Thomas Roach is lighting up stages down south – literally!
The Townsville born and bred Lighting Technician has just won a prestigious Green Room Award in the category of ‘Best Lighting – Dance’.
Thomas said he was shocked to even be nominated for the award.
“We often joked amongst ourselves about whether we’d get a Green Room Award… and then it happened and I was like… ‘what?’,” said Thomas.
“The other people nominated in the category, I’d worked underneath… I’d rigged lights for those designers…so even being in the same category as them was amazing!”
What are the Green Room Awards?
The Green Room Awards are Melbourne’s premier, peer-reviewed Arts industry awards.
For Thomas, the Award means he is starting to earn valuable recognition from his ‘big city’ peers.
“I moved to Melbourne to try it out and see what it’s like in the big city… this means I’ve done something pretty good… maybe?” he laughs.
Thomas won the award for his lighting of a dance piece called Reference Material which was choreographed by Alisdair Macindoe for Darebin Arts Speakesy.
“Reference Material was great fun,” said Thomas.
“Alisdair Macindoe is a thousand miles per hour. There was a craziness but it was all still very cohesive. Everybody contributed and there were no stupid questions… it was all about… ‘let’s try it!’”
Finding the light
Thomas currently works fulltime as the Deputy Lighting Supervisor at Melbourne Theatre Company but his career started right here in Townsville.
Thomas’ interest in theatre came from being one of the PALS kids (Performing Arts, Light and Sound) at Pimlico State High School.
“I was one of the nerdy techs who would go in at lunchtime and have a great time in the performing arts centre (PIMPAC),” says Thomas.
“My teacher, Karen Vane, made me realise that this was a thing that people did… like that was a job.”
Thomas scored his first technical role when he was 14 years old, volunteering for Townsville Little Theatre. Over the years, he worked with many different theatre groups including NQOMT and the Townsville Choral Society. He was also a participant in TheatreiNQ’s The Bridge Project.
“That was when I actually had the opportunity to learn things in a workshop… not just on the job,” says Thomas.
Through all these experiences, Thomas began to focus his expertise on lighting.
“I really love it because you can instantly change a world, or change a mood, or change a vibe and support the work that’s already been created,” Thomas says.
“It’s all about creating worlds and creating somewhere where people exist and play. But it’s also instant gratification!”
“You push some buttons and some stuff happens and that’s really fun! I really get a lot out the technical side because I’m a big nerd. It’s really satisfying!”
Thomas worked on many TheatreiNQ productions before getting a job with Dancenorth as their Venue Technician. While working with one of Dancenorth’s touring production managers, the idea of moving to Melbourne started to take seed.
“She said to me… well, if you move, I can get you some work. Three months later I was in Melbourne!”
Not leaving Townsville in the dark
While Thomas is making a name for himself in Melbourne, he has not forgotten his roots.
In September this year, Thomas will return to Townsville to work as the Lighting Designer for TheatreiNQ’s production of The Tempest.
“It’s a very hands-on role because there’s so much to do. We’re building an entire theatre outdoors – all the lights, all the sounds, all the technical elements have to be there. And Terri Brabon’s adaptations of Shakespeare are fantastic!”
“I’m very excited to be coming home to work with some amazing people doing some amazing theatre,” he says.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today without the Townsville Theatre community!”
Townsville-based Dancenorth also received nominations in the Green Room Awards for Best Lighting and Best Production for their original work, RED.