Imagine if you will walking into a room with purple haired clowns juggling swords, diva-in-the-making girls warbling out their best Mariah Carey, grown men dressed as giant alligators in tutus and some dude who is bragging that he’s the greatest living ‘dancer/singer/actor/producer/ rapper/director/plate spinner’ in the universe. This is just an idea of what it’s like to be part of the “America’s Got Talent” auditions.
After years of working in radio and television, you would think I would not be intimidated by an audition. Well, think again. I was always very shy by nature and the thought of performing in front of an audience scares the living daylights out of me. Once I am actually “performing” I’m fine, but the process leading up to the big moment is pure torture for me. That is why it was a real challenge to actually get me out the door to the open casting call of “America’s Got Talent.” I am not ashamed to tell the real truth of how I was actually persuaded to work up the nerve to go, My friends only said two words to convince me: Simon Cowell. Mr. Cowell, you see, is the object of my affections. I’ve always been quite fond of sassy, bad boy Brits so the possibility that the executive producer of “America’s Got Talent” might be there sent shivers of delight to my infatuated self. Two other words sealed the “will she/won’t she audition” deal for me: Piers Morgan. Yes, Mr. Morgan, one of the judges of the show, is another man that makes me all giddy inside (what did I tell you, another British bad boy?) Needless to say, I was off to the auditions.
My friends and I have a cute act that is kind of a throwback to the girl groups of the 60’s. We signed up to be part of the Chicago auditions which were to be held at Navy Pier. I know that everyone has a story of why they would audition for a reality show. Some do it for the shot at fame, the money and prizes, or just because they think they really are the next best thing to hit the world of entertainment. For me, I just wanted to see what it would be like, face my fears and enjoy myself. If something came from it, great. If not, that’s cool too.
When the big day finally arrived, I of course was a nervous wreck. I don’t know if I was more nervous about performing in front of producers, or at the possibility of finally meeting Simon Cowell! All I know is that on my way to the auditions, I felt like I was going to throw up. Lovely, huh? When I get super nervous, I get sick. Still, I pressed on and by the time I walked into Navy Pier, I felt a little more at ease. After all, Chicago is my home, Navy Pier is one of my favorite places, my audition date was on St. Patty’s day, I’m Irish and my name is Patty, so I figured this was destined to be a memorable moment in time.
When we first got to the tryouts, I was surprised that the lines were not very long and everything seemed extremely organized. We checked in, received one of those big old number signs to paste on our chest and a wrist band. We walked into the holding area to complete the process and wait our turn. They had all the contestants in one huge room at the Pier. And that is where the real fun takes place. Most everyone seemed energized and in a jovial mood. The best part of the day was watching the other people who came from all over the country to audition for the show. They ranged in ages from 5 years old to about 90. Some were dressed up in their best looking ensembles and others wore jeans and t-shirts. There were a few large groups auditioning as dancers, all wearing colorful, matching costumes and hats. In one corner of the room I remember hearing a young boy of about 10 who was wearing a black tuxedo with a top hat and red rose in his lapel. He was adorable and I could hear him rehearsing a classic Motown song. His voice was fantastic and he was doing these dance moves that would have made Michael Jackson proud.
While we all waited our turn in the holding area, a female producer came by to get footage of some of the festivities which she said would later be used on the show. She came around with a camera crew to interview some people, while others were asked to record promos or perform a minute or two of their act while the cameras rolled. We all got to see a lot of the performances that morning which was very enjoyable.. Some people were excellent while others were, well, let’s just say they were interesting.
Finally, the time came for our audition. We were escorted into a room with 3 or 4 people, we did our thing, they smiled and said nice things, and we were on our way. It was all over in about 3 minutes. Overall it went fine, but we were not invited back for a 2nd audition.. No worries. We had a blast anyway. I would probably not do this type of audition again, but I’m glad I went.
The one thing that happened to me that day was a new appreciation for artists and how much courage it takes to just show up. You could sense all the emotions involved when someone puts their talent and passion on the line for a chance at something that means so much, something that could either change their life or break their spirits. You look at the faces of the people in the room and you see fear, confidence, doubt, disgust, euphoria and hope. It’s a real risk to expose yourself and your art because this world is one painfully tough critic, and, sometimes, quite unfair. Less talented people often hit it big while the real stars are working behind a desk or at a lunch counter. There are people who get breaks because of their looks and age, not necessarily their talent and others who are enormously gifted but not connected to the right people. But then sometimes a Deniro or Depp, Streisand or Springsteen come along, and you feel that makes sense – they deserve it and are where they should be. When you pursue the creative arts, you hope that all the hard work will one day pay off big time, but other times you face the reality that your moment in the sun might never happen. It’s a chance all entertainers have to face. For me, I am glad I conquered my fears and showed up. Did I ever meet Simon or Piers? No. But perhaps keeping them at a distance is better for the fantasy in my head that is show business.