A Time for Play

“Flaming enthusiasm, backed up by horse sense

and persistence, is the quality that most

frequently makes for success.”

 Dale Carnegie

2003

“Come on Darla, you call! You’re good at that stuff…” My mom was practically begging me.

“This is your bright idea, you do it.”

“No…pleeeease!! You do it! I never know what to say.”

“Do you think I know what to say? Never mind that we don’t even have a team put together.”

“Ugh! Just call! You’re good at telling stories and thinking fast. Just call. Here, take the number.” She was shoving a piece of paper into my hands. Why is it that I’m always the one that has to pull this stuff together? Sheesh! My mom had the great idea that we should all go down to Hollywood to try out for Family Feud. It seemed like fun and all, but really, of all the people trying out, the odds were that we wouldn’t get picked.

“All right, fine.  I will call but only one time.  I doubt that I’ll even get through. After that, it’s up to you to pursue this.”

My mom was smiling, dancing around her living room; she knew that she had just won this argument.

So, I called. I got a recording, left a message and figured I’d never hear from them again. Much to my surprise, a casting director called me back within the hour. She had invited our family to come down to audition the following week. Wowsers! I guess we needed to form a team.

We had to be in Hollywood at 5:00 pm. That’s the worst possible time ever; with rush hour traffic, a 40 mile drive could equate to a three-hour trek. Plus, my cousin, Jennifer had to meet us at my mom’s house before we left and she was coming from Chino.  My mom was freaking out, pacing back and forth, looking out the window.

“Mom, relax. Jennifer will be here. We will be fine.”

“I know, but you can never tell with LA traffic.

Jennifer arrived and she was even early. Over the last week our team, which consisted of my mom, Kim, Jim, Jennifer and me, had practiced playing the game. We bought the board game, formed teams with other family members, and played the game, with a buzzer and all, during a family cookout. The questions are not hard at all, mostly just a bunch of mindless knowledge. The key to winning was being faster on the buzzer. We had a great time just playing in the backyard. I was really getting excited to go.

When we arrived at the studio, there were at least another 100 people lined up on the street waiting to audition. I couldn’t let this discourage me. I kept telling myself to be nothing but a giant ball of positive energy.

“Here comes a dude with a clip board. I think he works for the show…” As soon as I saw the dude with the clipboard, I got nervous. My mouth went dry and my heart beat sped up to aerobic levels.

“Scream and jump. Make him look over at us!”

Our team started screaming and yelling, waving our arms and jumping up and down. It worked. The casting director looked directly at us and chucked a handful of Jolly Ranchers in our direction. Kim and I responded to it as if he was throwing $100 bills at us. We dove for them. We landed on our bellies and slid straight into the gutter.  I got a little scuffed up on the elbows and had some dirt on our knees, but I had the lucky Jolly Ranchers clenched in my fists. We jumped back up to our feet and the rest of our team cheered.

Soon enough, we were lined up, put through security and led onto the lot and into the studio. This was getting exciting. We actually stand a chance! A thick packet full of questions was handed to us and we were all briefed on how the process worked. First, we’d be taken into a room full of tables where we’d sit and fill out the paperwork. Then we’d be interviewed individually and then as a family, and finally, we’d have a chance to play the game against another family that was also auditioning.

We had decided to take a risk on some of the questions. We put honest, unique, and in some cases straight out weird answers. We did not know then that these were the questions they’d be interviewing us with.

“Hill family, you’re next!”

We erupted in cheers. My pits were sweaty, hands trembling and I could hear my heart beat in my head. I was ready to go! They asked us to stand in a straight line and introduce ourselves. The man in charge kept reiterating that we all need to listen and never repeat another contestant’s answer. This would be an automatic disqualification.

“Darla, it says here that you have amazing facial muscle control. Could you demonstrate for us?”

Without hesitation, I crossed both eyes, and then began moving them around my eye sockets in different directions. This got a chuckle. Next, I folded my tongue into thirds, a talent that I’m proud to say my little Sophia has also inherited. Finally, I ended with my nostrils; moving them up and down, flaring them in and out and wiggling them one at a time. This always made people laugh.

“Hello, Jennifer. This says that you tend to get diarrhea when you get nervous.”

“Umm… yes, I do.”

“Well…are you nervous right now?” The entire room of contestants and casting directors erupted in laughter, Jennifer included.

“No, I’m just excited. I think I’ll be okay.” Her cheeks were blushed a beautiful shade of red.

Their instructions to us had been to be “memorable”. Well, if they don’t remember the Hill family from that, I’m not sure what would work. Up until now, whenever the producers asked the famous, ‘Tell me about yourself’ question, the replies were always the same, “I’m a grandmother…” or “I go to college…” or, “I like to read…” But nope, not my family; we specialize in facial contortions and diarrhea. We actually stood a fighting chance!

They explained to everyone that if we were picked to be on the show, the team leader would receive a postcard in approximately 2-4 weeks. That seemed like forever! If you didn’t get picked, you simply wouldn’t hear anything at all. Well, that sucked. They make you sit and wait in expectation and anticipation for a month, and then you might not receive anything at all! They only thing I could do was look forward to the post card and try not to drive myself crazy for the next month. I had a really good feeling about this.

 

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