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Rehearsing to act ‘natural’ on reality TV

A prep school for ‘American Idol’ wannabes coaches them for auditions.

By Amy FarnsworthStaff Writer / March 20, 2009

Smile, you’re on camera! Robert Galinsky, founder of the New York Reality TV School, gives his students some pointers. He’s already cooked a deal to turn the school itself into a reality show.

Kristen E. Olson/Special to The Christian Science Monitor


New York

In a small studio in midtown Manhattan, a man walks the gantlet through two lines of people hurling insults his way.

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“You’re disgusting!”

“I’m going to kill you!”

“What’s wrong with you, you pig?!”

He smiles and looks straight ahead, walking unruffled to the end. But then, that’s the goal of this exercise at the New York Reality TV School. It’s intended to give students the strength to endure auditions and elimination rounds for reality TV programs.

Even avid fans may not realize it, but the goal of reality TV has always been to make the fake and rehearsed seem natural and real. So it only makes sense that a prime commandment of the New York Reality TV School is that “everything [auditioners] do ... must be candid, genuine, and not an act.” Or at least appear not to be.

In truth, nearly every wannabe reality star in this group is also a wannabe actor. They are models and full-time students, comedians and photographers, an opera singer and an ex-cop. They all share a dream of being spotted on “American Idol” or “Survivor” as the next big Hollywood talent.

That’s why today each has spent $139 to learn how to make it through the first cut.

“You’re not going to learn tricks,” Robert Galinsky, the school’s founder, tells his 17 students. “You’re not going to learn back-door information or how to sneak around. It’s really about three things: confidence, authenticity, and how you tell your story.”

Among today’s prospects is Gina Scarda, a 40-ish mom and former New York City cop. She’s already appeared on Discovery Health’s “Fit Family” and Bravo’s “Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style.” But now she wants to shoot for a higher-rated show – maybe “The Amazing Race” or “Last Comic Standing.”

“Any kind of show like this ... kind of kick-starts you,” says Ms. Scarda, who also performs with a comedy troupe. “Once you’re on it, people know who you are.... It would open up tremendous doors.”

Also in the room are April Brucker, a ventriloquist who has lugged her blond puppet, May, to class with her in a suitcase, and Loydeen Pulsifer, a high-fashion model looking to fulfill her childhood dream of making it on a soap opera. There’s also Charlotte Ghiorse, a mother of three and an astrologer with her own YouTube show; Lauren Schroeder, an opera singer; and Sergio Feliciano, a full-time student from New Jersey who’s taken the class once before.