Lally Katz
© Brett Boardman Photography

Feature | Lally Katz on Writing

Lally Katz is one of Melbourne’s most produced and sought after playwrights. Her highly anticipated play Minnie & Liraz will enjoy its world premiere at the Fairfax Studio in May. Lally also writes standalone scripts for film and television, and last year saw her operatic libretto The Rabbits tour Australia. She has two other plays programmed in Belvoir’s upstairs season this year and is currently working on a television series for Matchbox/NBCU.

For a writer with so many credits under her belt, and so many new works programmed with major companies, Lally says the hardest thing about writing is, well, writing.

Honestly, the most ultra-productive day for me as a playwright is the day just before the play is due. Those days I write for about 20 hours straight. My whole life is being a writer. Everything I do, I do to get a story, learn about a character or have an experience that I can write about.

So much of writing for me is about living in order to have material and inspiration. Usually when I sit down to write (after cleaning the house four times and walking across the entire city a few times) the words do tumble out.

Once I’m actually writing I love it. But gosh I’ll do anything to avoid it. It’s funny. I’m ever happier than when I’m writing. And the thing that causes me the most anxiety in life is worrying about not writing. But it sure is hard to get myself to sit down. Once I sit down, it happens fast. And by then I will have done a lot of planning and plotting along the way, so I know where the story is going and I know the characters extremely well.

I find the best thing is when I’m working on multiple scripts at once because then my writing has momentum and I can jump from project to project without ever losing momentum. Something that’s been amazing in this process [writing Minnie & Liraz] has been working with director Anne-Louise Sarks on the script.

She and I have a big history of working together and she gives me very clear notes and really helps me to get at the story and characters that I want to share with people. I am also always very nervous about giving scripts to her late, so that is a good inspiration!

This whole process has been developed with the Melbourne Theatre Company. So they have been part of growing [this play] from the ground up. Also, the commission of this play was an award from Kim Williams. It was this amazing award through the Australian Writer’s Guild for Kim to commission a play, for me to then develop with a theatre company of my choice.

I sat on the commission for two years, waiting for the right thing to write about. I couldn’t make up my mind. And finally it was getting too embarrassing seeing Kim Williams at events when I still owed him a play so I had to write it! And then my grandparents passed away and I realised it had to be this play.

Minnie & Liraz plays at Arts Centre Melbourne from 12 May. Book now.

Published on 2 April 2017

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