Kafedaki with Lucy Miller
It might come across as a coincidence that the new Director of Sydney’s Dionysus Theatre bears the same surname as one of the most famous playwrights of the 20th century, but as Lucy Miller explains, she has merely adapted her previous married name and made it her own. Born in Australia and raised in Greece, the striking Miller spent her youth treading the boards of Greece’s theatres pursuing her passion for acting in a series of dream roles of Greece’s classic works. Moving back to Australia six years ago due to the financial crisis, she is channelling her experience, knowledge, and inspirations into directing, and recently made her debut with sold out performances of Soutzouk Loukoum, to great reviews. GCT recently caught up with Miller to chat about her love of theatre, her eternal thirst for knowledge and why she is passionate about attracting young Greeks into the world of theatre with modern, relevant plays.
Where were you born and raised?
I was born in Melbourne but my mother moved back to Athens when I was 3 years old, where I was raised. I moved to Cyprus for several years and again moved back to Athens and from there to Sydney, and who knows where to next...
What part of Greece are your ancestors from?
My mother is from the island of Samos, my father is Croatian from Zagreb.
When did you return to Australia and why?
I returned in May 2012 because of the obvious financial insecurity, the fear that if I lose my job, maybe I will not be able to get hired again, though there was no sign for that yet. But to be honest I don’t like permanent routine, so I needed a new challenge.
Tell us about your journey with acting?
I graduated from the National Theatre of Greece at a very young age as a “talent”, (My professional name was my previous married name, and since moving to Australia I adopted the legal name Lucy Miller). I did all the classic repertoire in those days. Then I left theatre for a few years to work in other fields- my profession is accounting. But the love for theatre dragged me back to amateur theatre groups in Greece and Cyprus, where there is more space to expand and experiment out of the box.
I was acting and also directing when asked to do so. When I came back to Australia I become involved in theatre again. And now I’m the Director and actress of Dionysus Theatre of Sydney.
What are some of the plays you have performed in? What kind of roles do you like?
At a younger age I had performed many classical plays and ancient dramas, for example Thesmoforiazouses, Nefeles, Troades, Antigoni, and neoclassical like “To Leoforio o Pothos” and “Yialinos Kosmos” (A Streetcar named Desire and The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams), “Moro sti mpaniera” (Baby with the Bathwater by Christopher Durang), “To imeroma tis stringlas” ("The Taming of the Shrew" by William Shakespeare), and so on. However, I now prefer the modern theatre of our time and this is what we are currently doing with our group Dionysus Theatre of Sydney
What actors and works have influenced you?
Elli Lambeti, Mary Aroni, Irene Pappa, Eleni Hatziargiry, Antigoni Valakou, were some of the many great actresses, as well as male actors Manos Katrakis, Nikos Tzogias, Alekos Alexandrakis, Nikos Kourkoulos, that I admire. Some of them were my teachers too.
What has been your biggest highlight?
My debut as a Director in Australia with Dionysus Theatre and directing the hugely successful Soutzouk Loukoum, which was staged for nine sold out performances.
What has been your biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge was to quit my well- paid job with a big international company in Athens, leave my new house and loved ones and friends, and come to Australia with the hope that I will do better and greater things.
Tell us about studying at the renowned National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA)? How did that come about and what courses are you completing?
For me, NIDA was an opportunity to develop my skills and feel the beat of Australian theatre. I did a few courses, Producing for Stage & Screen, Directing Essentials, Stage Manager, Stanislavsy Acting Techniques, and now Acting for Screen, and so on. I love learning, I would say I am an eternal student of life. NIDA’s tutors are excellent, I love to be in their class and learning more things
What inspires you?
I’m a free spirit, I will say “gypsy in soul”. I like changes and new ideas. I’m always inspired by art in every form and I want to do everything. Obstacles never stop me, I’m an optimist by nature.
Who has been an important mentor?
I was very fortunate to meet many great people in my life and to be honoured with their friendship. Each and every one of them was very valuable to my life and helped me develop into what I am today. I also came across not so great people, they too gave me a lesson. So I’m grateful for all of them because they mentored me in their own way.
What is one piece of advice you have received along the way that has stayed with you?
I always remember the story that an old friend told me when I was a child:
“One evening, an old Cherokee Indian, spoke to his grandson about the battle that takes place in the soul of the people.
And he said to him, "My son, the battle is between the two wolves we all have inside us.
One is the Bad Wolf. It is anger, jealousy, sorrow, disappointment, greed, arrogance, guilt, insult, lies, vanity, and ego.
The other is the good Wolf. It is joy, peace, love, hope, calmness, humility, kindness, charity, generosity, truth, sympathy and compassion.
The grandson thought for a moment and then asked his grandfather: "and who wins?"
The old Indian, Cherokee simply replied: "The one you feed."
We all feed both from time to time, I just try to feed the good wolf more and often, that’s my goal.
What is your dream role?
Directing is more of my passion now, as an actress I did my dream roles at a young age. What I like to do now is more modern theatre to draw our young Greeks in, with plays that they can relate to, understand and feel, to learn about this great art and embrace theatre as it is our heritage from the ancient times and we need to hold hands along with our traditional dances.
What is coming up next for Lucy Miller?
I have many plans for the future, preparation for our next production with Dionysus Theatre is well underway, it will be a mystery comedy with a twist. Also for next year, I will be doing a tribute to Bertolt Brecht’s work. In future plans, I want to do a big musical show and a film, but you will know when it’s time.