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BWW Interview: Loren Hunter

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A catch up with Australian music theatre star Loren Hunter about mental health and her career to date.

BWW Interview: Loren Hunter
Photo by Marnya Rothe

Loren Hunter is a star! She has dazzled as Liza Minnelli in The Boy from Oz and sizzled as Seymour in Six. Hunter has also had the lucrative opportunity to appear in five world premier productions; Moonshadow, King Kong, Baz Luhrmann's Strictly Ballroom The Musical, Georgy Girl - The Seekers Musical and Evie May. Both Hunter and I are WAAPA alumni, so we had a lot of catching up to do when I scheduled our Zoom call. As a Melbournian though, I did find myself envious of her vibrant Brisbane background.

I begin our conversation by asking Hunter what she thinks the key to her career success has been. "My whole entire approach to things was be ready so you never have to get ready... I didn't want to find out about an audition and then have to brush up on the skills." I do cheekily ask her though if she has had a horror audition. Hunter smiles and admits her King Kong audition did start off as a nightmare, but thankfully ended up as a dream. "I had forgotten my book of music and they were like do you have something else ... all I had was 'Love Me, Love Me Not' [by Joey Contreras] in crumpled up paper in my bag... they're like that's really not the vibe, so they got some music from the show, which is where I felt like it actually worked in my favour... thank goodness!"

I also ask Hunter about her experience playing Evelyn May Murphy in the 2018 Australian musical Evie May. With a book & lyrics by Hugo Chiarella and music & lyrics by Naomi Livingston, this musical explores the story and sacrifices of the unknown Evelyn May Murphy who transformed into Australian vaudeville star Evie May. Hunter recounts, "The show was built from the ground up and I have such fond memories of working with our director Kate Champion. As a new work, things were changing all the time, but with Kate you always felt you were in safe hands". We then discuss the effects character portrayal can have on an actor after the lights dim. "You need to be able to be filling your cup back up... I know that's the lesson the show taught me... whatever you're pouring out, you need to put that back in some way."

This brings Hunter to bravely discuss her struggle with depression. "Well for me it took a long time to realise that I was depressed and that was a hard pill to swallow... Why do I feel this way? That was a massive question for me. I have a beautiful family; I've had incredible opportunities." This is a strong reminder that mental health can affect anyone, a message that is more prevalent now more than ever. Hunter speaks of how daily meditation and seeing a psychologist has helped her. She also mentions how her mental health care plan allowed her to get Medicare rebates on 10 of her yearly psychologist sessions .

Finally, I discuss with Hunter her performance at the Sydney Opera House earlier this year as Seymour in the original Australian production of Six. This pop 'girl-group' musical tells the story of Henry VIII's wives, but from their perspective. "Female empowerment, not being defined by history... reclaiming your story", is how Hunter puts it. "It was challenging, incredibly challenging, probably the hardest thing I had ever done to date... but Six was absolutely worth it, because you just felt like you were changing history each night that you did it... it was just incredible." COVID-19 unfortunately has seen Six's Melbourne, Adelaide and Wellington seasons "Divorced, Beheaded, Died".

What the world has in store for the arts industry is a mystery to us all, however storytelling has been around since the caveman, so we can be certain we will be telling stories for a very long time to come.

You can find Hunter on Instagram @loren.e.hunter

For more information on mental health care plans, please contact your local GP.

Arts workers can also ring The Support Act Wellbeing Helpline on 1800 959 500. They give free, confidential phone counselling service available 24/7 for anyone who works in the performing arts industry.

You can also call Lifeline on 13 11 14. Lifeline is a national charity providing all Australians experiencing a personal crisis with access to 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention services.

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From This Author Josh Stent