The Rob Guest Endowment commemorates the life and achievements of one of Australia’s most respected musical theatre performers, Rob Guest, who passed away suddenly in 2008.
Now in it’s 10th year, the six finalists compete for a prize of $20,000 intended to help them gain the performance experience, media training, guidance and a public image to become a leading artist in the Australian musical theatre industry.
Previous winners have included Georgina Hopson, Daniel Assetta, Joshua Robson, Samantha Leigh Dodemaide, Glenn Hill, Blake Bowden, Francine Cain and Danielle Matthews.
Over the next two weeks, in the lead up to the November 19th final, we will be getting to know each of the six finalists a little better. Now it is time to meet out third finalist: Lyndon Watts.
Lyndon is a 2011 graduate of the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA). Upon graduating he toured Australia with Sweet Charity, originally staged at the Hayes Theatre. Lyndon has performed in GFO/Opera Australia’s Anything Goes and as the Beautiful Girl Production Tenor in both the Australian and the Tokyo production of Singin’ in the Rain. Lyndon recently appeared in Disney’s Aladdin also covering and performing the role of Jafar. Lyndon will tour internationally next year, starring as Bernardo in West Side Story as well as appearing in Melbourne Theatre Company’s production of Kiss of the Spiderwoman.
Tell us about yourself.
I’m 25 and I was born in Melbourne, my dad was an immigrant from the the Caribbean islands of Trinidad and Tobago and my mum was from country Victoria- they met in London. I moved around a fair bit when I was younger, changing schools was tricky but the constant was always singing and performing.
When did you know you wanted to be a performer?
I remember in high school when it was time to start thinking about career paths I went to see Chicago with my friends in Melbourne. The show itself rocked my world, but Caroline O’Connor as Velma in particular had a profound impact on me. The way she commanded the space and told the story with such style and finesse inspired me to step up my game and throw myself into training.
What is your training background?
I went to CPCA (Children’s Performing Company of Australia) in Melbourne for years, that’s where I fell in love with musicals and performing with like minded kids. When I realised acting and theatre was what I wanted to do with my life, I worked with a lot of terrific teachers in Geelong like Jordan Punsalang at Parallax Dance Company, with Tim McCallum and Kirstin Camm-Bartle on my singing as well as a lot of others.
After graduating school I went to Perth to study at WAAPA (Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts) for three years in Music Theatre.
What does Rob Guest’s legacy mean to you?
I’ve been lucky to work with some of the people Rob Guest himself mentored, they speak of his warmth, generosity, friendliness and unwavering commitment to theatre. His legacy is one of treating everyone in the theatre with respect, onstage, offstage and those taking the time to be a part of the audiences. Having accolades and credits is wonderful, but the way people speak of Rob is the thing I aspire to emulate the most.
This can be a tough industry. What keeps you going?
I think the greatest thing to sustain happiness and contentment in this industry is having clear direction. I try to set realistic goals and be as present and honest with myself as possible. It doesn’t matter what I’m doing as long as I know why I’m doing it, mindfulness is always helpful. There’s also times when I’ve not been able to bolster myself, that’s when it’s important to have a strong support network of friends, family and mentors.
What is the best advice you have been given?
During uni I was struggling with confidence and couldn’t perform without terror of what others were thinking of me, until I heard this affirmation from Seth Rudetsky. Before stepping on stage or auditions (especially when nervous) I say to myself “Nothing to prove, everything to share”. Once it stops being words and you really internalise it, it releases the pressure and fear of being good, bad, celebrated, Tony award winning etc. I love releasing the fear around performing and embracing the opportunity to share what I love most.
You recently appeared in the Disney mega-musical, Aladdin. What was your favourite thing about working on this show?
To put it simply, the people. To be a part of such a spectacular, beloved story is out of this world; but my time with the cast, crew and company on that show has left a huge impact on my life.
Next year you are appearing as Bernardo in West Side Story. How are you preparing for the role?
It’s my favourite show in the world. I’m ecstatic to be a part of it on a professional scale, and all the challenges that will come with it. Bernardo is a character struggling against a deeply racist society as an immigrant, this is essentially my father’s story coming to Australia so I have a lot to draw on from that as well as my own experiences with racism. Finding where Bernardo is in this moment in his life lies with empathy and finding our similarities. As for the technical aspects, the choreography and direction is by Joey McKneely who worked with Jerome Robbins himself, so there’s going to be an emphasis on attention to strong dance technique and storytelling.
What is your all-time favourite onstage memory?
In my first show Sweet Charity the story comes to a close with Charity and her ‘Fairy Godmother’ which I played. It was a tender, poignant moment full of depth and it’s stayed with me as an incredible way to start my journey in this industry.