The Curse of the Magic Donkey
Fur and Loathing
Brad Preston on The Ice Girls
Podcast - July 2013
Inside a Mascot Audition
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Inside a Mascot Audition
By Kelly Frank
For the past 6 months I have lived a double life: Intern by day, flying horse by night.
Naturally this seems rather odd, but its just another day for me, marketing intern extraordinaire. I was in fact Star, the 6-foot tall blue Pegasus mascot for the Orlando Miracle WNBA team. Prior to Star I've been a golden knight for the University of Central Florida, a rather rotund bobcat for the Florida Bobcats Arena Football team, an often-abused gecko (not to be confused with Geiko) for the Miami Fusion, and even a killer clown for Universal Studios Florida.
It was sometime during my brilliant yet brief college mascot career that it occurred to me that I just might be able to do this for a living. My position with the Miracle was fun (WNBA fans don't take as many swings at me as inebriated arena football fans or pound on me like over zealous Hokie Birds), but unfortunately it was only temporary. I was on the look for something a little bit more permanent, perhaps even a full time position. I had my shot when I found out the Denver Broncos were hiring.
The audition was being run by Street Characters, the mascot company that would also be designing and producing the new costume. I sent in a highlight tape and resume, and was later extended an invite to the audition along with 10 other lucky candidates.
For the audition we would have five minutes to entertain the crowd and judges. Each candidate would be judged in a variety or areas including animation, improv, prop use, and athletic ability. The skit needed to involve the entire crowd as well as demonstrate one on one interaction with an adult audience member, and one on one interaction with a child.
Now that I knew what I was supposed to do, I had to figure out exactly WHAT to do. In times like these you can never go wrong turning to the pros.
"Don't try to impress them with a bunch of props," said Billy the Buffalo from the Bills, "anyone can buy props, they really look at how well you can convey ideas and emotions in suit."
This was definitely food for thought. I decided against using some of my flashier toys such as my confetti cannon. I didn't want to rely too heavily on my props.
"It will be very important for you to focus on movement in costume," said Dave Raymond, mascot guru extraordinaire, "Your ability to communicate emotional elements in costume is the most important part of any audition."
I now decided that I was going to have to show a wide range of emotions in my skit, to try and show off my character animation skills.
Perhaps the most practical tidbit of tryout information came from Edgar of the Baltimore Ravens. "Try to be the second or third person to audition," he advised. "that gives them a chance to get the sound system working properly and not mess up your music. Also you don't want to be last because towards the end the judges start to get tired of watching everyone."
Armed with this useful knowledge, I started to piece together my skit. I started off with a simple crowd interaction cheer. One side says "go" the other says "broncos." Next I would involve a youth by having them dress up in one of my "mini star" costumes and have them play follow the leader. Then for laughs I planned on using my barbershop routine, and for my grand finale, the tried but true chicken dance.
The anxiously awaited day finally came. I got a chance to meet 10 other hopefuls at the brand new Invesco Stadium in Denver, right across from the old Mile High Stadium. I realized that I was up against some top mascots. There were three top ten ranking mascots from the UCA national championship, and several other professional or "semi-pro" mascots. Steep competition, even for a magical donkey.
The story goes downhill from here!
We drew our order for the audition. I drew the #2 spot, but no one drew the #1 spot, so I was first by default. Absolutely no pressure there. I came out like a fireball, and soon learned about that "rocky mountain air" I had heard so much about. Breathing was very challenging, and didn't help me out at all. I also wasn't helped by the fact that I choked! I could go into details, but lets just leave it at it just wasn't pretty. As anyone who saw my infamous "crocodile hunter skit" which the Miracle can attest to, I sometime seriously mess up my skits.
Later on the four finalists were announced. No shock that I wasn't among them. From the very beginning I saw this audition as a learning experience. I definitely learned what not to do.
In the aftermath of the audition I called up Glen Street at Street characters, the man in charge of the audition. I asked him for feedback on my performance and for areas he thought I could improve on. He was very willing to share. The people that he selected as finalists were the ones that had the best crowd interaction. One mascot was able to keep the crowd entertained by just his actions and the use of one prop.
"You had good energy and danced well," he said, "but perhaps you tried to do too much."
So I left Denver without a job, but with valuable experience and knowledge. It may have been my first professional sports audition, but I'm sure it won't be my last. Until then I'll keep on working, spreading joy as a blue Pegasus, a rusty looking golden Knight, or whatever else may come my way. I heard Chuck E Cheese's is hiring -
Thanks to Kelly Frank for her time and efforts.
Fur and Loathing
Lessons from a Multi-tasking Mascot
Birth of a Mascot Tradition
Best of 2012: The Gameops.com Review