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My Oprah Casting Call (Part 3)

After a while more of this insanity, the “producer” finally yells over the megaphone that they are going to start taking us in groups of 15 to be put in the line and wait for our wristbands. He says that they will see everyone that comes before noon and gets a wristband, and that once you get your wristband you will be given an appointment time for your audition and can leave and come back. 

At this point I am thinking, “Why in the world did I get up this early to be here if they are going to see everyone and give out appointment times?? I would much rather have been able to get a time and leave, get away from the craziness, prep myself, and come back fresh.” 

Oh, well. I take a deep breath and wait for my group to be taken. I look up and see the first groups filtering into the line under a big tent. I see Kellie go and start yelling support for her. As a few more groups get taken, Del starts hammering me with questions about how I started my speaking career, as he’s always wanted to do that. I respond as helpfully as I can, when, gratefully, I am taken as the last one of a group of 15. My heart skips a beat as I leave Del with the group behind.

Little did I know that I was going from bad to abysmal

I follow the group and end up in line next to a guy I will call “Dwayne,” a fresh-faced African-American fellow in his 20’s. He’s got a huge smile and wide-open, startled eyes, and is waving a video camera frantically in people’s faces. 

Not able to help myself (I told you it was a sickness), I smile at him and say “Hi!” 

In case you are counting, this would be my second truly awful move of the morning.

He immediately whips out his video camera, starts waving it in my face, and says, “HeyHeyHeyHey! What’s your name, girl? What’s your name?” I smile and say “Tara” and we are off to the races.  

He seems to have some sort of hip-hop ADD, as he waves and gyrates and raps, “Yeahyeahyeah it is. Look at that smile. Look at that smile. She’s a winner folks.” He turns the camera back to himself and says, “Hey everyone, here I am in line. Yeahyeahyeahyeah. Yoyoyoyoyoyo.”  

Oh. My. God. Is this going to go on for the entire rest of the time?? Yep. It is. 

Glancing back to see if I can escape somewhere, I see Del walking at me, big, goofy grin on face.  

Oh no. This cannot be happening.

Oh, but it is. So, I have Del on one side continuing to yammer on about one-liners and some book of one-liners he wrote in college and that got published but the stupid publisher didn’t do any marketing for him, and I have hip-hop ADD Dwayne on the other side, waving his video camera continuously in my face and asking me questions like Eminem on uppers. 

Good God. 

To top it off, I am starting to get a very strong sense that this is not the right place for me to be. Actually, the little voice that had started several days earlier was simply beginning to shout above Del and Dwayne and hoards of Oprah wannabes that I was not competing for a show of experts, but competing for a basic, drama-laden reality show - and that was not me at all. 

Well, I was already here, so I was going through with it. Maybe my little voice - which is never wrong, mind you -  was a bit off this time. It’s possible, right? 

Two people from the “producer team” come through the line and give me my wrist band: “number 130.” They then inform us that we are going to be seen by a “casting agent” within the hour and cannot leave the line. 

I feel a moment of panic. I can’t get away from this insanity? Not for a moment?  

I quickly get a hold of myself. Okay, deep breath. I can do this.  

I turn around and come face-to-face with a short, 60-ish Caucasian woman dressed head-to-toe in pink - pink baseball hat, pink jacket, pink jeans, and pink shoes - who also has the distinction of looking like she is wound so tight she is going to actually jump out of her skin. I try not to engage this time, but it is too late.

“Do you have your application done?” She asks, doing her best imitation of a squirrel on crack.

“Um, yeah. Been done for a while.” I say, trying to mentally send some calm energy her way, if not for her, at least for me.

“Oh, mine’s not done.” Her anxious energy ramps up yet another notch and I become concerned she might eject through the top of the tent. 

Someone within earshot makes a comment about this being a reality show competition. 

She spins like the Tasmanian Devil to face the voice. “WHAT? It’s a reality show competition? We don’t just win our own show?”

Hoping to make the situation more sane, I calmly explain what is clearly on the show website - that we are here to compete for 10 spots on a reality show, after which, one person will win their own show. It’s like Project Runway for experts, or so I thought. 

