PHOTOS: Paul Freeman

WHENEVER Defence spouse Paula Mandl is on stage, she is in her “happy place”.
It’s not that she is unhappy everywhere else, just that she now understands her acting, and enthusiasm for amateur theatre, is what truly makes her happy in life.
Oh, and husband CAPT Matt Mandl – he makes her happy, too.
But it’s her love of acting, (not Matt), that drives her to swallow the stagefright, and to constantly walk out of her comfort zone on stage.
She’s good, too… having just won the Best Female Actor award in the NQ

Festival of One Act Plays.
And she and best mate Sonia Zabala last week took their production Random Acts of Fiction to the Big Smoke to participate in the Monash One Act Play Festival at the Peridot Theatre, Melbourne.
It was a chance to move way out of their comfort zone, by pitting their production, and themselves against the best in the country.
They were chuffed that Random Acts of Fiction received nominations in three categories – Excellence in Direction (Sonia), Best Playwright (Tim Hehir) and Best Actor – Female (Paula).
Happy days.
Originally from Melbourne, Paula identifies as a Queenslander (particularly during State of Origin series), having moved to Glenden, in the mining belt west of Mackay as a child.
She finished school in Glenden (population, about 1400) and at the Glenden State School, she joined the MAD Club – a music and drama club.
“That’s where I started in acting,” she said.
One of the first productions in which she was involved at Glenden was A Midsummer Night’s Dream (she played Helena), and she was looking forward to seeing it again at Shakespeare In The Park at Queens’ Gardens last month.
It was a happy small-town country childhood, and it led to the usual developments of a normal life… beginning a career, (mostly in administration), followed by marriage and babies.
She was a young mother – her “babies” are now young men Jacob, 19, and Ben, 17 – and it was acting that gave her solace when the marriage ended in divorce more than a decade ago.
“It was a shake-up in my life, and I went back to what made me happy, which was theatre,” she said.
Then she met Matt through mutual friends and they quickly “clicked”.
He was from Newcastle and, drawing deeply on her Glenden roots, she reacted to that news like a true-maroon Queenslander, so State of Origin provided them with an enjoyable six weeks of mutual disrespect – romantic conflict, if you like.
“In our whole relationship, Queensland has won State of Origin every year,” she said.
“Oh, except the year we decided to get married – 2014 – New South Wales won that year.
“Is that a bad sign?”
She asked the question with an actress’ tone of genuine stage concern, but the broad grin gave away her true feelings… all good fun.
Matt is very supportive of her involvement in the theatre, but treading the boards is not for him.
Matt and the boys often get coerced into helping Paula run lines and they will always be in the audience supporting her on opening nights.
Often, she is rehearsing for more than one show as is presently the case.
The first is The Sugar Shack Burlesque 2.0, a VaVoom Room production which is a sequel to the very successful first iteration of the show.
It’s on for one night only at the “Herbert Manor”, the function room at the back of the Herbert Hotel in the city, and is expected to be a sellout like the first one.
Following hard on the heels of The Sugar Shack will be Full Throttle Theatre Company’s Summer of the Aliens which has a four-night season at The Old Courthouse Theatre.
Acting is a hobby, about which Paula is passionate, but theatre and drama is also making an appearance at her work at the Townsville campus of CQ University.
“They’re launching a creative arts degree, which is fantastic,” Paula said.
“And from the theatre’s point of view, it’s great for the young kids who don’t want to leave town to do drama, or dancing, or any of that sort of fun stuff.”
If you want to see Paula in action, she will be doing her best burlesque version of Wonder Woman, as part of The Sugar Shack Burlesque 2.0, for one night only on Friday, November 3.
The show is risque, but not so much that it will shock your socks off – very much a night with the emphasis on fun.
The following Wednesday, (November 8) will be opening night for Louis Nowra’s Summer of the Aliens directed by Madonna Davies at The Old Courthouse Theatre.
Book tickets for either show at townsvilletickets.com.au.
Make sure you say G’day to Paula after the show, or Matt, who will no doubt be in the audience… they will be glad to see you there.