What exactly did Adam do to Delia, I wondered as I arrived Thursday afternoon at the Sea Dog Brewing Co. in Bangor, and why did he hide it? And at precisely what cost did he, in the end, confess?
Oh, I had a lot of questions, but that would not keep me from begging the judge for mercy — not only for Adam but for our entire family. After all, that’s why I was there.
More accurately, I was there, along with dozens of other hopeful area residents, for an open casting call for CBS Daytime, responsible for programming two of the longest-running and most popular soap operas on television, “The Young and the Restless” and “The Bold and the Beautiful.” Hosted by local CBS affiliate WABI, the event provided an opportunity for actors, non-actors and wannabes like me to read a few lines, on camera, with feeling, in hope of winning a trip for two to Los Angeles and a paid walk-on role in one of the shows.
There were two short pieces to read, just a few sentences each, one for men from B&B and one for women from Y&R. These abbreviations, I learned, is how the programs are referred to in the fan magazines.
My participation was a longshot. Although I’ve enjoyed some opportunities to perform at the community theater level, I’m not what anyone would call an accomplished actor. The camera does not love me, Baby. Also, I am not and have never been a fan of the daytime dramas, as the soaps are now called.
The closest I ever came to following a story was back in the early 1980s, when I worked one season packing apples with a group of garrulous older women. Every morning at the same time, we shut down the noisy conveyor for a half-hour and worked in silence except for the scratchy television broadcast of “General Hospital” coming from a little set in the corner of the packing room. I learned quite a lot about the business of the Quartermaines and the Spencers that winter — but, to be perfectly honest, I did not care.
But many who came to audition at the Sea Dog on Thursday were dedicated watchers of the soaps. Among them was 63-year-old Bohni Kempton of Searsport, who like me was there to read the part of Chelsea, pleading for clemency for her husband, Adam, in “The Young and the Restless.” As we sat waiting to be called, Kempton gave me the lowdown.
“I know the story line so well,” she said, generously recounting it for me, her underprepared rival. It seems Delia — about 12 years old — has been in a school play and is on her way home with her father, Billy — married to Victoria — and her little dog, Dash. Billy stops for ice cream, and while he is in the store, Dash jumps out of the car. Delia, of course, opens the door and goes after her beloved pet, at which point she is hit by a car driven by, yes, Adam — married to Chelsea — who is something of a black sheep.
“He thought he hit the dog,” Kempton explained, “but he looked in the rearview mirror and saw the dog running around, so he thought everything was alright and he kept going.” It isn’t until he gets home and finds Delia’s little scarf in his wheel well that Adam realizes the terrible truth.
Kempton didn’t get around to telling me why Adam didn’t promptly go to the authorities or why and when he ultimately confessed or at what cost — all hinted at in our brief lines — because she was called into her camera audition. But before she disappeared behind the closed doors, I asked her how long ago this all happened.
“Oh, it was, like, four years ago,” she answered, breezily. “But in soap opera time, it was just yesterday.”
A real mix of people turned out to the audition. There was 18-year-old Thomas Spencer of Howland, who recently graduated from Penobscot Valley High School and is headed to the University of Maine later this month, planning to major in journalism and minor in theater. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that neither was likely to make for a career slam-dunk.
He had read through his lines in the men’s script, from B&B, in which, somewhat confusingly, Billy pulls out an engagement ring and emotionally proposes to Victoria — and not for the first time, either. I say it’s confusing because although Billy is Delia’s father and is, therefore, an integral part of the background story in my scene from Y&R — oh, nevermind.
“All the women in my family watch these shows,” Spencer said, large diamond studs twinkling in his earlobes. “My mom read about this and said I should come. I told her I didn’t think I was handsome enough to be in a soap opera.”
Thomas, you’re totally handsome enough. Go for it.
Also waiting to propose to Victoria was 68-year-old Jerry Lyden of Bangor. An accomplished performer with a number of acting credits, including a nonspeaking part in the 1990 film “Goodfellas” by director Martin Scorsese, Lyden heard about the open audition from a friend.
“I said, ‘What the heck?’” he laughed. “I haven’t been to a cattle call in years.”
Wasn’t he a little, um, old for the part? I asked, fully cognizant that at 62, I am pretty long in the tooth to play the part of someone — anyone — named Chelsea.
No, Lyden said, clearly taken aback. “It could be a young man’s scene, but not necessarily.”
Aspiring fashion model Darcy Stewart, 60, of Old Town has never done any acting, but she was there, too.
“I’ll do anything to get my foot in the door,” she said, waiting to read the women’s lines. “I hope I don’t get nervous and freeze up when I’m in there.”
Rachel and Autumn Read, long-haired, 18-year-old twins from South China were there, too. I didn’t have a chance to chat with them for more than a second, but it was Rachel, I think, who handed me their very professional business card: “The Read Twinz: Actors, Models, Performers.” I predict good things for these two.
And then my number was called. “Break a leg,” said Bunny Barclay, a 67-year-old actor and yoga teacher who was sitting next to me outside the audition room. Break a leg is what we actors say to each other instead of good luck, because in theater we know that saying good luck is actually bad luck.
I walked through the door and was met by Doug Finck from WABI, who with cameraman Rodney Devost was there to record each audition. Devost clipped a little microphone to my blouse while Finck, very reassuring, explained what would happen.
I was to ignore the immense television camera aimed at my face and instead speak or read my lines to him. I could speak my part twice — once as a warmup and again if I wanted to take another whack at it. Did I understand? Yes, I did.
“Whenever you’re ready,” he said. I took a deep breath, noted and dismissed the red light glowing on the camera, summoned my best desperate-wife persona and began.
“I can’t defend Adam’s actions,” I said, looking Judge Finck square in the eye. “I can’t sit here and justify his hiding what he did to Delia.” Deep, shaky breath in, eyes to the floor. “I can’t. I just — I can’t.” Eyes back up, bravely. “But I can tell you that, at his core, my husband is a good man.”
It all flowed out pretty naturally. It took about 30 seconds. I didn’t have to look at my lines once. Did I want to do it again? No, I didn’t. It was a wrap.
Finck told me later that 38 people filed through the audition room Thursday, with a wide range of acting experience and ability. WABI staff will review all their clips, choose the 10 best and send them up the food chain to CBS corporate judges. Other affiliate stations around the country will do the same, and sometime around the end of September, a winner will be selected.
It’s not so much a search for acting talent, Finck explained, as it is a way to get television audiences interacting with the programming they watch. CBS has promoted other local open casting calls recently, he said, including one last year for popular reality show “Big Brother.”
The winner of the soaps audition and a friend will be flown to Los Angeles for two days and three nights, all expenses paid, and have a paid walk-on role in one of the shows. “It’s a great prize,” Finck said. “If you’re a fan of the shows, you have a chance to hobnob with the stars and get some great autographs.”
Even if you’re not a fan, he said, what’s wrong with spending a few days in Los Angeles?
My bags are already packed.