Monica Swayne: Rob Guest Endowment Finalist 2014

The Rob Guest Endowment annual concert will take place on Monday October 13, where six finalists — emerging stars of Australian musical theatre — will take the stage to show their skills and compete for a prize package that includes a cash prize of $20,000 for the winner’s personal development, as well as a headshot package from Blueprint Studios.

AussieTheatre’s Cassie Tongue asked ten questions of each finalist, in the lead-up to the concert, to find out about their lives, careers, and how they’re preparing for the high-calibre event.

Monica Swayne.
Monica Swayne.

Today we chat to Monica Swayne, currently understudying Glinda in Wicked. She also appeared in Mary Poppins, understudying the role of Mary, and in the Australian tour of West Side Story, understudying another leading role – Maria.

When did you know you wanted to become a performer?
This would have been when I was in high school, I grew up dancing and performing before I understood the concept of doing something for a living or even recognising one could perform as a career choice. Dancing and singing were always a common denominator ever since I was 2. So when I was in high school (which was not a performing arts school) I got asked that question in Year 10 “Monica, Which top 3 University courses would you like to apply for?” I looked at the page and thought “I just want to dance ‘n’ sing ‘n’ stuff!, I don’t want to be a lawyer or a dentist, or an aqua activity mentor for water activities Cert. 4!”.

Growing up and living in Adelaide, SA until I was 19, I didn’t grow up around these full-time performing arts courses, so my thought process at that time was simply… “I just want to dance ‘n’ sing, and now, I need to figure out how to do that” haha. Obviously this answer didn’t go down well with the teaching faculty. I remember being told “Monica,dancing and singing is not a career choice” … Oh High School, you were so wrong!

What made you apply for the Rob Guest Endowment?
The Rob Guest Endowment is a very special competition. I never got to work with Rob Guest, but some of my fellow Wicked cast members did and the stories they share about their Wonderful Wizard expressed how the endowment upholds the legacy of the late Rob Guest by encompassing support, opportunity and mentorship for the young performer.

I entered not only for what opportunities the endowment offers, but also treading the boards the Wonderful Wizard once did, inspired me to enter. I not only want to be good at my craft, train and improve as years go by, but to support and assist others around me in the theatre community, one day also becoming a mentor to younger performers the way Rob Guest was.

What would becoming the recipient of the endowment mean to you?
If I am chosen as the 2014 Rob Guest Endowment award winner, receiving the award would be invaluable. Its not just a trophy, its an award for an up and coming Australian music theatre star. It would be a great honour and a huge step in the right direction for me. It would mean the world… my world.

How long did it take you to decide what to sing at the gala?
I am still deciding! haha almost there! Its an important part of the process, its like picking a wedding dress, or the right pair of shoes!

Wicked is such a phenomenon. What is it like to be part of that – ­ exhilarating or terrifying?
Being part of this Green Beast is actually a hugely talented extended family. I love everyone and everything on this production. You get challenged everyday, vocally and physically! Sometimes in long running shows you get into a routine and forget to stop and open your eyes, some days I stop and watch Jemma Rix sing ‘Wizard and I’ or watch my fellow ensemble dance that ‘ballet’ in Oz Dust or watch the crew move massive pieces of set with perfect timing and precision and think to my self, “we all make this ‘Green Machine’ puff along 8 shows a week”, being a part of it makes me feel very grateful I do what I love and I do it 8 shows a week.

If you could play any role, regardless of age or gender constraints, what would it be?
Well… I think I would make a great 24601! So whenever Simon Gleeson decides to leave the role, I’m there!

What has been your best/worst onstage mishap?
I’m boring, I haven’t done any funny mistakes or stacks or anything. However, I can not keep a straight face with “Trumpet Randomness” (this is when the trumpet plays wrong notes really loudly and obviously by mistake) and when that happens I can not stop laughing. Its a weakness!

Do you have any pre­performance rituals?
At the 5 minute call I always have to brush my teeth and apply my theatre perfume (which on Wicked is SJP NYC).

Tell us about your most memorable moment in the theatre – as an audience member or performer.
I will never forget the first 5 minutes of West Side Story Sitzprobe. As a kid I listened to that sound track like a nutter, hearing it live and 5 meters away from you was overwhelming. That score is beautiful.

What’s your current belt-it­-out­-in­-the­-shower song?
I try and make up my own raps, sometimes involving my shower products. ­ I’m not very good. “Moroccan revive, keeps my bleached hair alive…” yep still not good.

Gala Concert will be held on Monday 13 October. For more information, visit

Cassie Tongue

Cassie is a theatre critic and arts writer in Sydney, and was the deputy editor of AussieTheatre. She has written for The Guardian, Time Out Sydney, Daily Review, and BroadwayWorld Australia. She is a voter for the Sydney Theatre Awards.

Cassie Tongue

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *