‘Survivor’ auditions draw crowd of hopefuls in Champaign



By Kate Szyszka

Champaign Surplus, the Army surplus store at 303 S. Neil St., has plenty of equipment, apparel and weapons for surviving in a remote location. On Tuesday, it also showed off the area’s most adventurous individuals, who wanted to prove they had what it takes to be survivors.

To do so, they needed to outwit, outlast and outplay other potential contenders in front of a tribal council of cameramen and CBS executives.

The only thing missing was Jeff Probst.

On Tuesday, auditions for the next season of the CBS show “Survivor” were held at Champaign Surplus from 3-6 p.m. Applicants went through a series of challenges to prove they had the skills, and personality, necessary to be the next Rupert Boneham or Amber Brkich, former Survivor contestants.

Approximately 800 applicants from across the nation will be invited back for a second audition in August. People came from all over the surrounding area to audition for the show and a chance at a million dollars, said Jordan Arseneau, a videographer for the show.

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“I drove all the way from Effingham after work,” said potential contestant Jason Short.

There were a variety of colorful candidates, said Arseneau, including a pre-operation transsexual and a man who sang the Destiny’s Child song “Survivor.”

“There have definitely been some interesting people here,” Arseneau said. “One woman wore a bikini made out of candy necklaces.”

Applicants first filled out an audition form and then went through a series of interviews. After the interviews the applicants were given three minutes on camera to describe why they would be a good candidate for the television show. Some were more memorable than others.

“Contestants are asked to convey their personality, what makes them stand out, why they could win,” said Peter Carlson, promotion manager for WCIA.

Though the show has remained popular since its inception in 2000, some of the potential contestants hadn’t watched any episodes. But that didn’t stop them from trying out.

“I’ve never even seen the show,” said Andrew Bowersox of Champaign. “I just tried to dazzle them with my personality in the first 30 seconds.”

Though the money was motivation, some potential contestants tried out because they are fans of the television show and wanted to be a part of its lore.

“I’ve been a fan of it ever since it premiered, I have all the seasons on DVD and all the books,” said Short. “If I could at least make it and win some money that would be great. Unlike Richard Hatch, I’d actually pay my taxes.”