‘Real World’ tryouts take over Toad’s

Ashlee Leak, a 22-year-old dining worker at Commons, went to Toad’s Place right after she got off work at 11 a.m. Tuesday, still wearing her Yale employee polo shirt and a hairnet over brown-and-purple hair. She wanted to see if she could make it onto the 25th season of MTV’s “The Real World.”

The seminal reality TV show, which throws a group of strangers into a house and films the antics that ensue, held an open casting call Tuesday at the iconic New Haven nightclub, and over 300 Yale students and employees, as well as local residents, lined up to have a shot at starring in a reality show.

Casting directors for the series also came to New Haven in 2003 and 2008.

About 300 people lined up and filled out a form before entering the club, which, despite being nearly empty, still gave off the stale odor of Toad’s semiweekly dance parties. In addition to providing basic information, potential “Real World” housemates answered questions such as “Have you ever been arrested or had a DUI? Please explain” and “Describe your most embarrassing moments.”

Once inside Toad’s, attendees were divided up for group interviews. Megan Sleeper, a senior casting director at Bunim/Murray Productions, which will select seven to eight people for the show, said she likes to ask what the people trying out are “passionate about.”

Sleeper said her company came to New Haven because it picks cities with many schools so that a large student population comes to the casting sessions.

Jonathan Gordon ’10 said he decided to try out for “the hell of it” after a friend mentioned the casting call. One junior girl, who declined to give her name, said she wanted to “delay the real world.”

“I mean graduation,” she clarified.

Ryan Drozd, 21, who works at Toad’s as a sound engineer, said because he’s “just a regular person,” he wanted to try to get someone like him on the show. Sleeper said it is a misconception that the casting directors pick people that they think are not going to get along; instead, she said they try to find a diverse group of people and “drama naturally ensues.”

A press release that the Hartford Courant posted March 31 said that the casting directors would “love” to have someone on the show who is physically challenged, someone who is an “elite athlete” and “someone is involved with goth, emo, or punk subculture.” Applicants had to be between 18 and 24.

Erica Stango, a 21-year-old Waterbury resident who attends Lincoln College of New England, said she sees herself as fitting the “Real World” mold.

“I’m kind of like the normal ‘Real World’ girls you would see on the show,” she said. “Partying girls.”

Although the location for the 25th season has not been selected yet, Sleeper said, Stango, a model for the New Haven-based radio station WPLR’s “Chicks that Rock” calendar, said the show would be her ticket out of the state.

Leak said after her group interview that she remained optimistic about her chances for a callback. “You never know,” she said.

Sleeper said Bunim/Murray Productions will travel to 40 cities, where they usually see 200 to 500 people each. The casting process will end around mid-June, she said.

The latest Yalie to appear on a reality TV show is Victoria Marshman ’09, who competed on Tyra Banks’ “America’s Next Top Model.”

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