, which was when I left. After I became involved with theatre, it made little sense to go back. I’d had my plays produced in other parts of Canada for nearly 15 years before there was even a reading of one of my plays back home. I’ve written about the place fairly consistently−my last play was set in NB in the 18th century−and I was very happy to work at Live Bait Theatre this fall. But, as one of my characters said, ‘I’m From Away, now.’ (Email)

Even though Hannah chose to leave New Brunswick, he had the opportunity to write about his hometown and showcase his most recent play “at home” at the Live Bait Theatre in Sackville, New Brunswick.

Don Hannah may have left New Brunswick in the 1970s, but New Brunswick never left him, and it continues to appear in many of his publications. His poems, novels, and plays bring his readers to a place he continues to think of as his formative home. The Wise and Foolish Virgins, for example, is set in a small town of New Brunswick. The story focuses on family relations, spirituality, and love, but there are many references to the landscape of New Brunswick, such as its thick forests and small towns. Some of his other works also make reference to New Brunswick, such as In the Lobster Capital of the World.

Heather Hotchkiss, Winter 2008
St. Thomas University

Bibliography of Primary Sources

Hannah, Don. The Cave Painter & the Woodcutter. Toronto: Playwrights Canada, 2013.

---. Email to Heather Hotchkiss. 5 Nov. 2008.

---. Facing South. Opera. 2003.

---. Fathers and Sons. Play. 1998.

---. In the Lobster Capital of the World. Toronto: Playwrights Canada Press, 1988.

---. Love Jive. Musical. 1989.

---. Ragged Islands. Toronto: Vintage Canada, 2007.

---. Rubber Dolly. Toronto: Playwrights Canada, 1986.

---. Running Far Back. Play. 1994.

---. Shoreline: Three Plays. Toronto: Simon & Pierre, 1999.

---. Siren Song. Musical. 1990.

---. Undersea. Play. 1988.

---. The Wall in the Garden. Play. 1989.

---. Wedding Script. Toronto: Playwrights Canada, 1986.

---. Wedlock. Play. 1990.

---. While We’re Young. Toronto: Playwrights Canada, 2009.

---. The Wise and Foolish Virgins. Toronto: Knopf Canada, 1998.

---. The Wooden Hill. Toronto: D. Hannah, 1994.

---. The Wooden Hill. 1994. Toronto: Playwrights Union of Canada, 1997.

---. There Is a Land of Pure Delight. Play. 2008.

Bibliography of Secondary Sources

About the Author. In the Lobster Capital of the World. By Don Hannah. Toronto: Playwrights Canada Press, 1988.

About the Author. Ragged Islands. By Don Hannah. Toronto: Vintage Canada, 2007.

“Banff Playwrights Colony: Program Faculty.” Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. 2008. The Banff Center. 5 Nov. 2008

“Don Hannah.” Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia. 1 Nov. 2008

“Don Hannah: New Face of Fiction 1998.” Random House of Canada. 2006. Penguin Random House. 1 Nov. 2008

“Faculty: Playwriting.” The National Theatre School of Canada. 5 Nov. 2008

Homepage. Tarragon Theatre. 5 Nov. 2008

Playwrights Atlantic Resource Centre (PARC). 2 Nov. 2008

Shoreline: Three Plays by Don Hannah.” Dundurn: Publishers of Fine Books. 2008. Dundurn Press. 2 Nov. 2008

“2008 Atlantic Book Awards: The Shortlist.” Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia. 1 Nov. 2008