By Amanda Factor
Maybe there’s a lesson to be learned from Nikki Ashworth and Tom Stanley — if you really want to host the 2002 TARAs, just convince yourself you won’t make the cut. Both did, and are likely somewhere right now memorizing scripts and being fitted for formal wear.
The pair were chosen out of 40 hopefuls to host the 24th Annual Television and Radio Achievement Awards, a show put on as a practicum project by a group of fourth-year RTA students, on April 11.
Stanley has a sneaking suspicion that he and Ashworth were chosen because as an advanced-standing and first-year student, respectively, they personify the night’s theme of reflection and anticipation — as in reflecting on where you’ve been, and anticipating where you are going.
The anticipation began back in January with the event’s info session.
Rogers Building, atrium
Armed with trays of crackers, cookies, veggies and dip and bright helium balloons, marketing director Carolyn Lamb’s mission is to lure RTA students to start thinking about the TARAs.
Today marks the beginning of the search for two hosts, presenters, bands and a whole lot of volunteers.
Strewn across the table in front of her are sign-up sheets for volunteer jobs in the creative department, technical and public relations.
Unfortunately, they didn’t get as many sponsors as they wanted, and the ones that did didn’t give as much money as in previous years. Ryerson doesn’t contribute any funds to the project — the producers are fully responsible for the financial contracts of the TARAs. Depending on what kind of show is being put on, the price could range anywhere from $25,000 to “sky’s the limit,” according to co-producer Cathy Cruz.
The group received donations of technical equipment from various companies along with $6,000 worth of free catering.
Besides covering equipment and sets, the money raised will pay for the use of the show’s venue, York Theatre at Yonge and Eglinton. The theatre has room for VIP as well as theatre-style seating — perfect for the theme they hope to convey.
A poster announcing the auditions reads like a shopping list. The hosts and presenters should have a “touch of class, a dab of humour, a pinch of wit, a spark of energy, a wealth of ingenuity, and a whole lot of individuality.”
Rogers Building, Studio A
It is rapidly becoming apparent to TARAs talent coordinator Abby Tobias that they next four hours are going to be spent doing a lot of waiting. So far, 11 out of 40 people have cancelled their auditions.
Still, Tobias is unfazed. When third-year student Lisa Fitzpatrick shows up for her 10-minute audition, he directs her to a riser bathed in pale green light. Everyone auditioning has been instructed to prepare a one-minute monologue, choosing from a list of topics. Fitzpatrick recites the story of her most embarrassing moment — the time she publicly peed her pants as a kid.
Hosting, presenting or playing for the TARAs is a big deal. Industry professionals and reps will be in attendance, making the show a platform for Ryerson talent.
During a particularly long lull in the auditions, co-producer Cathy Cutz leans over and asks Tobias, “Any go-aheads?”
Fitzpatrick lands the role of presenter. Celebrity presenters will include Pamela Wallin, Michael Landsberg, boy band, ID and rapper, Maestro.
Later on, director Matt Harris arrives. Besides directing the chosen presenters and hosts, Harris will be responsible for blocking and storyboarding the entire show to maintain a smooth flow. Twenty awards are given in categories like best script, best director and best performance.
In first semester, his focus was to make a promotional video for the event that the PR people would use to raise funds. Now, he’s editing clips highlighting each of four years in RTA, which will be shown at the end of each “highlight reel”. This fulfills the anticipation part of the theme. The reflection part will be fulfilled by the Ernie Coombs Award, handed out to the person or group that produced the best children’s show in third year. “We all grew up watching him,” said Harris.
Nikki Ashworth originally cancelled her audition the day before. She had no headshot, and no hard copy of her resume.
After much persuasion from the panel, though, she finally gave in. She had written her monologue that morning, and didn’t have it memorized. But adopting a “whatever happens, happens” attitude, she decided to wing it. Her monologue was about the time she was playing Red Rover, only to flip over and have her T-shirt and bra go over her head. The audition was going smoothly until she fell off the riser and broke it. Still, she was optimistic. “I figured I handled it in a good way.”
Though Ashworth admits that following her audition she “pretty much felt like it wasn’t in the cards this year,” she now feels her attitude during her audition helped her land the role as host.
Tom Stanley also didn’t think he’d get it. With his dry sense of humour, he figured they’d prefer someone wackier, more flamboyant. He delivered a monologue about what he’d bring to the TARAs: maturity, being an advanced-standing student. “I said that I’m older than the average host, but I’m still up with the kids. I know Jay-Zed.” He pauses. “It’s supposed to be Jay-Zee,” he explains. “That’s why it’s funny.”
TARA Host announcement party
In spite of the ice pellets and ankle-deep snow outside, 120 people have shown up for the host announcement party, held at Revival, a super-trendy club in Little Italy. The atmosphere is candle-lit, almost cathedral like, but festive and inviting.
Skarlett O’Hara, one of the three bands selected out of eight to play tonight, are getting ready to take the stage. Bands auditioned for the chance to play tonight’s party as well as the night of the TARAs. The whole idea of the show is to promote student talent, and it’s a chance for bands within the RTA community to get publicity they wouldn’t normally receive.
As they’re setting up, door prizes are handed out — Comedywood tickets and restaurant gift certificates. Then the band begins their set. When they end with their showstopper “$50 Handshake,” a handful of people bop around the dance floor enthusiastically.
Tobias takes the stage. “This is the moment I hope you’ve all been waiting for,” he quips. Harris joins him onstage. “Because of the weather a lot of the winners didn’t make it,” he says.
Before announcing the hosts for the TARAs, Tobias makes one last statement: “We forgot about politics and picked people who deserved it.” The people who deserved it were Ashworth and Stanley. Applause echoes through the high ceilings.
Among the people huddles near the front of the stage, a glammed-up Ashworth is easy to spot. She’s surprised at her win, but confident that she’s the right woman for the job. “I love to perform,’ she gushes.
“I sing, I like being on stage. I went into RTA to host, so I figured I should start now, get recognized. I feel like I’m gloating … By the time its over, I hope to know more about myself,” she says.
Stanley had a basketball game the night of the host announcement party, and could have made it afterwards, but decided against it. “I thought I’d look funny going to a bar.” He found out that he had landed the host role through e-mail. He calls the honour a “nice surprise.”
He says that since the host announcement party, him and Ashworth have already had a bonding session.
“We were chatting in the atrium the other day. It’s neat how we contrast. I think that’s what they had in mind. She has that more flamboyant, bubbly energy.”
Stanley says that things are starting to get hectic, and he has a feeling his life will soon be “nuts 24 hours a day”. The hosts and presenters have meeting on Mondays to work on their performance. “I’m nervous,” he says. “But it’s a good kind of nervous.”