Locals brave the rain for `Apprentice' fame

July 17, 2005|By Gina Davis | Gina Davis,SUN STAFF

Their brows beaded up with sweat as their freshly pressed business suits began to wither in the stifling humidity that clung to the warm summer air.

And then it started raining.

But seemingly nothing could dampen the spirits of more than 200 prospects who were standing in a line yesterday that snaked around three sides of the France-Merrick Performing Arts Center on Eutaw Street for a chance to star next year in the fifth season of the NBC reality TV show The Apprentice.

Instead, the enterprising candidates - the first of whom had arrived as early as 4 a.m. - simply popped open their umbrellas and braved a steady rain as they waited for their turn with the casting staff inside.

"After three hours of standing in line, we figured we'd tough it out," said Kristen Schultz, 31, of Pasadena, who is an events planner for the Baltimore Orioles.

It was the show's first open casting call in Charm City. Casting directors plan to recruit in 17 cities nationwide, including other first-timers such as Anchorage, Alaska; Charlotte, N.C.; Des Moines, Iowa, and Pittsburgh.

Among those who were participating in their first open casting call stood a few repeat auditioners.

"The last time [at the casting call in Washington, D.C., in February for the show's fourth season], I was ultra-prepared. I typed up my application. I researched the Trump organization," said Ken Price, 40, a computer software salesman. "This time, I'm filling out the application here in line. ... This is a casting call, not an interview."

For yesterday's casting call, applicants were broken down into groups of 10. Two groups at a time were brought before two members of the show's casting staff.

The applicants were then given a topic - such as whether it's ever right to torture someone, whether a "glass ceiling" really exists for women in corporate America, and the usefulness of diversity training - to discuss while the show's casting director and a casting associate observed the banter.

Casting director Jill Goslicky said she was impressed with yesterday's applicants.

"They're a pretty calm group," she said. "They seem pretty comfortable in their own skin."

Yesterday's casting call began at 9 a.m. with each applicant receiving a wristband bearing his or her number in line. While Goslicky said she didn't know how many people would show up, she was pleased with yesterday's crowd.

"In the summer we tend to have smaller turnouts because people are on vacation and the show isn't on TV, so it's not on everyone's minds," she said.

Members of the casting staff said that beyond business savvy and personality, they aren't looking for any one thing in an applicant.

"The biggest mistake people make is coming in trying to act like someone who has been on the show," said Scott Salyers, the show's casting producer. "We just want them to be themselves."

A handful of applicants, who had won "VIP" wristbands on a radio contest last week, were lucky enough not to have to wait outside in the heat or the rain. They were told to arrive at 11 a.m. and head for the front of the line.

"I have all the qualities to be the next apprentice," said Kent Dickerson, 21, a recent Morgan State University graduate who owns his own music business. "I'm just hoping my luck hasn't already run out."

Kent, who works in the credit management department at Wells Fargo Financial, said that the day he found out he was a contest winner, he walked into a wall - while sleepwalking - and bruised his eye.

"It was all swollen," he said. "Here I am just days before I get to interview for this. I worried what it would look like when I got here."

With the swelling no longer visible, it appeared his luck was still holding out.

Many applicants, some of whom had come with no real expectation of making it on the show, were pumped with confidence after making it through the casting call.

Christine Hurt, 23, a legal assistant from Perry Hall, was one of the first applicants in line when she arrived about 4 a.m. with her mother, Pauline Storck.

"At first, she said all she wanted to do was get the wristband," said Storck, who had accompanied her daughter for moral support. "But now she wants to make the cut."

Those chosen to move to the next step will receive word within 48 hours.

Hurt said: "It was pretty much, `Don't call us, we'll call you.'"

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