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.