Laurence Dolan is a playwright and theatre producer based in Auckland. His latest play Daddy’s Home opens at The Basement on September 23. Interviewed by RENEE LIANG.

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RENEE: How did you first start writing plays?

LAURENCE: I’ve always been interested in theatre and have gone to as many plays as I can for as long as I can remember. I had a couple of ideas and thought I may as well give it a go. So I wrote a play called Making Friends, about a woman with Alzheimer’s, and sent it in to the ATC Second Unit, which was being run by Oliver Driver at the time (2002). It was picked up by them and given a two day workshop and public reading. I took that as encouragement to keep going.

R: Wow, that’s exciting... what have you done since then?

L: Since then I had another workshop and reading with ATC, as I was part of their Writers Unit for two years (with Sally Sutton, Jacques Strauss, Mike Chunn, Michael Galvin and Denis Edwards). That workshop was where I first met Tony Forster, who has been a great friend, constructive criticizer and mentor and favoured director ever since. I have had two short plays on stage; Legless in the Auckland Playwrights Collective production “Motel Nights” and The Conversion, which was written and performed as part of the 2007 Urbis 24 hour Deadline Theatre. Daddy’s Home will be my first staging of a full length play. It was developed through Read Raw. I also had another play workshopped and read at Read Raw in 2008.

R: That’s a fairly fast rise through the giddy heights of Auckland playwriting... what did you do before you became a playwright?

L: I worked as an environmental planner, specialising in waste management. I was Solid Waste Planner for Christchurch City four years and then I moved to Auckers in 1994 to work as a consultant for a company called URS. I have done a lot of work on consents for landfills and been responsible for preparing a number of national waste management guidelines for the Ministry for the Environment. I have also done a lot of planning and strategy work for councils looking at recycling and composting. I also teach a post graduate course in Waste Management and Contaminated Sites at the University of Auckland. In 2004 I left URS to spend more time writing, but I still do waste management consulting work to keep the wolf from the door.

R: So tell me about this latest play. What was the original motivation for writing it?

L: For both of our children, Barbara (my wife) and I shared the parental leave in their first year. She took the first six months off and then went back to work and I had six months at home with baby. I went to coffee group, kiddie gym, and all that stuff. I thought there was a play in it and I wasn’t aware of anything similar having been written. At the time I had many moments thinking “I can’t believe what I’m hearing” (at coffee group) “or what I’m doing” (running around at kiddie gym). There is a lot of comedy potential in kids, especially for a male “fish out of water”.

R: Was it always going to be a comedy? Aren’t there equally moments in parenting when you want to cry?

L: Bringing up kids is a mixture of laughter and tears, often at the same time. I wrote it as a comedy as I’m sure there are a lot of situations people will recognise, connect with and enjoy. However, you never know what’s around the corner and the play also has its poignant moments.

R: How has being a writer and stay at home dad affected your outlook on life?

L: Spending time with the kids is amazing, hard work, frustrating and a heap of fun. It teaches you that you really have to make the most of every moment with them. Then again they teach you that the big life plan sometimes needs to be ignored to take time to relax and spend time looking at the little things, you know, stop and smell the roses. I don’t know if that makes sense? Kids make you forget your own world and spend time inside theirs. You can learn a lot from them!!!

R: And how about being a writer? It’s a big life change, isn’t it? What moved you to move from full time consultant to full time writer and parent?

L: I wanted to do more writing and at the age of 40, I thought it was either now or never. Luckily I have a very supportive partner. Mixing it with doing the cooking, cleaning, school and after school activities runs, gives you the excuse that you’re not totally wasting your time.

R: Have you tried other forms of writing as well as plays?

L: I’ve tried writing a few skits for TV, but no, plays are my passion. I love the fact that you get to use the creative talents of directors and actors to achieve the vision of your work.

R: Speaking of which... can you tell me a bit about the cast and director for Daddy’s Home, and how you chose them?

L: As always Tony Forster was the first person I showed the play to. He then directed the workshop and reading for Read Raw in 2007. When I decided to mount a full production he was my first choice for director and, luckily for me, he agreed. We then asked a number of actors to audition and selected a great cast from them. the cast is Aaron Ward, Li Ming Hu, Jonathan Hodge, Cherie James and Elizabeth McGlinn. They are currently working very hard at rehearsals!

R: And you chose to produce the play yourself... what’s the experience been like? easy or hard or somewhere in between?

L: Being a producer is hard work, but very rewarding. I am fortunate in that I produced “Motel Nights” for the Auckland Playwrights Collective last year and have 20 years of project management experience behind me.

R: How do you see the Auckland theatre scene at the moment? There seem to be a lot of independent theatre companies springing up. Is this a reflection of the market?

L: The Auckland independent theatre scene is really buzzing right now. There are heaps of small companies putting on great productions of overseas and new New Zealand work. My view is the more the better. With the number and range of shows to choose from I think a real theatre culture is developing in Auckland. The more opportunities people have to go to theatre and the more choice available seems to be increasing patronage all around.

R: That’s good news! Well, good luck for Daddy’s Home. What’s your next project?

L: A nervous breakdown!.... I can’t see beyond this production at the moment.

R: Hmmm... well that’s understandable! Any last bits of advice for wannabe playwrights out there?

L: Write the plays and have them read to an audience, any audience. If possible get professional actors and directors to help. It’s amazing how generous they are with their time. Plays are written to be seen. Don’t leave them in the bottom drawer.