Category Archives: Clara Barton

Why I Tried Out for America’s Got Talent

Why I Tried Out for America’s Got Talent

  “You went to New York City for the America’s Got Talent T.V. Show auditions …….Really? Why, How ? What was it like? Tell me more!” I’ve heard that a lot in the last week!

Imagine this scenario:
“Hello CBS Broadcasting how much is a 2 minute commercial? 
                    A few questions, of course, yes, Prime Time, yes a show with High Ratings….

                    No my budget is fixed……..
Is there a discount if I buy two commercial slots? I’d like  one for my storytelling business, the other a general promotion to highlight storytelling as a performance art, entertainment, and educational program. ……………….

The price is what?…………………………..Dollars? …………………………..gulp  and deep breath, Thanks anyway, I think I will look for Plan B!

I didn’t  actually make the call, I  just had to think about it. There is no way we are going to break into that market share anytime soon!  There are many discussions though on how to grow audiences and reach out to both new tellers and listeners. Reaching out would help me and storytelling in general.  The way to do that is mass media, and, it is expensive.

Along came Plan B!

   If I can go to the try outs for America’s Got Talent then I might boost my career and help storytelling. There’s a chance, because they have not featured storytelling before,  could I get picked and get my two minutes on television? This would take some planning and a strategy. Carolyn Stearns Storyteller, I can do this, I thought, I have to do this!

   Online at AGT I found  information on how to try out. I read this several times. Then thought about my constant question. What story should I tell? There were no tryouts in the Northeast posted but I went ahead with the plan knowing it would work out if it was meant to. There was video entry allowed.

    I chose several stories that I thought were powerful and could hold their power when edited to the appetizer sized morsel AGT would allow. Video entries could only be 2 minutes! I called on Jim Harriman, storyteller, theatre director, play write to coach me and help me hone the words to a sharp  2 minute presentation. Jim’s help and advice to get the best punch from the 2 minutes was incredibly valuable. I had my goal in sight and soon it would be in reach. We met at the CAST Children’s Theatre, Manchester for the coaching and video session, I really appreciate the CAST space for its quiet and welcome for my project.  I was not telling anyone what I was working on, there were only three or four people who knew about this project.

    The story choice was a tale of Clara Barton on the Civil War battlefield at Antietam. This also allowed for use of my Civil War era costume as I felt in a live audition finding a way to stand out in a crowd of thousands was a critical point. I sent the video and watched their website. Some time later they posted the New York City audition information. I filled out the online forms and pushed send! All planning then was focusing on getting there. On Feb 1, 2013 I got the phone call confirming my time of arrival. They also told me I could only have 90 seconds! I can do that I thought! For the first time nerves made my stomach leap. I don’t know what made me more nervous the trip or the try out!

    I am a country mouse, prior to  AGT I had been to New York City only 3 times. The first New York City trip was in high school to march in a parade, then on a bus trip to the Statue of Liberty, and more recently with a friend to research my Christmas Spirits story. I checked it all out feeling very intimidated by the city and the prospect of travel there. I asked friends which also then entailed telling them what I was up to, and swearing them to secrecy. No one was available to go with me, but in the end this was a good thing.

    Before dawn February 2, 2013 I drove out of the yard, my trip to the America’s Got Talent try outs at St. John Studios in Manhattan was underway. I told my husband what I was doing the night before and packed my car with costume, I was off on my adventure. At New Haven I took the train to NYC, this was only my second time taking the train, I loved the ride through lower Connecticut. Arriving at Grand Central I got a cab to the studio and joined the line of all pursuing the AGT dream. It was a bitter cold morning as we stood in the tunnel waiting to get into the building. I dressed for the cold and passed the time with a new young friend chasing her dream, her Grandma the hero that brought her to the try outs!!

The proverbial light at the end of the tunnel was a reality on this day!! At the corner they were organizing people to go inside.

    Two security checkpoints and I had my number. The bathroom was so crowded I found a corner in the hallway to change to my Civil War style dress. I had thought this out too, I had some of the under layers  already on, so slip off one piece and slide into the hoop and dress.  Then another line snaked through channels taped onto the floor all the way to the registration area.

I was registered and moved in to he first holding room. This was a mass of people all gathered in sight of a dream and working their way  toward their 90 seconds.

      Slowly, in groups of about 100 the group was sifted. I waited, the hours slipping by. A text message of encouragement came in from my brother, one of my secret keepers. He made me smile, yes I have this, I am in the moment.  First they pulled my group into a curtained area. The dancers left us, then the people needing a keyboard left. Staff then took the instrumentalists, our group was now about 40 and we headed off through the building. We were put in a small room in silence as tryouts were taking place right next door, we could hear the voices singing. Again we were sorted and a smaller group of us left to yet another room. Here they asked if all were singers, if not raise your hand.  I raised mine, they took the paperwork I had carried all day, a storyteller? You will go with these stand up comedians in a couple minutes. Across the room a weary mother playfully cuffed her teen daughter, Why couldn’t you be a storyteller! I soon left the singers.
    Four of us were ready, this is it! The three comedians and I were asked to follow our guide to another room, inside were the two producers listening to spoken auditions. The guys held the door and I swept in lifting my big dress to step over a threshold. The two producers looked up beaming – “Great costume!”  The four of us were lined up at the back and they called out names from our paperwork. I went up last, stood on the big green X taped to the floor, I introduced myself and took the deep breath. My mind set its mental clock I had to finish this in the 90 seconds. ” She lifted her skirt to step over the dead bodies in search of those with life still in them…..” I had their attention, my story was told and it was over. The four of us were done and we left. In the hall we were excited to have  done our piece,we talked on the elevator ride down. Soon I was changed and out into the city.
    I had plans to meet up with storyteller Robin Bady of Brooklyn, a debriefing and celebration. I had not been nervous, intense focus on the job to be done. Nerves could only get in my way. Now though the adrenaline coursing through me was intense, I DID IT!!!

 10 p.m. I post to Facebook a picture and what I had done that day and lay there watching the comments roll in. Someone said I was Brave! Later in the week when I am with my brother he repeats it, he thinks I am brave, and maybe I am. I will never let a city intimidate me again, I can do  my work where ever and when ever,  I am a country mouse, but I am a mouse that roared!