- The Washington Times - Monday, September 16, 2002

David Leighton has always dreamed of being a soap opera star.
Although he is a mechanical engineering student at the University of Maryland in College Park, Mr. Leighton, 25, has flirted with the entertainment industry on two occasions. He served as an extra in the Warner Bros. movie, "The Replacements" with actors Keanu Reaves and Gene Hackman. He also had a role in a commercial for Red Door restaurant in Ocean City.
"My best friend was a television production major in college," Mr. Leighton says. "He always said if he makes it big that he will put me in his movie."
In the meantime, Mr. Leighton participated in a casting call for CBS' "As the World Turns" last Friday at the university's College Park campus. About 500 hopefuls tried out for one male and one female speaking role, as well as smaller parts as extras for an episode that will be filmed on the campus mall Friday. The program will air in mid-November.
Tryout participants were told to submit an application sheet and a photo of themselves at the audition. No prior acting experience was required.
Ben Parker, 19, a theater performance major who lives in Gaithersburg, won the role of "Kevin." Anname Phann, 22, a 2001 graduate who lives in College Park, will play "Carol."
The open auditions came to the University of Maryland as part of a larger campaign to introduce the show to a younger audience, says Alan Locher, public relations manager for "As the World Turns."
The show is about 46 years old, so executive producer Christopher Goutman wanted to hold 10 casting stops across the country as a way to grab the attention of college-age viewers. With that idea in mind, head writer Hogan Sheffer created a plot that would take some of the younger characters on the show across the country to 10 different colleges and universities.
"We tape in Brooklyn, N.Y.," Mr. Locher says. "We never get out of the four walls. We are excited to take the show on the road."
As the story line goes, Aaron Snyder (Agim Kaba), is accused of a crime in the fictional town of Oakdale, Ill. He and his girlfriend, Lucy (Peyton List), along with another friend, Alison (Jessica R. Dunphy), evade authorities by hiding out among their peers on various campuses, including Webster University in St. Louis; Franklin College in Franklin, Ind.; Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio; the University of Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh; Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond; the University of North Carolina in Charlotte, N.C.; Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn.; Rhodes College in Memphis, Tenn.; and Tulane University in New Orleans.
The auditions in Richmond will be held today, with the show taping there on Sept. 23.
"They are trying to stay one step ahead of their parents and the law," Mr. Locher says. "Aaron has a friend who goes to school in St. Louis. So that's why they start there."
Mary Clay Boland, casting director for the program, says auditioning college students is a different dynamic than reading lines with trained actors. She is choosing students for a variety of speaking roles from each campus for the episode that will be shot at their school.
"It's very strange," she says. "It's fun, but you're dealing with people who don't do this professionally. But in Indiana, I found a guy who will be a movie star in three years. In two seconds, he'd be with this great agency, I know."
Ms. Boland says she is looking for people with charisma. Although they don't have to be huge fans of the show, she says it would be nice to cast some students who are strong supporters of the program. She also is looking for persons from a variety of ethnic backgrounds.
"People either get it, or they don't," she says. "It's a great opportunity to come to Middle America to scout out for new faces."
Sittia Waters, 24, of Alexandria, says she is hoping that her face will stand out in the crowd. Ms. Waters, who is not a student at the University of Maryland and not related to this reporter, took the day off work to try out for the show.
"It's good exposure," she says. "They could always call you back for something else if they don't pick you for this. It's a stepping stone into Hollywood and New York City."
Making exercise videos has always been a goal for Jada D.E. Monroe, 32, who is a technology and management student at the University of Maryland. As an avid tae kwon do athlete, she would like to have her own program one day. She thinks trying out for a soap opera might help her hone her camera skills.
"I thought I'd go and see what happens," she says. "This is a small part and might not even open the doors."
Anthony Flick, 20, a computer science and math student, says he doesn't have goals for stardom. He had time to kill between classes and decided to audition on a whim.
"I saw all these people standing in line and asked what they were doing," he says. "When I found out, I said, 'What the heck? I'll try out too.'"
As far as Kelly Moore of Severn, Md., is concerned, the community should be excited to host the filming of "As the World Turns." The 2000 alumna was among the people auditioning on Friday.
"Who doesn't want to be in a soap opera?" she says.

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