When it comes to hiring a Weeki Wachee mermaid, tradition comes last. A traditional job interview, that is.
Weeki Wachee Springs State Park will hold auditions Jan. 13 for what it hopes will be several new additions to its world-famous mermaid squad. Currently, the squad has 17 performing mermaids and three princes.
The Weeki Wachee mermaids perform underwater year-round in 72-degree spring water from the head of the Weeki Wachee river. The mermaid show debuted on Oct. 13, 1947, in the theater built of limestone and submerged six feet below the spring’s surface.
The park expects at least 50 women to come for the first, and most physically demanding, part of the audition.
"It’s not easy what they do, and a lot of girls find that out (during the audition)," said John Athanason, public relations manager for the park.
On the first audition day, aspiring mermaids must complete a timed, 300-yard endurance swim, where they swim both with and against the water’s current. If they finish that successfully, candidates must tread water for 10 to 15 minutes.
"It’s an inherently dangerous job, and you need to be able to not only save yourself, but save a colleague," Athanason said.
Mermaid-hopefuls who complete the first two tests come back for an underwater audition with the theatre manager. That audition date has not been set.
Candidates will perform underwater ballet moves, like flips, a few feet below water in the park’s submerged mermaid tank that faces a 400-seat auditorium. The underwater audition shows how "comfortable" or "panicky" a candidate looks behind the glass, Athanason said.
In other words, how mermaid-like they look.
"It’s all about how comfortable they are," Athanason said. "We encourage everyone, from every background."
If they pass the first two stages, potential mermaids get a traditional question-and-answer interview with employers.
Hopefully, in an office.
Weeki Wachee mermaid pay starts at $10 an hour, and mermaids must be able to work at least four days a week. Candidates must be at least 18 and must reserve an audition spot by emailing [email protected] by Jan. 11.
Contact TyLisa C. Johnson at [email protected]