Pink Lady - who ends up being from Columbus, Ohio - starts throwing a royal hissy fit about this and stomps off to the paramedic tent to sit and finish her application, as it has the only chair in sight. Ironically, she apparently broke her toe on the way over there, so truly did need the paramedics by the time she arrived.

Suddenly, another “producer” jumps up on a chair and starts shouting into the mic. “Attention! Okay guys, this is how this is going to go. You are going to be taken in groups of 15 people to a tent with one casting agent. You will then have 45 seconds to talk about yourself, your show idea, and why you should win. We will be timing you and will cut you off if you go over. If you see this sign (he points a finger to the sky and circles it) that means you are going over and need to wrap it up. And - don’t just tell us how much you love Oprah. We all love Oprah. Sell us on you and your idea.” 

45 seconds??? And they aren’t going to ask you a single question? This isn’t what I prepped for at all! After all, on the OWN site it says, “Casting directors will conduct interviews at each open call.” In my experience, being “interviewed” means being asked questions to find out your opinions, experience, and personality. Not to mention, if you actually ARE an expert, it is pretty hard to fit your resume and back story - not to mention a pitch and why you should win - into 45 seconds.

The little voice starts screaming at me again. “Yoyoyoyo Tara! They are not looking for experts. They are looking for dramatic people who want to be on a reality show. Yeahyeahyeahyeah.” Oh, no. My little voice is imitating Dwayne now. This is not good.

Panic sets in again. What in the world have I managed to get myself into? Okay, deep breath. I am always telling people to do things that make them uncomfortable and to go for their dreams no matter what. Time to take my own advice! 

I open up my press kit and get out my application to glance through and formulate what I think I should say for my 45 seconds. 

Del notices what I am up to and leans in so close that I can feel his breath on my neck. He stares over my shoulder for a moment and then says in his best John Candy voice, “What’s that? Your script?”

Everything in me wants to kill him at this point. Instead, I look over and say, “No, my application. I just need a few moments to decide what to say in my 45 seconds.” My voice is calm but firm.

He doesn’t get the hint. “Oh, you’ll be fine. You just need to get up there and say something. You don’t need to look at that. This is easier than eating 30 hot dogs in a sitting, I’ll tell you that!” He laughs with delight at this idea. “Here - say it to me - what’s your pitch?” 

If looks could kill, I imagine mine might have disemboweled him. He apparently got the idea and left me alone to prep for about a minute, which, given the situation, was some kind of miracle. 

I get my thoughts together as much as I can, when Dwayne breaks my concentration and says, “Yoyoyoyo, Tara - what should I pitch?”

“You mean you don’t have a show idea?” I say, somewhat stunned.

“No. I just came here to film y’all.” He smiles a seriously unstable smile.

The helper in me comes out. “Well, you have to pitch something, so pitch that. Say that you want to do a show about the people that are crazy or courageous enough to stand in line at 4 am to try to live their dreams. There are lots of casting calls and such going on all the time, so you would have plenty of people to interview.” I look around and think of all the characters he could feature right here.

He looks completely elated and whips out his video camera again, first pointing it at himself. “Yeahyeahyeahyeah people, I just got the best idea for a show from Tara. Yoyoyoyo girl, what was that idea?” He swivels the camera around at me, slinging it back and forth like he’s on a sailboat in a hurricane.

I take a deep breath and mentally stop myself from grabbing the camera and shattering it. I smile and repeat the idea to the camera.

He turns the camera back on himself. “Yeahyeahyeahyeah yo - that was Tara - she is takin’ care of all of us this morning with that pretty smile. Yeahyeahyeah she is.”

Suddenly “Shy Girl” - who has been standing there looking shell-shocked the entire time  - looks at me and asks if I think she can just read her pitch off her phone.

“Um, no. Do not do that,” I say, with complete certainty that this will get her kicked out immediately. “If you are nervous, take a few moments to read it and get it in your mind, and then feel free to practice with me. You’re going to be just fine.”  I pat her on the shoulder.

She looks like she is going to cry, but starts trying to memorize her script.

Next, Part 4: The Tent of Doom!