Writer, musician, Associate Dean at The Academy of Art University, San Francisco.

Born: 24.09. 1969

Died: 17. 09. 2019

SCREENWRITER, playwright and lecturer Stuart Thomas has died after a year-long battle with leukaemia.

It was pizza which was responsible for Stuart Thomas biting on the idea of becoming a writer, a move which released the sharp comedy talent that would become evident in more than fifty plays, countless pantos, and several TV shows.

Or rather becoming fed up watching other people fill their faces with it.

In 1987, Thomas had a residency as a piano player with a Glasgow pizza restaurant, half of a duo with singer friend Alyson Orr.

But one night the pair, who’d been school chums growing up in Inchinnan in Renfrewshire, decided they’d had enough of trying to be heard over the sound of chewing and the clatter of cutlery on hard wood tables.

Orr, who would later form the jazzy trio the Swing Cats, decided she wanted to try her hand at acting. And Thomas reckoned he’d have a go at writing, despite having written little more than English and Music Studies essays while at university.

Thomas and his childhood friend began to write small shows, tapping into Mayfest funding and the Arts backing that was sloshing around at the time.

The investment paid off. Thomas came up with a comedy version of Salome (why not?) which Herald critic John Linklater thought “mental”, yet the overall review was encouraging and gave Thomas the confidence to continue.

After a couple of years, Thomas and Orr’s Take 2 Theatre Company produced Salon Janette, a comedy set in a hairdressing salon and female audiences took to Thomas’s gags like setting lotion on a bubble perm. Thomas went on to become a playwright-in-residence at Glasgow’s Citizens’ Theatre, where he wrote the critically-acclaimed Damn’d Jacobite Bitches.

Yet, ambitions now stretched beyond Glasgow. Thomas moved to San Francisco to study film but loved the city and decided to stay.

He said of the period; “To get my Green Card I had to show I was working outside of the country and so the pantos I wrote for Scottish theatres paid for my education and got me through.”

Thomas, who at one time had been a cabaret lounge piano player at Glasgow’s Victoria’s nightclub (“I hated it; without fail every time I played someone would ask to play Pearl’s A Singer) became a lecturer in film studies in San Francisco. Yet, writing success in Scotland continued.

Three years ago Glasgow Pavilion Theatre boss Iain Gordon commissioned Thomas to writer the Real Hoosewives of Glesga, a parody of the popular TV reality series. “My immediate thought was ‘Yes, please’,” he once said of the offer. “After all, I loved writing for a Glasgow audience. But then my second thought was ‘I don’t know if I can do this. I haven’t written for a Glasgow audience for ten years.’ I felt the experience would be like travelling back in time.”

To create the five dynamic, argumentative, funny women in the play he recalled his own experiences growing up, his mother who was a “very forceful personality,” as were his aunties.

The Pavilion audiences loved the wild comedy. The play came second only to Mrs Brown’s Boys in box office success. “Having fought so hard to stay here in San Francisco, and having twisted a lot of arms in the process, it’s ironic I’m now writing again for a Glasgow audience,” he said smiling at the time.

That’s not to say all of Stuart Thomas’s early memories of Scottish life were positive. He was bullied “mercilessly, for two years” while attending Park Mains high school in Erskine, attacked for being gay. Thomas didn’t speak about the experience for years because he said he felt the bullying had been partly his own fault.

He would later write about the experience however in 69 Shades of Gay, for former River City actor Gary Lamont.

Yet Stuart Thomas also had world ambitions. He wrote a film Bar America, which became a festival hit. He wrote plays, Eat Pray Love Handles and Tinder, which is currently touring in Ireland. Thomas also wrote Out Here, a film about a young Iranian boy who comes to Glasgow. Ironically, Hollywood studios are currently developing the project.

Stuart Thomas’s idea for the film was partially inspired by his own relationship, having been married to an Iranian psychologist but the pair since split up.

It’s fair to say however his closest relationship however has been with his lifelong friend Alyson Orr. “Even though he lived in America we texted or spoke every day,” she says. “And it was hard not to love Stuart. He loved people, he had a wicked sense of humour and an amazing talent as a writer and musician. And he was just so generous.” The actor-singer added; “And right now I feel like a widow.”

Stuart Thomas is survived by his father and sister, Jane.