On the Couch with Denny Lawrence

Denny Lawrence oncWho is Denny Lawrence?
I am a director-producer, dividing my time between New York and Australia. I have worked a lot in Melbourne over the years and enjoy returning regularly for television and theatre gigs like the current one at Red Stitch Actors Theatre: Love Love Love – a wonderful play by Mike Bartlett.

What would you do differently to what you do now?
I have been in the entertainment business since boyhood and cannot think of anything I’d rather be doing. Having been an actor, a writer a director and a producer in film, television and theatre, I have been very fortunate never to be bored. There’s always something new and fresh.

Who inspires you and why?
Talented, dedicated people in any field of endeavour – particularly of course the arts, and especially the actors who work in ‘fringe’ theatre such as Red Stitch, which requires significant commitment and quite some sacrifice. Also writers who devote themselves to challenging and inspiring others.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
If I had millions of dollars I’d endow a few charities – and set up fellowships for struggling artists. Since I don’t, I contribute what I can. And I hope that the films I make and plays I put on can get audiences to think and feel even as they are entertained.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
I like to discover and explore new places rather than returning to a ‘regular’ holiday spot. I recently visited Big Sky in Montana – truly beautiful. As for ‘favourite’ destinations, I do try to visit Paris every few years; it has such a rich and exciting cultural life.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take then to, and why?
Since I only spend part of the year in Melbourne, I am always keen to re-visit places like the National Gallery, the museum, the zoo and some of the many great restaurants, bars and cafes in this city – whether with locals or visiting friends. Naked for Satan in Brunswick Street is a current favourite. And Melbourne has great music venues and theatres – such as Red Stitch!

What are you currently reading?
Always there are lots of scripts to read, for possible future projects. And I constantly have several books on the go. Currently H is for Hawk (Helen McDonald); John Lahr’s biography of Tennessee Williams and Sapiens: a brief history of humankind.

What are you currently listening to?
Music from the 60s right through to today as part of my research and to create a ‘soundtrack’ for Love Love Love. It’s fascinating hearing the changes and trends.

Happiness is?
A fine coffee over a cryptic crossword, a walk in the park with my dog – and the opportunity to collaborate with a group of talented people, such as the cast and crew at Red Stitch.

What does the future hold for you?
I go straight into another theatre production of a new Australian play: All My Love by Anne Brooksbank. It is the story of the little-known romantic relationship between two of Australia’s greatest poets Henry Lawson and Mary Gilmore. After that, a workshop for a musical I have co-written to star Philip Quast.

Denny Lawrence is an award-winning actor, writer, director and producer who has worked in film, theatre and television in Canada, UK and USA, as well as in Australia.  He has degrees from the National Institute of Dramatic Art and the Australian Film and Television School and studied with Stella Adler.

His numerous credits include a number of feature film and miniseries as well as literally hundreds of hours of series television – and a great deal of theatre to which he returns regularly (including in Melbourne in 2014). Many of his films and programs have gained performance award nominations and wins.

Denny has been the recipient of a number of awards from the (Australian) Writers Guild and he has an Australian Film Institute Award for Best Screenplay for Goodbye Paradise. He directed the award-winning The Centurion for BBC-TV and directed and produced the television drama MDA, which was nominated three times in successive years as Best TV Series in the AFI Awards, winning in 2004.

He also has extensive experience as a teacher – at AFTRS, NIDA, AWG, VCA, QUT, RMIT, Canadian Film Center, Boston University, Griffith University, Deakin University, the Australian Opera School amongst others. In 2005 he joined the film and television department of the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University where in 2007 he was appointed Head of Acting & Directing and then in 2008 was also made Head of Television.

Denny will be directing the Australian Premiere of Mike Bartlett’s Love Love Love for Red Stitch Actors Theatre from 5 June 2015. For more information, visit: www.redstitch.net for details.

Image: Denny Lawrence