Fourteen years ago, my family crammed into a 3,000 seat arena-style theater, in the upper half of the bowl. It was the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular, where actors would perform three scenes from Raiders of the Lost Ark, including all the stunts.
Then a casting assistant director came out before the first scene, announcing that he was looking for extras to perform in the street market scene. My older brother, who had purchased a large hat to keep away the Florida heat, took it off and started waving it around like a mad person. Lo and behold, the cast member picked him as one of twelve extras!
He was ecstatic over this, and so were we. It was wonderful seeing him perform in front of so many people, because each participant gets to act out something and look pretty ridiculous up there. For example, he had to act evil, and his first instinct was to act like Dr. Evil from Austin Powers (that was popular back then, kids).
In the actual market scene it was hard to spot him out, but when he came back to sit with us he was doing figurative backflips. After watching his cute little brother get picked for fun stuff with Disney characters, it was his chance to step up and be awesome.
In my trips to Walt Disney World since 2000, I have often tried to get picked for various Disney performances or presentations, but never had the chance. But this time, it was different.
I was tooling around Hollywood Studios on Friday afternoon, hitting all the secondary attractions since all the headliners had long waits and no more Fastpass+. I wasn't going to have any time to do the Indy show the following day, so I decided to catch the last show of the day. I got in line, but suddenly realized that the show was actually 1/2 an hour later than I planned. I could have waited in that line for that extra 1/2 hour, or I could catch a band that was performing in front of the Sorcerer Mickey hat. So I ducked out of line and caught the tail end of Mulch, Sweat, and Shears before heading back to the queue.
By the time I got there, the queue was heading into the theater, and I followed with the group to the far right side of the theater. Since I was by myself, I could squeeze into any empty spaces very efficiently, and when the cast members told everyone to scoot in towards the center of the theater, I managed to move down to the third row of seats near the center of the theater.
About 10 minutes before the show started, out came the casting assistant - a woman this time. She made the normal spiel about extras, and I thought, I got a chance this time. I just felt it. She went over to the left side of the theater looking for loud people (and found four). I thought that was going to be it, forgetting that the casting director usually gets a lot more. Sure enough, she came over to my side next looking for happy people.
Around my family and friends I am the least interesting person - they have much more charisma and energy than I do. But none of them were around, were they? So I went all out, putting on my biggest smile and "Whooooooooop!"-ing as loud as I could with my arms waving like crazy.
And I was the second person the director picked, identified as "The young lady in the grey tank top."
Whaaaaaaaaat? Me?! Whaaaaaaaat?! Those were the thoughts racing in my head as I got up. I left my stuff and raced up onto the stage with three other peppy people, and we kept our happy-act going by whooping and high-fiving each other and jumping up and down. The casting assistant put the mic up to our faces and asked us for our names, and then she asked us to do something quirky. For me, she asked me to do a Minnie Mouse laugh. If I had more time, I would have done something much different than what I did, which was a screechy, high-pitched "Heeheeheeheehee!" But that is what came out of my disbelieving mouth, and it wasn't met with eye rolls or groans, which made me feel better.
She sent us up to the top of the seating area off to the right, where (unbeknownst to me) there was a portable closet with outfits for us to wear. But before I went up, I raced to my seat and grabbed my stuff. I couldn't remember if I'd be able to get to it during the show, and with no one else to watch it, I had to keep them myself.
I signed the waiver form (which I remember my brother talking about when he did it) and was given a tan-and-white striped cloak to put over my clothes, as well as a wrap for my head. I'll admit that I felt like I was in the Christmas pageant at my church again, since the outfits were very similar. But I was at Disney World instead! (Whaaaaat?!)
A third group of extras were shuttled up to the costuming area, and the rest of us were shown to the back row of seats for the first scene, AKA "The big rolling boulder scene." Everything was just as I remembered it - it would have to be, since all the stunts need to be perfectly choreographed. When the scene was done, the casting assistant (who was also in costume) ushered us all down, and I asked the people next to me in the row to keep an eye on my bag, which they graciously did. (Thank goodness!)
I went down with the rest of the garbed group and met the director, who told us to do some actions like "Act scared!" "Act shocked!" and "Act joyful!" I remembered the instructions when I was in productions at school, which was to make every action bigger than you feel you need." So I used my hands and arms and made my face extra big.
Then the actors playing Indy and Marion came out and we got to shake their hands! (Sweet!) Then the director told us to just follow what the casting assistant was doing and saying, and if we saw any other extras zoning out to gently guide them along. I did NOT want to be that person, so I made sure to keep my focus.
It was fun hearing the actors get ready behind us, especially when one yelled out, "Last one guys!" meaning it was the last performance of the day. I knew the feeling after doing four MLC Children's Theater shows in one day. Of course, my only choreographed movements involved doing the "We're All in This Together" dance from High School Musical, not jumping from buildings or avoiding explosions.
I was put in a group that was shopping in a clothing area, which we were supposed to do for five seconds before the sword street performers started performing and we needed to watch them. When they started their show, we were supposed to cheer and ooh and aah, and I made sure to be extra expressive while watching.
It was fascinating to watch the scene unfold right in front of me - especially when the actor playing Indy broke out the whip and made it snap! right in front of us! He really knew how to use it, and it was so close!
Indy and Marion throw some punches and then race up the buildings, and the casting assistant moved us all back onto the mat, so we could cheer them on. I was going nuts up there, yelling at them to "Give them a left! Do it again! Give them a sucker punch!" Everyone else was pretty tame around me, but I didn't care. They said to give it a lot of emotion, and I was!
Then the actors jumped down (we were supposed to yell at them to "Jump! Jump! Jump!" which I did with gusto) and came back to the mat. Just as the casting assistant was telling us to back off the mat, I realized the actor playing the crazy-knife guy was right behind us!
He came out and did his crazy shtick (and then Indy shot him), and the final stunt was done with a truck racing away from the scene and then exploding! We were supposed to react to the explosion by collapsing onto the ground, which I did with glee, while a few others didn't quite get the memo to collapse until the effect was done - but that was okay since everyone was watching the explosion anyway.
With that, our scene was done. We weren't finished off the field, because Marion needed to pick the fake extra from the group and beat him up. It was easy to tell who it was (he was the distracted one), but it was fun watching the lady next to me freak out a little bit. I asked her, "Have you ever seen this show before?" And she said "No!" Not long after that she said, "He's not a real extra, is he?" so she figured it out fast.
I had done some really fun acting, got to take some bows and wave my arms at the crowd as I left, and returned to the costuming area. They gave us some water (that was hot, hard work!) and let us watch the third scene with the airplane.
It was wonderful being able to participate, even though the only pictures I got were selfies in my costume. I was hoping that maybe some cast member photographers would take pictures and give us a card with our experience (like they do pretty much everywhere else), but no luck. Oh, well. I got to have an amazing time and now you all got to hear about it!