On the Couch with Cameron Menzies

Cameron Menzies oncWho is Cameron Menzies?
Cameron is a director, artist, creative director, step father and workaholic, generally in head-to-toe black attire. He loves all kinds of music from Opera to The Cure to Stephen Schwartz. Cameron is happy to go wherever the work leads him.

What would you do differently to what you do now?
I am not too sure actually, but when I was growing up I wanted to be a vet for a long time before the arts took over, so I guess something with animals? Helping and saving animals. To do that would be very rewarding.

Who inspires you and why?
I draw inspiration from many different areas in the world and for many different reasons. Recently, I seem to be drawing a lot of inspiration from the Golden Years of Hollywood and from such director greats as William Wyler and Elia Kazan. Their work inspires me, as it has depth and a beautiful subtlety to it.

I also draw inspiration from a mentor of mine, Zika Nester OAM, who we lost recently to cancer. She was a Russian powerhouse acting mentor of mine from the Ensemble Theatre and in conjunction with her and Hayes Gordon I draw from them everyday I am in the rehearsal room. Both Zika and Hayes inspire me to question my theatre-making, and to never be satisfied with what I have created.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
I guess at the moment I am doing what I think is going to make a difference in the world. STATUS presents real life stories of HIV stigma, and has the potential to re-ignite the discussion around this issue. As a production, we’re endeavouring to address HIV/AIDS stigma as a human responsibility and not as a sexuality issue. For me, the way to create the ripples required for change involves sometimes sugar coating a pill. Creating STATUS is the way that, as an artist, I can try and provoke change, and make a difference in the world.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
This is a difficult one, as I usually kind of only do work holidays, but I have to say it’s a very big competition between New York and Berlin… but see then I love London as well. I love all these cities to holiday and work in as they are so full of life and all facets of life seem to exist quite happily within them. Berlin is amazing because it is still fairly cheap, New York for the Theatre and London for the little English pubs. That was a tough question.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take then to, and why?
When people are in town (and also cause I love to see them myself), the fairy penguins at Phillip Island, or even around the St Kilda marina, where they tend to hang out. They’re so special and tiny, people usually love to see them swimming and playing and can’t believe how cranky they are for such little creatures.

What are you currently reading?
I am currently reading Tim Winton’s The Riders in preparation for an opera I am working on in a few months.

What are you currently listening to?
I’m listening to a few operas that I will be directing in 2015 in London. They are yet to be announced so I am unable to say what works they are. I am also listening to a lot of Florence and the Machine, Irrepressibles and SIA. Sometimes after working in music all day long I cant listen to anything, but music does really drives me in life and professionally.

Happiness is?
Feeling professional and personally content, and also feeling creatively satisified. I’m also vey happy after long periods of hard successful work. Achievement and contentment are what I think happiness is.

What does the future hold for you?
I’m very lucky to have wonderful things to look forward too. I’ll be going back to London to direct two new shows. I have a lot of variety coming up in my schedule, from straight theatre, opera, cabaret, concerts, and a lot of creative direction as well, and a very special event with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra later in the year. I am very blessed to be able to work consistently in this field and to have the opportunity to work with such an array of talented and creative people. It’s humbling to think that I’ll be working here in Australia and internationally over the next two years.

Cameron Menzies is an acclaimed award-nominated and award-winning Australian director. His career has encompassed music theatre, theatre, Opera and documentary film-making.

He has directed many world premiere productions, including CONTACT! – A Netball Opera for the Arts Centre Melbourne, Norman Lindsay’s The Magic Pudding for Victorian Opera and song cycle Redfern for Short Black Opera Company for Opera XS at the Malthouse Theatre.

He was Associate Director for Pecan Summer in its debut Perth season and AFTERLIFE by Michel van der Aa Nederlands Opera for Melbourne International Arts Festival 2012, and was the Creative Director for Operette for the L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festivals 2012 – 14.

Cameron has been nominated for and won many awards, including 2011 Berlin New Music Opera Award, the 2008 Bayreuth Opera Award from Opera Foundation Australia, The Besen Family Artist Program (Direction) Malthouse Theatre, Australian Opera Committee scholarship, The Amy Alice McDonald Scholarship 2007 – 2011, Opus 50, scholarships from the Victorian and New South Wales Wagner Societies, and several Green Room Award Nominations.

Cameron trained in acting under acclaimed teacher Hayes Gordon OAM at the Ensemble Theatre and obtained his Bachelor of Music from the Victorian College of the Arts. He was the Head of Direction at The Opera Studio Melbourne from 2009 – 2013 and lectured in Stagecraft at the Victorian College of the Arts. He currently holds the position of Artistic Director of Opera for the City of Stonnington.

In 2014, Cameron will make his European debut in London, where he is to create a new production of Don Giovanni for acclaimed Chamber Opera Company DivaOpera, as well as directing the Adelaide Premiere of Pecan Summer for Short Black Opera Company, William and Mary for the Melbourne Indigenous Arts Festival, assisting on The Riders for Victorian Opera and directing a chamber work of Dido and Aeneas by Ricky Ian Gordon for The Port Fairy Spring Music Festival.

Cameron is currently directing STATUS at Arts Centre Melbourne (23 – 27 July) as part of the 20th International AIDS Conference. For more information, visit: www.statustheplay.com for details.

Image: Cameron Menzies