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George Ryga is one of Canada’s most important playwrights, with a broad international reputation. Born in Deep Creek, Alberta, of poor immigrant parents in a rural Ukrainian community, Ryga had to leave school after the sixth grade. Largely self-taught, he showed early promise when he won a writing scholarship to the Banff School of the Arts. He published his first book of poems in his late teens and earned a living first with hard labour and later in radio broadcasting.
In 1967, Ryga soared to national fame with The Ecstasy of Rita Joe, which has since evolved into a modern classic. A self-proclaimed artist in resistance, Ryga takes the role of a fierce and fearless social commentator in most of his plays, and his work is renowned for its vivid and thrilling theatricality. George Ryga died of stomach cancer in Summerland, BC, in 1987 and will always be remembered and cherished as one of Canada’s most prolific and powerful writers. His memory was publicly honoured at the BC Book Prizes ceremony in 1993.
BOOK AWARDSIn the Shadow of the Vulture
Finalist for the 1986 BC Book Prize: Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize”
QUOTES OF NOTEGeorge Ryga: The Prairie Novels
…propelled by compassion and moral outrage, but also by a peculiar and personal awareness of the life and death of human cultures and the values they contain.
— Globe & Mail
QUOTES OF NOTEGeorge Ryga: The Other Plays
Hoffman provides an effective and multifaceted description for the student seeking a quick understanding of Ryga’s stature as a playwright
— Canadian Literature
QUOTES OF NOTEThe Ecstasy of Rita Joe
“Scenes of shattering impact, genuine and true, and passages of a purity and intensity that catch you off guard and keep you there. As for author Ryga, his is obviously just the kind of disruptive influence we need.”
— Washington Post
“…the play still worked. Rita Joe was a landmark in more ways than one. It was—and remains—a play for all seasons and for all peoples.”
— Vancouver Province
“George Ryga has taken the human experience, which in this case is Canadian only by the accident of destiny, distilled it through his fine sense of compassion and given it to us … as an act of communion in which our own participation is inescapable.”
“I can only say that I sat there for two hours and was profoundly moved by something that tugged far more penetratingly at my heart strings, and far more urgently than any intellectual exercise I may have been willing to submit to…”
— Jacob Siskind, Montreal Gazette
We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Canada Council for the Arts; the Government of Canada through the Book Publishing Industry Development Program; and the Province of British Columbia through the British Columbia Arts Council for our publishing activities.