The Long Version
(very) Early Years
Hirschbach is a high octane physical funster; a clown, actor,
playwright, teacher and circus arts performer. Most recently he was
performing with the touring Cirque du Soleil show, "Dralion",
but before that...
"I grew up in the United
States and Canada, and can't remember when I didn't feel at home
in both countries. I had the gift of a loving, community minded
family, where humour was our common language. My Dad was a
social worker, and apart from my brother and sister, we *always*
had a foster child staying with us, sometime for a few weeks,
often for several years.
From age 2 on, my parents knew
that somehow, I'd be in the arts. I painted and drew for hours
every day, a passion that has never left, and that still gives
me great pleasure. I'm grateful for the way they nourished their
black sheep son, and never discouraged my oddball ambitions.
After high school, I spent a memorable
year hitchhiking around Canada and the U.S.; this was the beginning of
my real education. On returning I studied drawing and painting for 2
years at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Montreal, then for 3 years
practiced meditation at Zen Centres in Montreal and New York. I moved to
the east coast, and studied painting further with Eric Fischl at the
Nova Scotia College of Fine Arts., but left there after 2 years, needing
to know whether I was painting because I'd been told my entire life I
was going to be a painter, or because it was what I truly wanted to do.
Then, while casting about for work
outside of the visual arts, I had an epiphany. I answered an ad for a
children's theatre company, and despite an awful audition, miraculously
got the job (the only one I ever got from a want ad). Long before the 3
months were up, I knew I was hooked.
& Early Work
I worked with
several small local companies in Halifax, but was frustrated by my lack
of knowledge and skills. In order to get substantially better at
theatre, I returned to Montreal to study for a year with Mime Omnibus,
and Gilles Maheu of Carbone 14. My real theatrical education, however,
began with my studies at the Ecole Jacques Lecoq in Paris (1984-86). I
went there with a shopping list of skills I wanted to become better at -
improvisation, ensemble work, directing, and character work - and
graduated after 2 years with a wealth of experience that I still draw
I also did intensive
circus studies in California, New York, and Montreal - juggling,
unicycling, clownwork, and pratfalls. To this day I study and take
workshops when possible; performers need to renew their resources, and
teachers who aren't good students probably aren't good teachers either.
I still practice physical training, circus work, and maintain my 5
fluent languages everyday.
I was a consultant for the
Nova Scotia Buskers Festival for its inaugural 2 years, and later I took
2 years off from performing and became Artistic Director of the Nova
Scotia Children's Festival. Though I soon realized that administration
wasn't my life's goal, I gained a reputation as a troubleshooter, and
became an adviser to several other festivals and organizations.
|For 6 years I
was the Artistic Director, and one of the performers in Fool's Paradise,
a circus arts trio specializing in complex juggling patterns,
unicycling, and acrobatics wrapped around comedy. We performed mainly in
the Atlantic provinces, but also toured in the U.S., and performed for 2
weeks at the '88 Calgary Olympic Games.
At the same time I was a founding
member of ScriptWrecked, a 6 person improv group which performed weekly
shows for over 6 years. We performed 5 sold-out shows at consecutive
Halifax Fringe Festivals, and performed at Toronto's Harbourfront and
other venues across Canada.
Wait, there's more. I also founded the
Bluenose Juggling Club, and for several years taught people basic and
intermediate circus skills on a weekly basis. The club is still going
strong, and is the main venue for circus aficionados in the Maritimes.
While in Nova Scotia, I taught theatre at Neptune Theatre for over 12
years, at Halifax Dance, and Acadia University. During this time I came
to realize the importance of imagination and play; states that are
utterly natural to us during childhood. I developed a workshop and class
approach that would assist in re-learning that state of everyday
creativity and openness. I still love teaching, and watching that
"aha" moment when something suddenly clicks. Most recently
I've run workshops for the Cirque du Monde program of the Cirque du
Soleil, and been a speaker at the San Francisco Circus School.
I've been interviewed by Peter Gzowski
on CBC Radio about playing the musical saw (a skill I learned for my
first professional theatre show), and was featured on David Suzuki's
"The Nature of Things" in an episode exploring laughter. I
appeared (briefly) in a movie with Kelsey Grammar, and more recently as
a juggling surgeon with Valerie Bertinelli.
Did I mention street performing? I love
the immediacy, intimacy and energy of busking. My education in Paris was
partly funded by the money made performing in front of the Centre
Pompidou and Sacre Coeure. Since then I've performed at festivals and
events across Canada, throughout the U.S., in Europe and in Singapore.
As for the present, after successfully
auditioning for the Cirque du Soleil, I performed for almost 2 years as
a character clown with the touring show, "Dralion". I have no
words for how much I enjoyed my travels with these great people. For the
5 previous years, I was touring my solo theatrical-circus shows. These
performances, which I conceive, write and perform, have been seen across
North America, most recently and memorably in the Yukon and Alaska. I've
now performed thousands of shows, and taught uncountable workshops on 4
In the midst of all this I got married,
then 11 years later got unmarried, but not before producing 3 great
kids, who often accompany me on tour. We are grateful for, and adore,
our live-in Hazel, who like her television name sake, keeps our
household in tip-top shape.
Topping it all off, I was the 1997
Nobel laureate in Funnery. Everyday, I thank the Great Buffoon for the
gift of this singularly wonderful life."