Toby at the Queensland Theatre Company QTC

The Queensland Theatre Company (QTC)

The QTC & S.G.I.O. Theatre was my sanctuary

For the first time in my life, working at the QTC, I felt normal, wanted and loved. The physical “S.G.I.O. Theatre.” (Stage Government Insurance Office) became my personal temple.  I had the utter joy of working on an array of productions with tremendously creative and loving people. I worked on 25 shows, and when I wasn’t paid to work on a particular show, I volunteered in the offices, or to assist stage management.  I could not get enough of learning and devouring every aspect of the theatre, I could not get enough of the feeling of warmth and creativity.

Heres why:

In 1976 after returning from the USA, I was sent to Brisbane Grammar School where I skipped a year of school – my older brother was captain of the rugby team at the school. My parents then went through a messy divorce (I found my Dad in bed with our neighbors’ wife). At school, I was bullied badly by another student for being a year younger, not into sports and for topping highest grades in Australia in the new drama subject which at the time automatically made me a “fag”.  I got involved in the school drama programs, and found myself hiding within them, since I could not live up to my sportsman brother, nor to my parents’ expectations. In a school solely focused on sport and manliness, I felt hopeless and worthless. Despite my protestations to the headmaster, I was repeatedly sexually molested by the pedophile school counselor Kevin Lynch to whom I was sent to for years to counter my being bullied (recently I was central in the Royal Commission, for privacy, given code name ‘BQP’).

Starting in about 1978, every day at 3:15pm I would escape that hideous school and literally run away down the hill through the Brisbane city to volunteer at the Queensland Theatre Company Guild. Some days I would arrive in tears.

The Guild’s Chairwomen, Magda Wollner, welcomed me with open arms, warm cuddles, fresh coffee & biscuits and gave me a sense of purpose working largely on handling subscription mailings and helping support opening night and PR events.  I never told Magda the details of what I was enduring at the school, but she always sensed something was seriously wrong. She and my mum became lifelong friends as a result.

During my time at the QTC guild, I would support the QTC strategy of subscriber engagement, where guild volunteers would stay in regular contact with season ticket subscribers (via phone, hand written cards and letters) to subliminally keep them compelled to renew each year (although not a lot of effort needed, since patrons loved the QTC back then, so it was mainly listening to patron reviews on a particular show or actor). From a massive, sterile office space donated by a board member (I had the joy of decorating with theatre posters and QTC props), we would also encourage happy subscribers to help put together subscription groups, or at least, convince neighbors to join them. The subscriber attrition rate was remarkably tiny. QTC patron loyalty was one of its secret strengths.

I became a volunteer odd-job boy for the stage management and administration teams at the Queensland Theatre Company studying and taking in everything I could learn. I even loved watering the plants of Alan Edwards, the Artistic Director, at his home when he was on vacation. I considered it a high honor and serious responsibility since at the time, he was my god. Alan generously took me under his wing and often invited me to watch rehearsals.

In my spare time, I acted in a couple of shows at th