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  • Writer's pictureTracey Lee

Lights, music, curtain up!

Updated: Apr 26

I have a profound respect for anyone who can get up on a stage, inhabit a character and entertain an audience. Or perhaps I just envy anyone who can learn and remember lines!

A forty-minute chat turned into a two-hour discussion with Anthony Mayne, actor-producer-HR Manager-local councillor, provided an amazing insight into the life and people who shaped him. A multi-faceted and multi-talented human who has at the heart of all he does the desire to make the world a better place.

So how has he arrived at this point in his life.

He started as a Victorian (the state not the era) and the second oldest of nine children. A big, loving and possibly rambunctious Catholic family ran no doubt with great efficiency by his mother, who had once trained as a nun but then found nursing and a family brought greater happiness. She was a woman who valued learning and commitment to her children. Anthony’s father was a truck driver with his own gifts and demons. His strong work ethic was his greatest gift to his family. Once he was offered a music scholarship to study at Melbourne University to capitalise on his beautiful baritone voice…but the chance was not realised. Too much water under the bridge, too little self-belief.

But Anthony’s maternal grandfather was the influential role-model. He was the longest serving shire secretary for the Sunraysia Council and awarded an MBE by the late Queen. Hence the interest in local politics was instilled. More importantly the value of service became something of a guiding principle for the life to come.

Childhood in a large family meant there was always someone to play with. No doubt competitiveness was a feature of most outdoor and indoor activities. But a more important memory Anthony shared was his mother’s encouragement to value reading and education, to be kind, to have hope and to give back. So after a school life full of basketball and AFL, and some study he gained a place at university to study Economics. But after one semester Anthony realised that this wasn’t, at this point, what he wanted. So he joined the army at 19.

It seems to be an impossibly young age to be in the military but the past informs us that boys younger than that signed up to fight for ‘king and country.’ But that didn’t seem to be Anthony’s motivation for joining the infantry, it was more about his long-held belief that service to others and the notion that ‘duty first’ had an abiding impact on him. Instilled by his family and in particular a fondly remembered uncle, who also served as a NASHO, who provided gentle guidance about a number of key life lessons.

From the youthful freedom to military discipline was a bit of a shock but Anthony was soon able to make the connections between being part of a sporting team to that of the committing to the needs of the soldiers around him. ‘Duty first’ a permanent mantra.

The military, however, did not fulfil all the ambition and yearning for something greater that remained part of Anthony’s motivation. His burgeoning creativity was emerging and partially realised by emceeing some army talent shows and having a go at acting. At this time an army padre became an influential mentor who helped Anthony realise his academic gifts also needed to be realised. His growing social awareness and understanding of the human condition helped him come to the decision that duty and service could be also served out of uniform.

In 1989 a move to Melbourne saw a range of changes. Anthony studied a Bachelor of Business at Deakin University, worked as a night security guard and returned to sport. From this point he engaged in real world service offering pastoral services to the homeless, the elderly and those in prison. While working with the Franciscans in the early 90s Anthony came to see the importance of finding the light in lives that appeared, at times, beyond hope. His mother’s teachings, his faith and his own strength of character allowed him to journey with many people out of the often self-imposed darkness of hopelessness to a better place. ‘A river without banks is a swamp’ is a quote he used to frame the concept his understanding of how community must work to support all.

But other passions were equally compelling in Anthony’s life. Meeting his life partner in 1996 at pastoral education counselling course (her smile and warmth won him at the first hello), working in human resources and the ever-present call to the stage. A role as the Queen of Hearts in a Sydney production and the lead in a student film reignited the thespian within.

But work, paid work, becomes the necessity that often puts creativity on the back burner. Anthony became the super commuter when he and Linda moved from Stanwell Park to the south coast of NSW. Nine years commuting to Port Kembla and three years flying Canberra to Brisbane in various HR roles was exhausting and all consuming. Little room for auditioning let alone taking on any kind of commitment to a play.

In 2014 the change that was needed came. Anthony stopped the fatiguing merry-go-round of travelling hundreds of kilometres a week to start his own HR consulting company and make two amazing, life-changing, dream realising decisions.

One started with attendance at a Eurobodalla Shire Council meeting. Locals, such as Anthony, were concerned about a gun and weapons exhibition being held on public land. It seemed to be at odds with the community voices against it and the general discomfort Australians have about guns. The group who attended with Anthony really felt that local people were just not being heard. Not just about the exhibit issue but on a range of things impacting the wellbeing of people and the land.

Harkening back to his grandfather’s long tenure in local politics Anthony put his hand up to run for council and was elected in 2016. A role he has had now for 8 years. In this position Anthony has become a conduit for the many voices of the Eurobodalla. His understanding of the needs of people and the environment are two key elements in his approach. The environment ‘is not an abstract, it is a reality that is foundational to economy. It must be managed and treated effectively. There has to be a balance between people, economy and environment.’ Such is Anthony’s genuine wisdom.

But Mr. Producer/actor was still awaiting his turn. It came in 2016 when he put out an expression of interest for anyone keen on joining him in creating a small theatre company. Expecting to be almost sitting alone in the St. John’s Hall he found that more than a dozen others were rearing to go. And so the Moruya Red Door Theatre Company was born. The company continues to grow and entertain the region with numerous plays and theatrical experiences. The most recent, a program of two one-act-plays, opens on May 17th.

Anthony continues to grow his skills as both an actor and producer. He works with young actors and the less experienced but keen-as-mustard types to hone their skills, to do more than just deliver lines and find a real joy in the art of being on stage.

So what does he gain from this theatre world. Anthony says it ‘taps into and expresses creativity and helps him be more present to people.’ The confidence that comes with the vulnerability of being on stage, inhabiting another self creates a ‘softness.’ And Anthony is a gentle human. Hilarious, intense, unafraid and interested in people. I think most creative people are. He listens and speaks with authenticity and appreciation. He loves ideas and bringing those abstract thoughts into a creative form. His mind is always working at a million miles an hour. So when I asked him if he could introduce me at my book launch he went straight to conducting a one-hour interview, on a stage with lighting and a set. I was terrified but it worked brilliantly and despite my discomfort his easiness in the ‘spotlight’ made for a wonderful event.

Anthony describes himself, almost shyly, as a ‘caring giving soul.’ And he is, but he is also much more, and the world could really use a few more like him.


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