How resilience is keeping the theatre alive


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Actor Deborah Galanos is about to perform in - Belvoir Theatre's first production since restrictions have eased in NSW. When the first lockdowns hit in March 2020, she was rehearsing for Son of Byblos, the opening play for the theatre's new space, Belvoir 25a.

The play was subsequently postponed. Galanos says The Boomkak Panto, opening this month, is the most fun she's ever had working on stage despite being one of the most challenging roles. She's required to sing, dance, be comedic and maintain an accent. However, she declares it's the most joyous, incredibly silly, beautiful piece to re-open the theatre with. Written and starring Virginia Gay, the play is a celebration of life and makes reference to what Australians have endured over the past two years.

COVID-19 was devastating for the arts - it was the first industry to lock down and the last to open. But Galanos kept busy doing play readings and script development via Zoom. She says actors are by nature resilient - courtesy of living lives full of rejection - and they try to be creative in finding ways to make money and art.


What was your first job?

Working with my father in our family business. He had a timber factory - windows and doors, and architraves and millings material - in Sydney's Gladesville. I started working there around age 12 on Saturday mornings. In those days everything was stamped, and I used to stamp documents for customers, serve them, take money and give change - and so my maths got better. Dealing with customers in retail and trade was an eye-opener and I continued to work there until I was 20. I remember once [actor] Colin Friels came in. I was apologising as I was a NIDA graduate working here in the blue-collar world and he said, "It's a good thing you're doing -  it's a great world to be exposed to and it will serve you later." And he's right. As an actor, you use your imagination as much as possible but it's good to touch base with the real thing. And it was really grounding.

What's the best money advice you've received?

Save! And save in super. Make sure you look after your super. Don't dip into it. Add to it. My father is a big believer in adding to your super - match your employer. I should do more. It's hard for actors - we don't earn a lot and it's project to project. If you get into the habit of salary sacrificing in some way, it's good. We have a great super fund for actors, so I try to do a bit of that. And he always says, don't live beyond your means. We all do, and I have to keep reminding myself, "Do I really need that book or pair of shoes or to drive when I can walk?"

What's the best investment decision you've made?

I'd say investing in my super. You don't notice when you're salary sacrificing, you don't see the money - it's just $100 less from pay - but at end of the day the money will be there. When I was younger, we had savings accounts. That doesn't track anymore; there's no interest paid by banks anymore. Investing in a portfolio of shares would be great, but that's what super funds are doing for you anyway. We had an investment property - we sold it a few years ago at what was then the peak of the market, but now real estate has really gone insane.

What is your favourite thing to splurge on?

Going out to eat at really lovely restaurants. I love supporting our gorgeous local businesses   that have done it tough [during lockdowns]. My first dinner out of lockdown was at Chiswick [in Sydney's eastern suburbs], which I love. We've had a couple of lovely family dinners there. I also love travel, but I'm not interested in going anywhere for another year.

If you had $10,000 where would you invest it?

Crytpo seems to be a really hot commodity right now. I don't know much about it and it seems to be quite volatile - but some people seem to be making a lot of money from it, so I may think of that. But I'd need to get some advice. Otherwise, art. I love buying emerging artists' work -  or taking advantage of someone selling their collection - it goes up in value and it's also something to pass on to the kids. It's an investment in artists and an object as well.

What would you do if you only had $50 left in the bank?

I would just get a job anywhere doing anything to just earn cash, put my head down and hustle for work, and really get very tight with budgets. Having $50 in the bank is a very scary thought. I'd ring friends or anyone who could give me work. I'd call in favours from people who could give me work.

Do you intend to leave an inheritance?

Yeah, I do. I think the bank of mum and dad is a real thing right now and it seems to be the thing keeping families going, so if there is anything I can do to help my kids I'd certainly do that. I don't think they should be given a truckload of assets. But as my father said after my grandfather passed away, it's good to do it with a warm hand and not a cold hand. I don't want to be one of the richest people in the graveyard. And as an extended family, we've always supported charities in a big way.

What's been your best money-making career move?

The industry is so transient, I've been thinking a lot over the last 15 years of becoming a producer to get regular money. But I love being an actor. My best move is just getting a job where I'm earning money.  That's not always possible.

Finish this sentence: money makes ...

life easier if you use it wisely.

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Julia Newbould was editor-at-large and later managing editor of Money from November 2019 to February 2022. She was previously editor of Financial Planning and Super Review magazines; managing editor at InvestorInfo and at Morningstar Australia. Julia co-authored The Joy of Money, a book on women and personal finance. She holds a Bachelor of Economics from the University of Sydney where she serves on the alumni council.