A group of casting directors for the ABC shows "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette" descended on Maryland Live Casino late last week to find the most compatible Maryland women and men for future reality-show romps.
Intrigued at how reality becomes transformed into reality television, I decided to sign up as a candidate.
I am 22 and have watched "The Bachelor" to study how 20 desperate-for-love candidates living in one house while dating the same person could work as a way to find a spouse. My main question was always, "Where do they find these people?" My goal was to find out.
This is the second year that Maryland Live has hosted "The Bachelor" casting calls. Katie Kaplan, integrated media sales executive at WMAR-TV (the local ABC affiliate), was hurrying around the casino floor, making sure the event ran smoothly.
"Between 150 to 250 people go through the process of interviewing tonight," she said. "From there, casting directors will watch all of the interviews and decide who they want to follow-up with. Tonight, they are doing casting mainly for the fall season of 'The Bachelor.' "
Although casting directors would not disclose what type of candidates they were looking for, Kaplan said the qualifications could be diverse.
"I honestly could not say what the casting directors look for because it varies all the time," she said. "Sometimes they want someone really sweet and normal; other times, they want someone who will cause a stir to promote publicity."
The sign-in process was quick. I had to hold up a white board with my information on it — like a mug shot. A woman took various photos up-close and from afar. Then I was handed a pile of papers to sign.
I walked down to a room blanketed with red and purple strobe lighting and full of small cocktail tables. Waitresses clad in tight black outfits were handing out refreshments. Other candidates sat at the tables and filled out paperwork. A woman with a microphone circulated through the room, interviewing hopefuls and cracking jokes to lighten the mood.
I scrutinized the women in the room, expecting to see hordes of the usual "Bachelor" types; tall, thin figures in cocktail dresses, well-tanned with long hair. While some women fit the bill in short cocktail dresses, others went more casual in jeans.
At a nearby table was a petite blonde wearing a white dress with a black plaid pattern. Lauren Kaye was positive "The Bachelor" could work for her.
"I love 'The Bachelor.' I have watched it religiously with my mother," said Kaye, 31, of Mount Vernon. "I have had trouble finding the right man."
Kaye, who is a state champion in yoga, felt confident that she could land a spot on the show.
"I think that the yoga will set me apart. Even though I know I am not the traditional stick-figure girl, I have a strong, athletic figure," she said. "I want to be a good role model for real women."
After filling out the paperwork, the women lined up outside a room separated by black curtains. Before I went for my interview, I expected a panel of polished casting directors sitting behind the curtain, flipping through notes.
I imagined I would get two sentences out before they yawned and yelled, "Next!"
The reality was very different. There was a young woman operating a camera on a tripod. I was directed to sit down while a blinding set light was positioned in front of me. I held up another mug shot white board. Although I was told that I could not disclose the interview questions, they were what you would expect for a show about trying to find a spouse. It was a surprisingly laid-back process.
Waiting in line for her interview, Stephanie Krombach, 25, of Silver Spring, weighed the possibility of being cast.
"I don't know how I would react if I was actually on 'The Bachelor,'" she said. "I would hopefully act calm and collected. I do not think I could be comfortable being one of those people with a big personality."
Next in line was Sarah Pallia, 29, who lives in Annapolis and believes that the show could help her find love if she was cast.
"I have been looking for love for eight or nine years now, so I am looking at this as just another option to find love," she said.
The audition process ended up being less about being on "The Bachelor "and more about regaining optimism about finding love. To be at the auditions was a way to declare that one had not given up on finding that perfect person.
Portfolio of yoga pictures in hand, Kaye said she could walk away from the audition process feeling just a little more self-assured.
"I think that anything is possible, and if it does not work on this show I think just putting myself out there would be a good thing," she said.