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Celebrating the magic of community theatre today and everyday!

March 26, 2024

Today on World Theatre Day, we are privileged to have sat down with the talented Matt Hourigan, revered WTC alumni, having played Bert in our 2016 production of Mary Poppins, Perchik in Fiddler on the Roof, and Scott Hastings in Strictly Ballroom The Musical just to name a few. Recently graduating from WAAPA, Matt has made the journey from Chatswood to Punxsutawney, currently starring in the Australian premier of Tim Minchin’s  Groundhog Day the Musical.

As we celebrate the magic of theatre today, Matt share's insights into the profound impact of community theatre on their career and the importance of nurturing aspiring performers within such vibrant communities.

Mary Poppins, WTC 2016

Can you tell us about your journey to joining community theatre and some of your fondest memories?

I started in dance at the age of 5, and transitioned into music theatre when I was 12, starting in community theatre in and around Sydney. I continued in community theatre all throughout high school and university, more often than not prioritising another rehearsal over my grades. Some of my favourite memories within music theatre honestly came from the incredible people that I’ve met and befriended along the way. To be alongside such hard-working, talented, and inspiring individuals made even the hardest of rehearsals so worthwhile. Theatre, and especially music theatre, is an exploration of the human condition; and to be sharing the learning of this human condition alongside other like minded individuals has been the fondest memory I could ask for.

How did your experience with community theatre prepare you for your career in professional theatre?

For me, community theatre gave me two key things: work ethic and passion, major factors that have aided my career in professional theatre. I’ve been so privileged to have performed in over 30 community theatre productions before transitioning into my professional career, and in each experience I gained a strong understanding of the dedication and hard work required for this lifestyle, but also I fell in love with the stories we get to tell and the medium we tell them in. I feel that without this experience, I wouldn’t feel so prepared or settled in a professional environment, and I chalk that up to my involvement in community theatre.

Which productions with Willoughby Theatre Company do you feel had the most significant impact on your development as a performer and how? 

I was so lucky to have been involved in a number of WTC productions over my career including Wicked, Mary Poppins, Strictly Ballroom, and Fiddler on the Roof. I found that within my time in WTC I was also able to gain insightful knowledge on my strengths and weaknesses within music theatre and understand who I am as an artist. In Mary Poppins I discovered that I had a real passion for comedy; which is something I had not seen before. And it was through my experience in Poppins that I grew to love being a comedic actor (and to go on to audition for more comedic roles in lieu of the ‘heartfelt romantic lead’ or ‘brooding angsty character’).

Mary Poppins, WTC 2016

How do you believe community theatre contributes to the development of young performers aspiring to work in professional theatre?

Community theatre, especially WTC, gives you an incredibly professional and inspiring taste of the industry. It provides you the opportunity to immerse yourself into music theatre as an art-form and career, in a welcoming, supportive, and hard-working environment.

For me, community theatre ignited my passion for the theatre world, and that’s exactly what WTC did for me.

How do you stay inspired and motivated during challenging times in the industry?

There is no doubt that the theatre industry is incredibly challenging; if not the most competitive industry there is. I always find that I stay inspired when I’m seeing other theatre. Watching an incredible production with an amazing cast, I can’t help but think “wow, that’s what I want to be doing,” and it lights a fire within me that keeps me wanting to pursue this career.

Can you share any rituals or routines you have for keeping your creativity and inspiration flowing?

Surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals is always important to keep your creativity flowing. Spending time immersing yourself in theatre and being involved in projects that bring you joy, or are important to you is also incredibly vital. I’m a bit of a music theatre nerd and so I will often research it in my spare time, which to me really keeps the passion alive.

Groundhog Day the Musical, Melbourne 2024

 

What advice would you give to aspiring performers who are involved in community theatre and dream of pursuing a career in the professional theatre industry? 

If there’s anything I’ve learnt from working in professional theatre it’s that your work ethic, professionalism, and reputation are more important than you think. Talent is obviously important, and it’s so vital to work on your skills, however if you are someone that people don’t want to work with, more often than not you won’t succeed.

We’re not all perfect, and I’m certainly not one to say that I’m the perfect cast member; but over the past few years of studying theatre, and since working in this industry I’ve learnt that it’s IMPERATIVE to be a good person. Showing up knowing your material, respecting the cast, crew, and creatives regardless of personal relations, handling any issues with dignity and diligence, and generally being “easy to work with” is the best way to excel in this industry.

These words resonate deeply, reminding us of the profound influence of community theatre in shaping not only a performer's career but their character as well. From the cherished memories shared with fellow artists to the invaluable lessons learned on and off the stage, there is an enduring power of theatre that inspires, unites, and transforms lives. In the heart of every great production lies the unwavering dedication of a vibrant community of artists. Here's to celebrating the magic of theatre, today and always.

Songs for a New World, Soundworks Productions 2023
Into the Woods, West Australian Opera 2023
Groundhog Day the Musical, Melbourne 2024
Songs for a New World, Soundworks Productions 2023