If Old Flinderian (Class of 2015) Rebecca Rolle has any advice for students at Matthew Flinders Anglican College who are considering a career in the Creative Arts, it is to follow your heart.
“If you love it, find a way to make it happen,” Rebecca said, “You don’t want to wonder your whole life.”
Based in Sydney and touring in musical theatre shows across the country, Rebecca makes time to pop in to Flinders whenever she visits her family home in Buderim. Her sister is in her final year at Flinders.
Rebecca was recently on the Sunshine Coast to perform the musical piece, 91 Story Treehouse, adapted from the book by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton. The show has been postponed due to Coronavirus concerns.
Rebecca graduated last year with a Bachelor of Musical Theatre from the Griffith University Queensland Conservatorium.
She promptly secured an acting agent, despite having laryngitis for the first two weeks of her three-week pitching tour.
“I completely lost my voice and was unable to sing my 30-second pitch for a talent agent,” Rebecca said. “I was obviously devastated at first but as luck would have it, when I was able to sing at the end of the tour my agent heard me and signed me straight away,” she said.
“A career in The Arts certainly teaches you about life and how to be resilient – for every ‘yes” there are often at least 20 ‘no’s’ but you just have to keep working, regardless of the outcome.”
Over the years, Rebecca has secured many professional roles in touring shows across Australia. Her recent shows include the Broadway hit, Sweet Charity, and the classic, Little Women, where she secured the lead role of Jo March, her favourite role yet.
She has also played lead roles in much-loved musicals, The Wizard of Oz, Oliver Twist and Grease.
Rebecca recalls her years at Flinders with great fondness.
“My favourite school memories come from our Flinders Drama Department,” Rebecca said.
“School productions were always a highlight. I loved being a part of such large productions that involved so many students, staff and departments,” she said.
“And now I realise that the musical talent we were able to work with in the orchestra is something we took for granted; there aren’t many school productions that have students with such incredible orchestral talent as our shows had.
“The community created at Flinders was such an honour to be a part of and I’ve gained so many life-long friends from those school shows.”
She says her confidence to be on stage comes from a lifetime of singing, dancing and acting, just for fun.
“My family moved all over the world when I was young for my dad’s work, so I would join music and dancing classes at each school because they were easier to spontaneously join than, say, a sport.”
Rebecca admits that the world-class performance facilities at Flinders helped her build confidence. "The Flinders Performance Centre changed my life,” she says.
“I heard it was being built when I arrived at the College in Year 7, and it was ready the following year.
“The venue gave me invaluable experience rehearsing and performing on stage in a 600-seat theatre, with professional lights, microphones and tech support.
“It felt real when I stood on stage. It prepared me for how my performing career was going to feel.
“In fact, my first professional show was at the Seymour Centre in Sydney and that venue is almost the same set-up as our Performance Centre.
“When I stood on that stage I felt like I had already been there. It was such a confidence boost.”
Rebecca's advice for creative arts students is to invest in your craft.
“Don’t be afraid to follow your dreams.
“If I have learnt anything from my years at Matthew Flinders Anglican College, it’s that there’s always going to be someone who's got your back, whether that is a peer, a staff member or a Head of Department.
“Soak up what time you’ve got at school as we don’t realise what a supportive community we have at Flinders and without that support I don’t think I would have had the confidence to follow my dreams.”
Rebecca says her experience at the Queensland Conservatorium was incredible because she was surrounded by others who were also dedicated to a career on stage.
“The three-year degree is a journey, full of passion and hard work,” she said. “At the beginning, you are thrown into the unknown at the deep end but by the end, you feel ready to jump in and build your career.”
While most people shudder at the thought of commanding the stage and entertaining a crowd of people, Rebecca says the performing aspect of her career is the highlight.
“What most people don’t realise is that when you are on stage, the lights are so bright in your eyes that the actors on stage can only see the front row of people.
“The rest of the audience is a bright blur so, as actors, we are able to get swept up in our characters and in the moment.
“I have no nerves when I’m on stage because that is what I have been training to do.
“I delve into other people’s lives, I enjoy the costumes, the make-up, learning the lines…all of it!
“Performing is the fun bit. It is such a thrill to pretend to be someone else and to entertain people.
“The rush is when you can feel 400 or 2,000 people who are there in the moment with your character and interpretation.”
Rebecca has no regrets for choosing a career in acting, rather than her second love of graphic design.
“What I’m most grateful for is that the teachers at Flinders helped prepare me and support me in both fields so I felt that I could achieve, no matter the career I chose.”