By Alex Miller, Staff Writer, All About Solo
Lilly Dennis was born in Tasmania, Australia. She was raised by non‑industry parents and started pursuing theatre at a very young age. Growing up in such an isolated place Dennis was involved in as much theater as possible, performing in musicals and plays starting at age 8. From age 8 to 18 she performed in many different productions such as “Top Girls,” “House on Fire,” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “Mean Girls” and many more. In January 2014 she was accepted to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Los Angeles and graduated two years later at the Dolby Theatre. It was during her first few years in LA that Dennis starred as Anna in “And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little” directed by Sandy Martin; “Major Barbara,” “Season’s Greetings” and “Cloud Nine,” all directed by Ian Ogilvy; “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” and “The Laramie Project,“ both directed by Joe Garcia, all while she was a member of the American Academy Theatre Company. Lilly is currently involved with a multitude of TV and film productions whilst having a theatre career. Her one‑person show “Chocoholic” recently appeared at the United Solo Theatre Festival in New York, where it was awarded Best Solo Show. The show will be returning to this year’s United Solo Theatre Festival, featured in THE BEST OF category. Over the last few years Lilly starred in films and the series “Still Here,” produced by Warner Brothers and AT&T with NorthStar Films. She also completed filming the feature film “Cancer’s Last Stand.” Lilly’s series “Nannies” will be available for streaming later this year. The film “Dr. Phlill,” a mockumentary that follows an Australian wannabe reality star and her comedic attempt at being a reality TV therapist. The film is currently on the festival circuit and will be turned into a series.
Alex Miller: Congratulations on all your success surrounding “Chocoholic.” The play deals with the addiction you developed after your husband’s passing. How did you settle on the title “Chocoholic”?
Lilly Dennis: First of all, thank you so much. This play means so much to me, so it’s an amazing thing that it has come this far. And second, I settled on “Chocoholic” as the title because the real reason I wanted to bring this story to life was to explain how insane and unorthodox grief can be. It doesn’t have to be locking yourself in a room for days on end. Laughter and absurdity are a huge part of grief, and I think the title “Chocoholic” is a great way of conveying that.
How old were you when you first began acting, and who are three of your greatest acting inspirations?
I truly do not remember not acting, but I think my first paid gig was at about nine years old, and I have been acting ever since. My acting inspirations are constantly changing, as I’m inspired by so many actors and their talents every day. I think, especially recently, I am so incredibly inspired by actors who are helping make projects that bring awareness to important causes. So, top three would be Mariska Hargitay, Gina Rodriguez, and the woman who made me want to pursue acting as a career is probably Lucille Ball. She is a comedy legend, ran a network studio, had several hit sitcoms, and paved the way for women in powerful studio positions.
I’m so sorry for your husband’s passing, and I can only imagine what it must have taken to gather the strength for this play. How long did it take you to craft the play following his death?
I appreciate that. Several years had passed following his passing before the idea even came my way. Originally, when the play was coming together, it was a completely different take on the story. My director Debra De Liso was instrumental in shaping the play into the story it is now. Crafting this story was honestly one of the most cathartic things I have ever done for myself and my grief.
I understand that you have an upcoming film. What can you tell me about your role in “Dr. Phlill”?
Well, “Dr. Phlill” is a comedic film about relationships in a reality TV world. I play Lillian Halbert, an eccentric and unqualified Australian therapist who thinks she can get a hit reality TV show by forcing her roommate and her boyfriend to be her “practice patients,” and giving them a lot of unsolicited advice. It’s a project I am very proud to be a part of, and it recently was picked up to be turned into a series by Bravemaker Productions, so I am incredibly grateful that I get to continue playing this amazing character.
I believe that yours is a noteworthy and inspirational story, and a strong testament to resilience in the face of adversity. If you could give one piece of advice to actors coping with the loss of a significant other, in order to help them stay motivated, what would it be?
I think as artists, our emotions are already trained to be so accessible for when we play a character, that when we ourselves experience an emotion to a great intensity, like grief, we can very easily convince ourselves that we are not actually feeling it. It’s a very scary thing to think about. However, the one piece of advice I would give is to sit and talk to yourself. Put your phone, computer, TV, everything away, look in a mirror, if that would help you, and speak out loud about how you are feeling. It’s a method I learned in grief therapy and it changed my life. It feels odd to start with, but taking that silent, undistracted time and being alone with your own emotions and thoughts can help push you into a healthier mind space. I am a firm believer in never giving up. The loss you experienced doesn’t hinder your ability to be an artist in any way, it just makes you a stronger person for surviving it.
Written and Performed by Lilly Dennis
Directed by Debra De Liso
Saturday, Sept 28th at 6:30PM
United Solo Theatre Festival
New York City
ALEX MILLER, a Chicago native, has been a professional writer and editor for 6 years. He joined the Navy in 2004, and served for four years in such places as Haiti, Iraq, and Somalia. He has a degree in Public Engagement from The New School, and has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, Forbes, The New York Daily News, and QZ, among others. He lives in Harlem.