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.”
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.”