Stanthorpe star uses spotlight to reignite arts support
STANTHORPE'S theatre star Matthew Manahan may be the name on everyone's lips, but the rising talent isn't letting fame get to his head instead using his platform to push for greater arts recognition.
Fresh from winning the 2020 BroadwayWorld Sydney Awards for best professional actor in a musical, the 24-year-old said the honour was a humbling surprise given the events of the past year.
Matthew won for his role as Claude in the Sydney Opera House's 2019 run of Hair but it wasn't until 2020 that the show's message hit home.
"During the run of Hair, things were already on a downward slope, but it's all come to a head," he said.
"The show deals with themes of race, politics and gender and those themes are really prevalent now.
"Just recently, our cast got together to talk about how everything in Hair seems to be coming true."
Like many other theatre actors over the past year, Matthew also dealt with the death of live gigs in the wake of the pandemic.
"It was a complete decimation of all live theatre," he said.
"The only time before now that's happened was war time. There were around 50,000 stage actors out of work.
"It's something we've never seen before, and most of us weren't eligible for Jobkeeper because our contracts were less than a year long."
While Matthew had been lucky to find work in an upcoming Netflix series, not everyone had been as fortunate and he urged the Federal Government to change its stance on arts aid to help those still struggling.
"The way the government responded to the arts does not reflect it's importance," he said.
"During lockdown, people turned to arts and media. They read books, streamed film and TV. Our cultural identity is more important than ever.
"To see that under-appreciated, and not supported, by the government was a real shame."
The response had been the polar opposite of his resounding Stanthorpe fan base, as he revealed the reader-voted win would have been impossible without the Granite Belt support.
"When the show came to Gold Coast, close to 75 Stanthorpians came to see it. After three years of working professionally to bring a show to Queensland they could see was really special," Matthew said.
"Stanthorpe has always been the secret weapon in my career.
"It has kept my feet on the ground and given me the opportunity to appreciate how important it is to work on your skills."