Elisa Colla: Rob Guest Endowment Finalist 2013

The much lauded Rob Guest Endowment annual concert will take place on Monday 25 November 25, where six finalists — emerging stars of Australian musical theatre — will take the stage to show their skills and compete for  a prize package that, this year, is worth around $25,000.

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.

Elisa Colla
Elisa Colla

Today we speak to Elisa Colla. A graduate of the Australian Institute of Music, Elisa played the role of Nessarose in Wicked through the Australian tour after making her debut in Sydney. She then travelled with the show to Singapore and Seoul.  She will soon appear in the upcoming short film Penelope.

When did you know you wanted to become a performer?

As a child I used to sing and dance around the house all the time. I loved entertaining my family! I think the moment when I realised I wanted to be a performer was when my Grandma would take me to see the big shows for my birthday, such as Annie and The Sound of Music. I sat in the audience with the biggest smile on my face and told myself “That’s what I want to do when I grow up. I want to be up there like them!”

What made you apply for the Rob Guest Endowment?

I think we are so lucky to have such a unique fund to help emerging musical theatre performers – who wouldn’t want to apply for that! I felt like I needed an extra push and I knew that the endowment was exactly where I could find that. It was a chance for me to just be myself, not somebody else, and to audition in front of some of the best industry experts this country has to offer.

What would becoming the recipient of the endowment mean to you?

To be the recipient of the Endowment would be an incredible honour (not to mention very exciting!) To already be one of the six finalists is such an achievement. Winning the award would give me the most amazing and unique opportunity to develop my craft though further training in the industry. 

How are you preparing for the upcoming concert? Any new rituals or routines?

I’m keeping myself vocally and physically healthy. Apart from working on my two songs I’ll be singing at the concert, I’m currently singing through a lot of my repertoire to maintain stamina and strength in my range. I run a lot too, I find it really clears my mind and rids me of any stress or nerves! 

What’s the best lesson you learned during your time at AIM?

That you never stop learning. There are so many lessons I learnt during my time at AIM. I was taught by working professionals every day, so the first hand advice I received and experience was so invaluable to me as a young performer who was about to step into the industry.

You’ve performed overseas. What’s the most important item in your suitcase for work travel?

Photos of my family and friends; reminders of home! Plus a bottle of Pei Pa Koa (Chinese Cough Syrup) It works wonders!

You played Nessarose in Wicked in Australia and in Singapore and Seoul. What was it like being part of such a theatrical phenomenon?

It was incredible! I feel extremely privileged to have played such a beautiful role (Nessarose) in such a successful and truly magical show. To make my debut in Wicked was an absolute dream come true. I got to tour our beautiful country, then spend a period of time with the show in Singapore and Seoul, which was another adventure in itself! It was amazing to see how the audiences there responded to it – they absolutely loved it! To bring so much joy to audiences every night was something very special to be a part of.

What was your memorable night in the theatre – as an audience member or as a performer?

As an audience member that would definitely have to be this year when I saw Julie Andrews Live at the State Theatre and had the privilege of meeting her backstage. She has always been my biggest inspiration and I grew up watching every one of her movies, singing along to all her songs. I was so inspired to hear her tell the story of her life and career and how incredibly humble she is. It was definitely one of the most memorable nights in the theatre for me!

This is a tough industry. What keeps you going?

I constantly keep myself motivated and driven, which is helped by my determination and strong passion to never stop trying. It is pretty tough at times, but this is what I want to be doing for as long as I can so it would take a lot for me to just give up. Reminding myself of the incredible feeling I get when I’m up on a stage is enough to keep me going.

What’s your go-to, belt-it-out-in-the-shower song?

Surprisingly I don’t sing a lot in the shower! But when I do it’s usually whatever has been stuck in my head that week. Sometimes I’ll practice an audition song in there too!

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Cassie Tongue

Cassie is a theatre critic and arts writer in Sydney, and is 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