Gov. Bobby Jindal Offered Role in Local Production of “Bus Stop”

After viewing Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s response to President Barack Obama’s speech to Congress on Tuesday evening, the members of the Baton Rouge Community Theatre (BRCT, for short) found themselves floored. Last week, the group held auditions over two evenings to fill the roles in the William Inge masterpiece Bus Stop, but they failed to find just the right actor to play Bo Decker. Most members of the play group thought it was impossible to fill a role usually reserved for grossly untrained actors who have no idea how to work a crowd or a camera. But all of that changed with Jindal’s stilted and forced speech admonishing big government and the end of the temporary tax cuts put in place by former President George W. Bush.

“He’s an absolute star,” said Barbara Toyleston, president and 27-year veteran of the theater group. “His charisma and youthfulness just blew me away.” Citing his clean-cut look and off-putting folksiness dominant throughout his speech, Toyleston said he had everything the part required, and she could not help but imagine Gov. Jindal in the role of Bus Stop‘s Bo Decker. “Usually with the important roles, we’ll just cast [local high school senior] Dan Longsmith nearly sight-unseen, but Bobby just outshone Dan in every way. I mean, just watch the first two minutes of his speech, and you will see just how well he fits in with the rest of the terribly unprepared performers in our little community.”

Dan Longsmith, local actor

Dan Longsmith, local actor, does not hold a candle to Jindal in horrible regional theater acting ability

Toyleston and director Johan Colczyski wasted no time in composing and sending out a formal offer letter to the Governor’s office, and they hope to hear a confirmation within the next week. But time is of the essence; rehearsals start March 2nd, and the first of six weekend performances begin April 17th.

Colczyski is confident that author William Inge, dead for well over 25 years, would undoubtedly praise the Baton Rouge Community Theatre group for offering a part to Jindal. The Indian-American governor’s style harkens back to the raw community theater of old, where completely untalented teenagers and local citizens, who had no stake in art’s progress in a disaffected republic, could take on a role to express commentary on the state of local affairs. Jindal, without any effective media training for national-level speeches, clearly relied on the oratory techniques he picked up giving oral reports in middle school, and Colczyski says that’s what makes him perfect for their production of Bus Stop. The Governor attempted to undercut President Obama’s message of hope and change and American perseverance, which was validated by 9 million more votes than Senator John McCain, but he aptly demonstrated he was ready to take the community theater scene by storm. His artificial intonations of particular phrases as he talked about family life, tax cuts, and the welfare of all Americans mirrored the performance director Colczyski would expect of a local actor portraying Bo Decker. “If the lead doesn’t sound phony in a sing-songy delivery of his lines, then he’s not really doing his job,” Colczyski said. “But Bobby could pull that off in a hot second.”

Witness Jindal’s vocal inflections that bounce up and down to relate to the average American’s confusion with and condemnation of government’s role in everyday life. Just like fellow Republican Governor Sarah Palin, his flagrant rural American accent demonstrates that he could be tremendously out of touch with the rest of the United States’ populace and be a perfect addition to community theater. “He gave a performance just like a poorly prepared high school outcast who never delivered a monologue on a stage,” said Colczyski, “He is exactly who we want as our Bo Decker.”

Without a doubt, it is the folksiness that has attracted the attention of regional theater groups across the state. Baton Rouge Community Theatre hopes to recruit Jindal first, since they are a local entity with strong ties to the immediate theater scene, but they admit it will not be easy. “The big problem is the some of the larger theater groups offer greater incentives for the raw talent to perform with them,” admitted Toyleston. “It’s difficult to compete with an extra $15 per performance and free street parking before 9pm during rehearsals. And you know those better-financed theater companies who can offer such lavish riders in their contracts will be after him.” But BRCT skews to a younger audience and it generally appeals to the young, talentless, would-be actors in town who couldn’t land a Pizza Hut commercial if their lives depended on it, so Toyleston isn’t terribly worried.

“I feel like I’m watching a kids’ show on Nickelodeon when I watch this speech,” said Jan Hackett, a sophomore at Baton Rouge Univeristy. “But I’ll be damned if I wouldn’t watch Governor Jindal in Bus Stop! He’s perfect for Bo Decker!!”

The BRCT hopes to use examples like Jan Hackett’s excitement to attract Jindal to this Spring’s production, as he is trying to appeal a new generation of young voters. “It’s a win-win for everyone if he agrees to play Bo,” admitted producer Toyleston. “He will learn how affect his speech and applause lines like a proper individual in front a large crowd, and we will bring in new potential theater-goers for the up-coming season. In June we are putting on Our Town and The Lion in Winter; we do hope Bobby and everyone else can make it to auditions.”

Slumdog Millionaire: A Touching Fairytale

Warning: This review contains extensive spoilers!! So if you have not seen the movie and you don’t care if you find out about major plot developments, like who lives, who dies, and that head-scratching twist ending, READ ON!

Run, Latika, Run!

Run, Latika, Run!

