Young and Restless Take Their Shot at Stardom
Future Soap Opera Stars at SF State
April 15, 2004 4:57 PM
Some had perfectly done-up hair and makeup, some just happened to be passing by, some were nervous, and some were hopeful.
But whatever their case happened to be, 126 SF State students made their way to the lower level of the student center last Thursday for a 15 second shot at soap opera stardom on "The Young and the Restless."
Auditions began at around 9 a.m.; students were asked to fill out a short questionnaire, take a picture, and sit and wait. The room remained over half full throughout the morning as potential actors and actresses mouthed their lines in the air and chatted amongst each other, exchanging competitive glances as names were called out to audition.
J.L. Zbacnik, one of the first males to audition, exuded character even while sitting in the corner of the dimly lit waiting room. Dressed in a black, collared shirt, cowboy boots, and perfectly molded hair, he smiled after exiting his audition.
"I would like to act on a soap opera," said Zbacnik, 24, a theater arts major, "Work constantly, you get a script, memorize it and it's done that day. It's not the same scene and same story day after day."
Zbacnik and his friend Sarah Hunter, 20, found out about the auditions through the theater department. As Zbacnik headed off to another interview, this time for a bartending gig, Hunter sat waiting for her audition.
"I'm just here for fun," said Hunter. "I've never seen ["Y&R"] before. Soap operas are cheesy and overdramatic. But it's worked for a lot of well-known actors. It's a paycheck."
Many of the students waiting admitted they never watched soap operas. On "Y&R" characters intertwine in various dramatic episodes involving love triangles, family scandals, and evil-doers of some sort. While the shows aired on CBS are packed with attractive new stars in interesting situations, the auditions for these day-time dramas, however, are much less glamorous.
The room for the auditions was held in the back of the student center in a small conference room. Outside in the waiting room a television set played the day's episode of "Y&R" as some students, who had no idea about the auditions, sat in padded chairs by the women's restroom studying.
Once inside the room to audition the nerves seemed to settle in as students, often in groups of four or more, stood in front of the show's crew to prove their acting skills. Students met the casting director, the producer, and actress Lauren Woodland, who plays Britney Hodges on the show.
In shaky voices performers gave their name and the reason they wanted to audition. Another innerving aspect was the script they had to read, involving a flirtatious situation between a waitress and a male patron. There were fewer men auditioning later in the afternoon so the part had to be read with the female casting director.
After introducing themselves, casting director Marnie Saitta attempted to shake the amateur actors's nerves.
"Just have fun with it and really let your personality come through," said Saitta as she switched in to character… "Anyone ever tell you you have beautiful eyes?" she asked seductively.
"It is really hard to do and very nerve-racking," said Saitta after the auditions. "The actors on TV make it look easy. But I was pleasantly surprised [with the auditions]. A lot of people showed up, a good turn out of boys and girls."
Saitta also said this was one of the main differences she noticed between real actors and the students auditioning for parts. "It's mostly the nerves that's different," she said. "I have to be able to look past the fact that they are going to be nervous and see the talent there."
In the middle of auditions, Saitta gave students props for their willingness to stand in groups and audition among their peers in the badly lit, underground room that barely anybody knew existed.
"If I asked any actor to do this in Los Angeles they would freak out!" joked Saitta about the slight lack of professionalism in the situation. "So you guys are absolutely great."
Saitta explained that the criteria for finding a winner were fairly simple. "We're looking for talent, someone with the innate ability to act, confidence, enthusiasm, that natural instinct to be an actor."
The staff of "Y&R" teamed up with CBS's "The Early Show" to find fresh talent among college students. SF State was the last of five college campuses to hold auditions.
According to CBS producer Nancy Ross, SF State was chosen because of the high number of people who watch "The Young and the Restless", and San Francisco is very viewer-friendly for "The Early Show."
"This is the third round of doing this. We were very successful with 'As the World Turns and Guiding Light,'" said Ross of the previous college campus auditions conducted for other soap operas.
"Y&R" producers and Saitta will select one male and one female finalist from audition tapes from each school, ten in total from the five schools.
The winners will then be flown to New York to do a live screen test on "The Early Show" with an actor from "Y&R" during the week of May 17. Viewers of "The Early Show" will vote on their favorite college soap stars and the winners will be announced on May 23. The winners will appear on one or more episodes of the daytime drama.
SF State students auditioning on Thursday seemed to keep a light attitude about the situation. Many had never seen the show, and were only in it for a good time and, of course, the possibility at success.
"My mom used to watch ["Y&R"], so I caught a couple episodes," said Cleveland Berto, 21, a cinema major waiting to audition. "Only soap opera I watch is WWF."
"If I win, I would jump at the chance," said Berto.
"I love everything about acting," said Kristin Burke, 21, a humanities major, "It's such an expression, an emotional catharsis."
Burke's desire for acting, as well as her impeccable makeup and bright pink skirt, may have put her at an advantage for the part; but Burke also said she was doing it just to see if anything happened, and there wasn't much riding on it for her.
Those are probably the safest expectations to have, considering the worst part of the audition is not getting a call back, and even the casting director Saitta said that is the most difficult thing she deals with in her job.
"The worst is not being able to give everyone a call back," she said. But for two lucky and talented SF State students, soap opera stardom could be in the near future.
Winners' names will be announced live on CBS's "The Early Show" on Friday, May 14.
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