The First Gig [And Everything In-Between]

I’m a Queenslander. Please, don’t hold it against me but it’s true. And I’m proud of it. When I moved from Stanthorpe to Perth, WA, it was the first time I’d left the nest. No more of Mum’s Sunday roasts, no more of Dad’s pizza oven antics. Three years on, I am happy to say I survived on my own (only just), and have started the exciting journey of working life: a different city, a protein shake in hand, and a new adventure to begin. Six months down the track, I’ve realised it wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be. In fact, it’s been quite the opposite. In a nutshell, this is me, from then, to now.

Matthew Manahan
Matthew Manahan

For all budding young actors, the weeks leading up to graduation can be the hardest. It’s no hidden secret. Thoughts surround your mind: “Will I land a gig? Will they like me? Do people in the industry still drink wine on a week day?” Real life changing questions.

Shortly before graduating, I sent in a video submission for Cabaret that was casting at the time. It was playing at the Hayes theatre in Sydney, and whilst I knew I wasn’t heading back to Queensland to set up shop, I was torn between Sydney and Melbourne as a base. A couple of weeks after sending in a tape and going through callback rounds, I was cast in Cabaret and my decision was made for me. Sydney would be my base!

FYI fellow graduates-to-be: don’t get too hung up on deciding which ‘base’ is ‘right’. Both are a short flight away and in this connected world, it isn’t a necessity to be in the same city as your agency. *Praise printers and telephones alike!*

Rehearsals for Cabaret started soon after our showcase tour finished in Sydney. There I was, an hour and a half early, vocally and physically warm, teeth brushed and a cheery disposition – or so I lead on. Rocking up to your first day of rehearsals is scary. Again, I don’t think anyone can argue that. And my case was no different.

As Cabaret was my first professional show, I had no experience of how the ‘ins-and-outs’ of a professional rehearsal room ran. Luckily, as most creative spaces are in this country, I was surrounded by incredible people. Incredibly talented and kind people that showed me the reigns, guiding me through a short rehearsal period. I came in with the music learnt, lines down, but nothing set in stone. It meant I could focus on other things, like understudying, research, and of course Kelley Abbey’s choreography. On that note, getting to work with Kelley straight out of uni has been a dream. I remember rocking up more nervous then an opening night with sound issues, simply not wanting to disappoint. In fact, I was so nervous, I felt I couldn’t live up to the expectations required. We’ve all felt it, right? As rehearsals continued, I saw I had something to offer to our small, but special company: I was a valued part of the team.

Matthew Manahan & Debora Krizak in Cabaret | Photo John McRae

So many graduates talk about ‘balance’. After three weeks of rehearsals and a full week of runs I thought I’d found it. It seemed, after only two weeks of shows, I hadn’t. Your precious time before a show? The time required for rest, recoup and the occasional brunch? I was determined to treat it like any other day. Eight o’clock rise, gym, meal prep, hit the beach, see some mates, and off to the theatre. I was burning myself out without evening knowing it. Subsequently, I came down with bronchitis and laryngitis, almost losing my voice completely.

To my fellow newbies reading this: use your time wisely. Rest is just as important as the actual gig. Without it, there is no performance.

On the topic of balance, I should mention money quickly. Hey, there’s nothing wrong with a Hayes Theatre wage, it just means you can’t spend like you’re Bette Midler in Hello Dolly. For me, I was so excited to receive weekly pay checks I’d see myself dining out almost every night. You realise pretty quickly the green stuff is not infinite: make a budget, and stick to it. I’ve found by dividing my money into different accounts has been the best strategy. One for saving, one for spending, and one for all things involving my craft: singing lessons, workshops, headshots etc. Find what works for you.

So six months on, I’m still learning. Still learning how this crazy, brilliant and thriving industry works. I know I love it – perhaps what I love most is the people within it. We are all part of an incredibly thriving industry. Why not try and make it as ‘fabulous’ as possible? Respect your efforts and respect yourself. After all, we’re story tellers! I think that’s pretty damn special.

Matthew Manahan

Raised in rural Queensland, Matthew would use his three minutes of shower time to rehearse a wide variety of audition material. After multiple fights over water usage and noise complaints, Matt made the move to Perth to study at WAAPA’s Music Theatre Course. During his time in Perth, he likes to think he perfected the art of quick changes, last-minute line learning, and a variety of accents. Time off for him means hitting the beach with friends, a glass of wine, or perhaps the combination of both. Matt recently played Rudy in the Australian tour of Cabaret and Paris in Jon English’s Rock Opera, Paris: a Rock Odyssey.

Matthew Manahan

One thought on “The First Gig [And Everything In-Between]

  • Awesome job Matt. Thankyou for sharing. Very proud of all your achievements.


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