Morris Panych

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Morris Panych (born June 30, 1952) is an award winning Canadian playwright, actor, and director. He has written and adapted over 25 plays, and has directed more than 80 productions. He has also directed for film and opera, as well as music video.[1] He is best known for his plays, 7 Stories, Lawrence & Holloman, and Vigil, among others. He has won the Governor General Literary Award for Drama, the highest honour for playwriting in Canada, on two occasions, first for The Ends of the Earth in 1995 and again for Girl in the Goldfish Bowl in 2004.[2]

The plays of Morris Panych are often characterized by the existential themes and stylized nature commonly found in the theatre of the absurd. They are often set in deliberately unspecified locations and time periods, and they pose broad philosophical questions on human interaction and isolation, on the nature of good and evil, and on the relationship between fantasy and reality, and the meaning of life in general. Many are black comedies. Panych described his own approach to theatre in 1993 as he said, "I sense that to illustrate through theatre a multiplicity of truths, is to allow the audience to begin to reclaim truths of its own. To look at a play and say, 'this a pretence invented out of nothing. These characters are trapped inside problems that don’t even exist,' and yet to remain committed to that reality for a time just for the hell of it, to begin to understand what the power of theatre is. Not to mention life. The power to question. . . . What’s important to me now, as always, is to keep things moving. And that’s it. My entire theory of theatre. To keep changing. Rediscovering. Questioning not only the accepted ideas of theatre, but the reversal of those ideas as well" (Canadian Theatre Review 76 [1993]:58-59).[3]


Morris Panych was born in Calgary, Alberta in 1952, and grew up in Edmonton. Panych received a diploma in radio and television arts from the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, and subsequently attended the University of British Colombia, where he graduated with a BFA in creative writing in 1977. He then attended the East 15 acting school in London, England. Panych has been married to his long-time partner Ken MacDonald since 2004. Currently, he works primarily in Vancouver, British Colombia, Montreal, Quebec and Toronto, Ontario. [4]


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Panych's first major breakthrough in the Canadian theatre scene was in 1982 with an apocalyptic musical, Last Call: A Post-Nuclear Cabaret, first staged at the Tamahnous Theatre in Vancouver. It was later revised for CBC television, as Last Call - The Television Show which starred Panych himself alongside his partner Ken MacDonald, who also wrote and played the music. Since then, Last Call: A Post-Nuclear Cabaret has been produced independently across the country, including by the Globe Theatre, Regina (March 2003), directed by Ruth Smillie. He later went on to write more musicals with MacDonald, notably Contagious (1984), and Cheap Sentiment (1985). Their partnership has been an important element in Panych's work with theatre, and MacDonald's set designs have played a significant role in most of Panych's plays. Panych was also the artistic director of the Tamahnous Theatre from 1984-1986. [5]

In 1989, the Arts Club Theatre of Vancouver produced what is widely accepted as his first major play, the absurdist 7 Stories, for which he won he won seven Jessie Richardson Theatre Awards. The play depicts a Chaplin-esque man as he stands on a precarious ledge, contemplating whether or not he will commit suicide, but is delayed by the eccentric inhabitants of the building. In the early 1990s, Panych wrote a series of plays for young people, which were published as a collection under the title Other Schools of Thought. This series includes Cost of Living (1990), 2B WUT UR (1992) and Life Science (1993), which were produced by Green Thumb Theatre, and have since toured extensively. Soon after, the Belfry Theatre in Victoria premiered his work Vigil (1995) for which he won another Jessie Richardson Theatre Award for Best Play. The same play opened in the Edinburg Festival in 2002, under the title, Auntie and Me. The play also premiered in France in 2012 as Le Veiller at the Théâtre du Rideau Vert. In 1998 Panych wrote and directed his tragi-comedy Lawrence & Holloman, which premiered at the Tarragon Theatre in Toronto. That same year he also co-created and directed a music and movement piece called The Overcoat. The production toured across Canada and later was adapted for television, which Panych also directed. Panych debuted his monologue, Earshot at the Tarragon Theatre in 2001, which was then remounted in 2002 in a joint production with the Vancouver Playhouse and Alberta Theatre Projects. Later that year, Girl in the Goldfish Bowl opened at the Arts Club Theatre and won a Jessie Richardson Award, a Dora Mavor Moore Award, as well as a Governor General Literary Award for Drama. [6]

Some of Panych's more recent plays include The Dishwashers (Arts Club Theatre, 2005), What Lies Before Us (Canadian Stage, 2007), The Trespassers (Stratford, 2009), Gordon (SideMart Theatrical Grocery, 2010), In Absentia (Centaur Theatre, 2012), Sextet (Tarragon, 2014), The Shoplifters (Theatre Calgary, 2015), and The Waiting Room (Arts Club, 2015). [7]

Panych has also acted widely in theatre and television (notably, The X-Files) and has also directed television productions such as Da Vinci's Inquest, which was filmed in Vancouver, British Colombia. [8]

Just recently, in October of 2016, Panych collaborated with Anika Johnson and Britta Johnson to create Small Wonder as part of the Canadian Music Theatre Project at Sheridan College in Oakville, Ontario. Small Wonder follows the story of a struggling theatrical entrepreneur in Toronto in 1919. Sheridan College’s website says of Small Wonder that “the musical embraces a period of Toronto history, seemingly upright and sober, whose underbelly is anything but.” [9]

Selected Works

Some of Panych's published works include: [10] [11]

  • Last Call: A Post-Nuclear Cabaret (1982)
  • 7 Stories (1990)
  • The Cost of Living (1990)
  • 2B WUT UR (1992)
  • Life Science (1993)
  • The Ends of the Earth (1993)
  • Other Schools of Thought (1994)
  • The Story of a Sinking Man (1994)
  • Vigil (1996)
  • Lawrence & Holloman (1998)
  • The Overcoat (1998)
  • Earshot (2001)
  • Girl in the Goldfish Bowl (2003)
  • The Dishwashers (2005)
  • What Lies Before Us (2007)
  • Benevolence (2008)
  • Still Laughing: Three Adaptations (2009)
  • The Trespassers (2010)
  • Gordon (2011)
  • In Absentia (2012)
  • Wanderlust (2012)
  • Sextet (2014)
  • The Shoplifters (2015)
  • The Waiting Room (2015)

Selected Awards and Honours

Panych has won fifteen Jessie Richardson Awards for acting and directing, five Dora Mavor Moore Awards in Toronto, three Sidney Riske Writing Awards, a Chalmers Award, as well as the Governor General Literary Award for Drama twice. [12] Panych also received an honourable mention at the Prix Italia for his film The Overcoat (2001). [13]

External Links

Official Website

Facebook Page

Name:Morris Panych
Location:Vancouver, BC