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One on One with the Creators of Come from Away

Irene Sankoff and David Hein on fried bologna, stranded apes and adapting their musical for the big screen.

Irene Sankoff and David Hein

Hometowns Toronto (Irene) and Regina (David)

Home Bases Toronto and New York

Claim to Fame Creating the hit musical Come From Away, based on the story of the nearly 7,000 air passengers who were diverted to Gander, Newfoundland, on 9/11

Current Projects Adapting the musical for film, and starting a new Toronto run on February 13

Last Vacation Molokai, Hawaii. “Our daughter learned to swim.”


A Broadway debut, seven Tony nominations with a win for Best Direction of a musical and a Grammy nod – how do you feel after the year you’ve had?
DH: At best, we thought Canadian high schools might do the show because of its historical content. Every step of the process has been a surprise, yet it’s also not surprising that the show is a success because the story behind it and the people of Newfoundland are so incredible.

Who are some of the characters in the musical?
IS: The standouts are Captain Beverley Bass, who was the only female pilot grounded in Gander on 9/11 and the days that followed, and SPCA manager Bonnie Harris, who went into the holds of the airplanes and ensured that all the animals were looked after.

DH: Including a couple of rare bonobo apes that were on their way to the Columbus Zoo.

You’ve spent a lot of time in Newfoundland now. Do you have a Favourite local dish?
DH: Cod au gratin – fish with cheese.

IS: A big Jiggs dinner, which is almost like a Thanksgiving feast. It’s got turkey and boiled potatoes and salt beef. Fried bologna at breakfast is pretty amazing, too.

How will the film differ from the stage production?
IS: It will be nice to show the actual location, with some of the beautiful scenery, and to have more people to show how crowded it was. The population of Gander basically doubled, so passengers stayed in locals’ homes and in every Legion hall, school gym and church. The film will be more far-reaching in terms of who’s able to see it, which is also exciting.

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