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The Sydney Morning Herald

A push over on stage

Author: Vanessa Wilson
Date: 29/05/2002
Words: 710
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: My Career
Page: 20
the point*

Hard work and persistence are needed to survive in the fickle world of entertainment.

Formulas and equations may have been Rebel Wilson's chosen path when she was younger, but a brush with malaria taught her to see the funny side of life and live her dream.

That lead to the 22-year-old's first play, The Westie Monologues, and her springboard to life as a playwright. And actor. And producer. And theatre company director.

``My mother says I'm arsy [lucky] but I'm not," she laughs. ``I just work my arse off."

A consumate all-rounder, Wilson's job titles include writer, producer, actor and co-director of the Push Up Theatre Company all while maintaining a full-time load as a third year arts/law student at the University of NSW.

``Law isn't my first love," she says, ``but now I don't need anyone to explain how contracts work."

In fact, her first career choice was mathematics. ``I was very academic at high school and was always good with numbers," says Wilson. But a severe bout of malaria, caught in 1998 while travelling as a Rotary International Youth Ambassador for Australia through southern Africa, changed her perspective.

``I was very ill and when you have to lie down for a month it makes you think about life. The whole African experience [took me away from] an academic path and made me want to do something more creative. It helped me to become focused on entertaining others."

Wilson returned to Australia, began volunteer work in Sydney's theatres and joined the Australian Theatre for Young People.

Last year she performed in two NIDA student productions but was knocked back three times for admission into the drama school.

``That was a blessing in disguise," she says. ``Now instead of being trained just as an actor, I have acquired other skills needed to survive the industry."

The experience in theatre opened doors and lead to other jobs. The Westie Monologues, based on characters she encountered while growing up in Sydney's western suburbs, is a case in point. She wrote, produced and performed in the play which enjoyed full houses at the Sydney Fringe Festival and Belvoir Street Theatre earlier this year.

``The big news is that my next play, Spunks, is coming out in September at the Stables Theatre," she says. ``It's a musical/comedy about people who either think they are good looking or really want to be good looking."

As well, Wilson is branching into television and film. ``I've been working with Channel 7 on a new comedy show and I'm acting in a feature film, Fat Pizza, which is being directed by Paul Fenech from SBS's Pizza show," she says.

But that's not all. At the end of the year, Wilson will travel to New York to attend comedy and film workshops run by the New York Film Academy and Second City Television. The trip is part of the $12,000 Lend Lease international scholarship which is awarded to emerging creative artists.

And she is centre stage during this week's Sydney Writers' Festival. Next Saturday Wilson will also appear with Sydney Theatre Company director Benedict Andrews to discuss the issues involved in producing modern plays.

Today she works about 16 hours a day, depending on her schedule. But there are no regrets about her choices: ``I like to take things one step at a time, because the entertainment industry is very uncertain. But with creativity and persistence, you can get [where] you want to go."

You can hear Rebel Wilson speak at the STC's Wharf Theatre from noon until 1.30pm on Saturday.

how she got there*

Age 22.

Job title Writer, actor, producer and co-director of Push Up Theatre production company.

Qualifications Year 12 and currently in third year of an arts/law degree of UNSW, specialising in entertainment law. Also trained at the Australian Theatre for Young People.

Salary $50,000 (including scholarships and prize money).

Highs ``Being a creative collaborator. Making people laugh."

Lows ``Superficiality of the industry."

Life tip ``Work hard to achieve integrity in your work and your relationships with the people you work with."

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