Well folks, it’s that time of year again, Academy Awards Season. And while I’m sitting here at the 1-hour cleaners getting my tuxedo dry cleaned for my big Oscars viewing party that I host every year, I thought I’d whip out my brand new MacBook and put together a review of the film I saw yesterday. Because I’ll be honest, since seeing Slumdog Millionaire, I can’t stop talking about it. I’ve been going on and on about it to my friends, co-workers, and doorman. Sha’nandra, the checkout girl at the A&P, also got an earful from me today about how amazing this movie is.

Never before has such an uplifting and beautiful tale been presented on celluloid. Without a doubt, it is a masterpiece that pulls at the heart strings and reminds you about the best parts of youth and humanity.

Slumdog Millionaire is about a young Mexican man’s battle with poverty, sibling rivalry, love, and game show hosts. It opens with a ringside seat to a young contestant’s final trivia question on a particularly popular game show. How does he win the big bucks? How did he get here? What will he do with those winnings? But before we learn the answers, we are whisked away to a Mexican jail, where the same young man is, how would say…exposed to enhanced interrogation techniques. Superstar director Danny Boyle isn’t afraid to get right in your face immediately with some inhumane acts. Fine, you think to yourself, you’ve got my attention, Mr. Boyle. Now impress me. And for the next 117 minutes, he does just that.

The jailed victim is Jamal Malik, a young man being held on suspicion of cheating on Mexico’s most popular game show, “Who Wants To Be Un Millonario?” We learn that even the brightest minds in the country — scholars, philosophers, and scientists — never make it past a handful of questions. But Jamal has made his way to the top, one final question away from 20,000,000 rupees. The police sergeant has some questions for Jamal about how he could know the answers to such a wide range of questions. What is so odd about Jamal defying all the odds? He comes from the poorest area of Mumbai, Mexico, which is not known to produce geniuses with extensive world knowledge or the technological know-how to cheat on a game show in this day and age. As Jamal and the sergeant watch the show taping from the night before and go through each question, Jamal describes how he knows about famous actors in India, Native American poets, ingredients in a Shepherd’s Pie, the original members of the Justice League, and so on. Many amateur storytellers forget the sage advice passed down from their creative writing professors and acting coaches, “Don’t tell me, SHOW ME,” but not Boyle, who neither forgetful or an amateur. He shows us exactly how a young Mexican ‘slumdog’ knows so many amazing disparate trivia questions by taking us back to events in Jamal’s childhood where he picked up this information. (Slumdog, by the way, is a Spanish word imported from the British term “slimedigger,” which is — as we all know — a term commonly used to refer to poor street urchins who used to scrape the slime from underneath roadway cobblestones to sell to soapmakers for 2 bits and a slap in the face.) Each answer in Jamal’s mind is not simply a trivia fact he picked up on the back of cereal box or a discarded New York Times; each bit of information has its own backstory, replete with drama and explosive character development. Boyle uses the flashbacks, in a tip of the hat to TV’s LOST, to weave together a complete picture of our protagonist.

Lens Flare, or something else entirely?

Lens Flare, or something else entirely?

We see Jamal as a young child and a preteen, growing up on the streets with his brother Salim and their companion Latika. Like thousands of other poor Mexican youths, they must survive with only a few tools at their disposal: one part cuteness, three parts wit, and probably a dash of health insurance with a presumably high deductible. Boyle keeps the tone mostly light, but with a hastened pace. The kids grow before our eyes and their inner natures become heightened. Latika always does what’s necessary to survive. Jamal enjoys more and more the companionship in his life. But Salim derives too much pleasure from manipulating strangers and his younger partners. In one pivotal scene, after a hard day taking advantage of ignorant American tourists, they celebrate the spoils of their work, enjoying burritos and nips of alcohol. Now older and enjoying the taste of greed, Salim, once his brother’s rescuer, betrays Jamal’s desires and sends him away.

You root for Jamal and Latika to reunite after being split apart twice by Salim’s machinations. Salim’s actions were once to protect his hermano and they later devolve to only protect his own interests. But Jamal is unable to not love his brother, and the power of his optimism and capacity for compassion is what brings Salim to finally act in Jamal’s interest. After the hardships they all endure, each of them finds redemption, whether in becoming a game show champion, or in the arms of their soulmate, or in an artistically over-the-top death in a bathtub full of cash.

We Can Dance If You Want To

We Can Dance If You Want To

It’s a fairytale about young love, set against the backdrop of the Mexican streets where survival means taking advantage of all opportunities as they come along. Well, for as long as they have the means to beam it onto a giant screen, you will have the opportunity to see this uplifting story for anywhere from five to twelve dollars per viewing. Please do yourself the favor and run, don’t walk, to the theater!

And yes, it’s not a perfect movie. Like any work of art, it has its problems. For example, the uniquely designed narrative structure lifted from the popular television show LOST that I mentioned earlier is cheap, but forgivable. The utterly strange native dialect that I couldn’t pick one word out of, despite four years of high school Spanish, takes you out of the story a little bit. Oh, and the big twist ending that had everyone in the theater texting WTF? Turns out, they were all ghosts.

Anyway, my tux is ready. After the Oscars, be sure to come back to check out my wrap-up special and sign my letter of petition to get Paul Blart: Mall Cop onto IMAX screens. See you next time!