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By Lara Chatterjee

Four Radio and Television Arts students sat in a shack in the middle of Bracebridge, Ont., with a totaled car, a film reel of useless footage and a debt of $7,000.

So out of pure desperation, they decided to sell their friends. “We were cold and feeling poor,” says group member Nikki Yeboah.

They knew it was time to fundraise – and fundraise fast. And so the Guys and Girls Valentine’s Day Auction and Party was born. The event was designed to raise money for a new film, car repairs and general support for these unfortunate students. In a situation that plays out like a bad episode of Dawson’s Creek, complete with budding filmmakers, hot-tempered girls and issues to overcome, RTA students Tara Anderson, Tanya Blake, Karl Leung, Jennifer Shin and Yeboah were, putting it mildly, shit out of luck.

“It is like a bad sitcom,” Yeboah says. The group, called Shake Entertainment, were on their way up north to shoot some footage for their practicum class when they crashed their rental car. Thankfully no one was hurt, but the car was totaled, and so was the film.

The car was, in fact, one of its stars: a rare 1993 forest green Chevy Lumina. “We basically are starting from scratch,” says Shin. Not only was the film now obsolete, but the group was out $5,000 of their own money that they’d invested in the film, as well as $2,000 extra for damages to the car. But that one wrong turn (or rather that one nasty smash) could be the start of a beautiful friendship, or at least that’s part of the hope coming from Shake Entertainment.

The Guys and Girls Party revolves around a silent auction in which people can bid on Valentine’s Day treats such as spa packages, a romantic dinner for two, theatre tickets and, oh yes, a date. Two girls and two guys will be auctioned off along with specially tailored date packages to four lucky winners. The auction is silent to avoid the calling out of bids, a protection put into place for both the prize and its winner. “That way, we won’t have the embarrassment of the MC yelling out ‘Who’s going to buy this guy?’,” says Shin. It is even up to the winner whether they want to be announced or not, she says. But for such a daring effort, none of the participants had any hesitations.

“They’re outgoing people to begin with,” Yeboah says. “They were pretty open to it, actually,” Shin adds.

It’s a chance to meet new people and have some fun, but is it also a chance for love? The auction is centered around what is supposed to be the most romantic day of the year. But Valentine’s Day is a complicated holiday. Single people hate it; couples feel pressured to do stuff; new relationships take advantage of it to, ahem, further their intimacies. And no matter how special it seems, in all honestly, it’s never as good as you want it to be.

It’s like your first time: a quartet instead of a symphony — if you’re lucky. Cynicism aside, Shin isn’t ruling out the possibility of getting more than you paid for. “It would probably take more than one date,” she says laughing. “You can always be hopeful that something good may come of it.” Leung shakes his head and mumbles, “That’s a very P.C. answer.” So dream away! When it comes down to it, there is really nothing stopping some lucky guy or girl from making a love connection — or a less politically correct connection — especially in one of the most inventive date packages I can think of: beginner fencing lessons.

If you are fortunate to win a date with Charlie Smith, you will be treated to fencing lessons for two — learning to play with long, hard poles: always useful for a first date. Less medieval, though physical in itself, Jessica Medeiros, a dark-haired beauty with stunning aqua eyes, will learn how to snap castanets at a Spanish dancing lesson with her lucky date, already starting up a rhythm of love. “Singlnicity,” as coined by the group, are packages that include DJ and belly dancing lessons and a massage from Kim Cattrall’s masseuse. The ambitious group has only sold about 25 tickets at $7 a pop (note: 25 x 7 = not $7,000).

But between the offerings of their party and the fantastic sob story of their staggering debt, Shin and Yeboah hope ticket sales will pick up as their deadline approaches. While selling tickets, a pretty blonde girl waltzes over to the table, money in hand ready to purchase her ticket, and hopefully more, once bidding time comes around. Displayed on the ticket table beside the free cinnamon hearts are pictures of a car being towed away with four distraught RTA students in the background.

“Wow,” says the buyer. “This is the best selling method ever.” Yeboah half smiles and sits back; this sale is in the bag. “I know,” she says. “Pity us.”

The Guys and Girls Auction and Party is on Thursday, Feb. 9 at 9 p.m. at 250 Adelaide St. Tickets are $7 and purchased in the RCC.

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