Dean Parker was born in Napier in 1947 of mainly Irish ancestry. Educated at Napier Marist and Hastings St John’s, he worked as a writer for most of his life and was prominent in the New Zealand Writer’s Guild.
Dean's playwriting career spans from Smack, his first play produced at Downstage in 1974 to more than fifty original plays and adaptations that followed. His plays provoke and entertain audiences while examining New Zealand's political history and the political perspective of individuals. He wrote plays set on a factory shop floor, within the National Party caucus, war-ravaged Baghdad, the New Zealand Legation in Moscow, and the story of Robert Muldoon.
His plays include adaptations of Great Expectations, The Trial, The Hollow Men and Other People's Wars. Other notable plays include The Man That Lovelock Couldn't Beat, Baghdad, Baby!, Tigers of Wrath, Perfumed Garden and Slouching Towards Bethlehem.
Midnight in Moscow had a tumultuous start in its premiere at The Court Theatre in Christchurch where it was playing on 22 February 2011 when the earthquake hit. This was his most successful stage play, productions followed by Auckland Theatre Company and Wellington's Circa Theatre.
Dean won awards for his screenwriting including for co-writing the successful big-screen comedy ‘Came a Hot Friday’. In the 1970s he wrote for such pioneering New Zealand television series as 'Close to Home', 'Buck House' and 'Mortimer's Patch'. With Greg McGee he wrote Welsh-Kiwi rugby tale 'Old Scores' and they co-created the 1980s trucking series 'Roche', and the goldmining drama 'Gold' He worked on episodes of police drama ‘Mortimer's Patch’ and ‘Betty's Bunch’. His adaptation for the small screen of Ngaio Marsh's 'Opening Night' was the first New Zealand television drama to be screened in America.
He also wrote extensively for NZBC Radio and its successor, Radio New Zealand.
Dean was named a Laureate by the Arts Foundation in 2010 and was the inaugural winner in 2012 of the Playmarket Award given to a playwright for significant artistic contribution to theatre in New Zealand.
In 2017 he turned to prose fiction writing ‘Johnson’, a sequel to John Mulgan’s ‘Man Alone’.
He passed away suddenly in April 2020.