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Commentary: Signing my soul over to ‘The Real World’

Land of Dance.

This is the true story of 10 strangers picked to talk to a producer, converse together and have their lives exposed, to find out what happens when people stop being normal and start begging for attention.

Trudging through Saturday’s cold rain, I made my way to the South Campus Gateway at about 1 p.m. Shame swept over me as I let the bouncer know I had arrived at Charlie Bear: Land of Dance for “The Real World 28” auditions.

Before you read on with the impression that I’m a reality-TV wannabe, process this instead: the only reality show I watch ritually is TLC’s “My Strange Addiction.” But I assume I wouldn’t be a good cast member given I don’t consume nail polish or have an intimate relationship with my car. So in an attempt to get the inside scoop on reality TV casting calls, I settled with “The Real World.”

I was surprised to walk into such a tame atmosphere when I got upstairs. After being handed a two-page packet to fill out, I sized up the few contenders, who were calmly filling out paperwork at tables set up sporadically on the dance floor.

Unexpectedly, no one was being loud or obnoxious trying to draw attention to themselves, at least during the time I was there. With the exception of a few girls dressed more appropriate for going to Charlie Bear at midnight, everyone dressed pretty casual, which made me feel more comfortable with my choice of jeans, flats and a shirt I snagged from my roommate’s closet.

The packet had about 10 questions, most were personal questions.

The worst part of the paperwork, or shall I say the most worrisome part, was the waiver on the second page, which I read every word of. Despite the horror I felt after reading some parts that would undoubtedly subject me to social ridicule, I still signed my soul over to Bunim/Murray Productions. No turning back now, I thought. Next stop: “Celebrity Rehab.”

Everything went pretty fast after that. I informed the guy who handed me the paperwork that I was done and he immediately told me to join a table of about seven other people, most of whom I discovered had driven down from Cleveland for the auditions.

Our small talk didn’t get too far because after about five minutes, I was told to go with another group for the interviews. Our group of 10, with only two boys in the mix, was led to the back of the bar where we sat on two black leather couches.

The producer, who faced us sitting Indian-style on a bar chair, gave a spiel about how the interviews are meant to be informal and conversational. She then asked for us to go around in a circle and introduce ourselves, give some information about where we’re from and share something unique.

I was the last to go and had to pleasure of following up a boy who had 15 siblings, a girl who wanted to work at Sea World and a preschool teacher.

I opted to share the absurdity of how my last name is spelled and got some laughs out of the fact that I grew up in Niceville, Fla., and went to Happyland Preschool. I also let everyone know I later showed lambs at the Shelby County Fair when I moved to Ohio. The producer must have liked those tidbits because after the group interview, she asked me and the boy with 15 siblings to stick around because our handwriting was illegible.

This clearly wasn’t the case. She led us to a different corner of the bar and handed us off to another woman who took our pictures and handed us a 12-page packet that she said would take about two hours to fill out. We were barred from mingling with the rest of the bar until we finished the packet. I was told I couldn’t even walk over to my friend, the arts editor, who came with me to tell him it’d be a while until we could leave. I had to text him from just a few feet away.

It had to have been karma. As if trying out for “The Real World” wasn’t bad enough, I was stuck sitting at a musky bar for two hours next to a kid who had to ask what affirmative action was.

The packet contained more than 60 questions, most of which dug deeper into topics from the first packet.

Some questions I had to dwell on more than others, but the ones that tripped me up most pertained to my reasons for wanting to be on the show. Tapping my pen, looking around at others vying for a spot on the show when I already filled out paperwork as a prospect for the second round, I wondered why they wanted to be on “The Real World.”

I couldn’t conjure up an inkling of a good reason, so I just went with what I thought would be an OK part of the experience: to make new friends.

Truthfully, who really goes on reality TV to make friends, though? The producers must of have sensed my distaste with the whole premise because I didn’t receive a call by 10 p.m. Saturday telling me they’d like me to come back for a second interview. And that was fine with me. I was told, however, there might be a follow-up interview via Skype even if I don’t get a call, but I’m not holding my breath for that.

I guess I’ll keep my fingers crossed for the boy with 15 siblings.


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