The Rob Guest Endowment annual gala concert will take place on Monday November 9, where six finalists — emerging stars of Australian musical theatre — will take the stage at Sydney’s Lyric Theatre to compete for a a prize package of $20,000 and 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.
Today we feature our second finalist for 2015 – Ashleigh Rubenach – who is currently appearing in Opera Australia and GFO’s co-production of Anything Goes at they Sydney Opera House and will join the cast of The Sound of Music as understudy to Maria in December.
1. When did you know you wanted to become a performer?
I knew that I wanted to be a performer when I was 5 years old. My Nanna took me to see my first musical, The Sound of Music, and I distinctly remember thinking in that moment that that was what I needed to do with the rest of my life. Amazingly, I’ll be performing and understudying Maria in the upcoming touring production of The Sound of Music later this year. Life seems to have come full circle!
2. What made you apply for the Rob Guest Endowment?
I decided to apply for the Rob Guest Endowment at the suggestion of friends in the industry. I’ve had quite a few friends involved in the competition in previous years, and they all had such wonderful experiences that I couldn’t wait for the opportunity to apply myself.
3. How are you preparing for the upcoming concert? Any new rituals or routines?
At the moment, I suppose part of my preparation is performing in Anything Goes! Watching people like Caroline O’Connor perform every day is an education in itself, I couldn’t ask for a higher level to aspire to. Otherwise, I’ve been working with vocal teachers and doing lots of research to decide on the perfect repertoire for the final. It’s certainly a tough decision! But all very exciting.
4. What has been the best moment so far during your time in Anything Goes?
That is such a hard question! There have been countless amazing moments, so I might have to name a few. The first time we heard Caroline sing ‘Anything Goes’ will stick with me forever, as well as the first time we heard the orchestra at the Sitzprobe, but I think my top moment would have to be the standing ovation we received after opening in Melbourne. I don’t think I’ll ever forget bowing, with such incredible company, in my first professional musical.
5. What has been your best/worst onstage mishap?
I had a great mishap recently, actually. Our Saturday night preview in Sydney for Anything Goes, I fell all the way down to my knees in the middle of the title number. Tapping in heels and a pant suit is quite hazardous, apparently! I happened to have two friends in that night, so both of them saw it and thoroughly enjoyed my spill. Luckily, I was up again very quickly!
6. What was your memorable night in the theatre – as an audience member or as a performer?
Earlier this year, I was lucky enough to be in New York City on the TDP/ASCAP Bound for Broadway scholarship. I managed to see 19 shows in my time there, and my favourite experience in all of those would have to be watching Kelli O’Hara in The King and I at the Lincoln Centre. Kelli was absolutely breathtaking, her performance was so detailed and honest that I was spellbound from the start. I discovered a new goal for myself that evening – to one day perform a leading role in a Rodgers and Hammerstein show at the Lincoln Centre.
7. This is a tough industry. What keeps you going?
This is definitely a tough industry, but what keeps me going is my passion and love for theatre. Nothing makes me happier than performing on stage, and seeing the way that a performer can change someone just by telling a story. There’s nothing else I could be doing, this is it.
8. What’s your dream role, regardless of age, gender, or anything else?
I have a number of dream roles – Mary Poppins, Ariel in The Little Mermaid, Elle in Legally Blonde, Christine in Phantom – but my absolute dream role would have to be Maria in The Sound of Music. I’m still in disbelief that I will be understudying that role this coming December!
9. Do you have any pre-performance rituals?
I do have a few pre-performance rituals, but they seem to change for every show. My constant ritual, no matter what the show, is brushing my teeth at the 5 minute call. Otherwise, I will usually drink a lot of water and tea, and take my vitamins (very important!). I find putting on my make-up and wig a great way to get in to the right mindset for the show.
10. Why does musical theatre matter?
Musical theatre matters because it’s part of the heart and soul of a culture. It’s one of the many wonderful ways humans express emotion and share experiences with one another, and it’s so important to keep doing that.
Follow the Rob Guest Endowment official Instagram account to see each of the 6 finalists ‘takeover’ for a week leading up to the concert.
Check out our previous interview with 2015 finalist Daniel Assetta
For more information, visit robguestendowment.com.au