A frustration with regional theatre productions could have seen UNE theatre studies student Jess Lamb run back to the city. Instead, she became a published playwright.

Her first play, Rockpocalypse, written for her Master of Applied Theatre Studies at UNE, has been published by Playlab Theatre, a company that supports new and diverse voices in Australian theatre.

“I essentially bullied myself into becoming a theatre maker”, Jess says. “I’d always been very interested in theatre, but had pigeonholed myself as a ‘drama educator’.”

Things began to change after a few years living in Rockhampton, where she says there was a lack of interesting and relevant theatre offerings.

“I found it difficult to pursue my passion for new, Australian theatre. I finally came to the conclusion that if I wanted to see something new, I’d probably need to make it myself.”

Though she hadn’t before considered herself an artist, she took the plunge by enrolling in the postgraduate theatre studies program at UNE, where she promptly almost quit.

“I called my unit coordinator, Dr Julie Shearer, in tears during the first month of my master’s degree. I was studying part-time and enrolled in a unit that was mostly populated by full-time students who had their research projects fully fleshed out. I thanked Julie for being such a great teacher, but informed her I was not as prepared as my peers and so felt it best to withdraw from the program.

“Julie reassured me that withdrawing was not the solution, and that I would reach my destination at the pace that was right for me. Julie’s ability to be a voice of reason amid chaos has proved invaluable throughout my studies!”

Instead, Jess’s study led her to create a compelling original Australian work exploring place, belonging and sustainability, set in Rockhampton, which has now been staged with state and local government funding, and published for other companies to produce.

“My greatest hope for the play is that others use it as a leaping off point to tell (and find!) new stories, and as an insight into a slice of humanity rarely viewed through the lens of the Australian stage.

“If some companies in our capital cities want to produce it and reflect a little more regional variance in their programs, that would certainly be nice too!”

This “wild, wonderful” experience has also enabled Jess to become an advocate for regional and rural voices on the Australian stage. Now as Theatre Projects Coordinator for Arts Central Queensland Inc she helps other emerging playwrights and theatre makers develop new works that reflect regional perspectives.

And while still teaching at Rockhampton Girls Grammar School, Jess will continue researching and creating new work through a PhD in theatre studies at UNE.

Find Jess’s work, Rockpocalypse, on Playlab Theatre. 

Image: Jess Lamb (photograph by Ian Westley).