Class of 1957
Geoff Gibbs arguably became the father of the Performing Arts in Western Australia. His own acting talent first showed on the Aquinas stage in his portrayal of Goneril in King Lear which by all accounts “he played very well”. He received a Distinction for “Art of Speech” in his leaving year in 1957, which for a boy from Kalgoorlie whose father worked in the mines, was pretty good. Geoff became a phenomenally talented actor, director, producer, teacher and founder of WA’s premier drama school. He loved the combination of sport and arts that Aquinas College offered and thrived while at the school.
On leaving school he went to Graylands Teachers’ College and then to the Western Australian Institute of Technology. He taught, but never just one group at a time. In fact he never did just one thing at a time. He would hold down three teaching jobs at once and perform in a show five nights a week at the same time, while holding rehearsals for the next show he was directing. Geoff was regarded as a force of nature by many who knew him. He also liked to cook and had a love of chickens. Others will remember him for writing terrible, but hilarious postcards.
Geoff was an early “blogger” under the title: “Geoff’s Little Gems” where he answered questions for his students. While working for Merredin’s Tourist Committee he had a weekly programme on Radio Merredin 6IX. He stopped doing all these things to pursue a doctorate in Drama in Education at Ohio University. He returned to Perth to be one of the founders of the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, having first benchmarked it against global leading dramatic institutions.
As founding Dean of Dramatic Arts at WAAPA, Geoff taught some of the country’s most talented actors: Hugh Jackman, Frances O’Connor, Dominic Purcell, Lisa McCune, Marcus Graham and William McInnes.
In 2002 Geoff was awarded the Member of the Order of Australia for his services to the Performing Arts through the establishment, development and promotion of WAAPA, where the theatre is named after him.
People on both sides of the world mourned his early passing in 2006. His friends in Ohio planted a tree and erected a bench at his favourite park. He lit up any room or stage he entered and was one of those people who raised the ambient temperature of a room by walking into it.