With the wind up of the calendar year comes a few things- a time for reflection, Mariah Carey’s “All I want for Christmas is you” blaring forth from tinsel festooned supermarkets, the inevitable staff Christmas parties, obligatory consumerism… and for theatre folk- a sense of what their coming year of work looks like… or for some where their year of study will be.

For drama school hopefuls, facebook statuses have been announcing the results of applications- ranging from “Potential writer is giving up on the whole game :(” – “Potential Director is having a “Year of the Rejection Letter”!”- “Potential Writer is moving to Ireland if NIDA doesn’t take me”- “Potential Director is going to VCA!”… and for most applicants they have heard the results and have a Christmas of awkward family enquiry of “how’s your drama stuff going?” or “when am I going to see your name up in lights?” or “are you doing a show at the moment?” or if they have been successful awkward social moments where they have to admit to their friends and colleagues that they have received an offer to a drama school when they know their friends haven’t.

Mainstages have announced their season for next year’s season . Since September the fate of Australia’s writers and directors have been publicized for subscription season- and interesting to note that for 2010 we have noticed the rejected artists more than the selected artists.

Independent spaces have slowly been locking in their year- some slower than others- some may not decide until the new year… and so the rejections in the independent sector continue.

The emerging sector- especially for those under 26 have had some rejection- but more opportunities open up in early 2010 – for those keen on short courses or perhaps appling to PACT’s imPACT ensemble or Shopfront Theatre’s Artslab residency- there are slightly more opportunities ahead, but for everyone else… egg nog and a solemn broken record of internal monologue which questions why you should bother, and why wasn’t I as good as X or why did THAT project get up and not mine?

It’s not easy- there are a finite number of spaces in a finite number of venues. There is a limited intake for drama schools.. and it is a numbers game. I think the worst thing about the drama-school rejections is how it can embitter people- artists who are passionate and engaged with their industry turn their passion to anger- their engagement to sourness… that the generic rejection letter feels a further insult to people who have poured weeks into gluing bits of balsa wood to black core-flute model boxes, who have exhausted flatmates, partners, friends and family with their feverish attempt to re-invent a Chekov, Shakespeare or Modern American Classic for the dull-eyed stares of the panel who have seen it all before and can’t wait to get their pay packet and their 5pm glass of Shiraz. And there is no feedback (infact I think there is a policy against it?) and no conversation- just a long line of questioning which is then internalised, distorted and which I have seen fester.

Everyone hates rejection- and the urgent need to be legitismized by selection keeps the applications to institutions flooding in. I must say that I think of rejection (and theatre in general) in botanical metaphors- I think in terms of eco-systems, in terms of multi-layered levels of growth in a forest, in terms of inter-relationships between the sectors, cross pollination, the cleansing /devastating effects of flood or fire, and in the case of rejection- a pruning. Just because someone cuts off a branch of a tree- doesn’t mean the tree will die. Just because a rose bush is reduced to ugly angular thorny twigs doesn’t mean their will be no roses. Just as a rejection is merely an opportunity for you and your artistic pursuits to find new areas to grow. And sometimes what you learn is that a cactus can’t grow in a swamp- and a tree-fern doesn’t belong in the desert.

The greatest lessons I could have been taught- and that I hold so dear- have come from my rejections because they have forced me to examine, take stock, scrutinize, work hard, start again, be open, shoot straight, diversify, acknowledge my vulnerability, invest in my strengths and have ultimately informed who I am, how I practice. I was not taught at a drama school how to write or direct, but I was taught by drama schools how to handle rejection- which in the theatre is the most common occurance there is… and to me a valuable lesson that work happens whether you are “trained” or “untrained.

So to all those who are headed to an institution- enjoy the hothousing- because you will never work that much with that level of constant support and resources probably ever again…

And for those without an institution or venue in the foreseeable future- this is a time of great growth and re-focus… keep your curiosity about your artform, enjoy the summer for its beach cricket and watermelon- live your life and dream big dreams for your future audiences- they need your unique and courageous perspective.