MACKENZIE Dunn is a proud fourth-generation performer and if her first year after graduating from WAAPA is anything to go by, she will continue the impressive family legacy in style.
Her grandparents on her mother’s side are Australian theatre legends Jill Perryman and Kevan Johnston (whose aunts also performed), while her uncle is musician and TV personality Tod Johnston and mum Trudy Dunn.
“Mum is studying the directing course at WAAPA and doing a masters at uni as well,” 22-year-old Dunn said.
“She’s also the co-ordinator of the acting diploma course, so WAAPA is very much part of our family. We stayed out of each other’s way while I was there.
“Mum was assistant director on Heathers: The Musical which was one of my third-year shows and that was a test on our relationship. But we knew when to switch on mother-daughter relationship and when to go in to director-cast member mode.”
Dunn also starred as lead Peggy Sawyer in WAAPA’s 42nd Street at Regal Theatre last year, a role she had played on the same stage as a Year 10 at Iona Presentation College while growing up in Mosman Park.
She will make her professional debut in Black Swan State Theatre Company’s (BSSTC) May season of Summer of the Seventeenth Doll. Her grandparents were in the 1988 Hole in the Wall production of the Ray Lawler play, where Perryman was character Pearl and Johnston played Barney.
“I didn’t know they’d done it before when I was cast,” Dunn said.
“They called me up to tell me they’d done The Doll and shared all these anecdotes. It was one of those moments where that legacy comes forward.
“It’s daunting but I’m so proud to keep the tradition going, although I might come off stage and be given notes.”
Lawler’s work is regarded as the first Australian play to reach international audiences.
It used Australian accents and showed the world what Australia was like in 1950s working-class Melbourne.
Dunn is in the role of Bubba, who she said was there to present youth, hope and truth.
“It’s funny because it parallels with me and my family; she’s that generational figure that is proof that times are changing,” she said.
“She has been growing up in this house with these characters all her life and now she’s a woman ready to go and start a life of her own.”
Dunn, who has already moved to Melbourne, will stay in Perth after The Doll season to perform in BSSTC production Assassins before heading back to the east coast to play Frankie Valli’s daughter Francine in the new production of Jersey Boys, starting in August.
What: Summer of the Seventeenth Doll
Where: Heath Ledger Theatre
When: May 5 to 20