Laredo Little Theater’s Beauty and the Beast Jr.: Be Their Guest

IMG_5575Full disclosure: When the proposition of attending the Laredo Little Theater‘s adaptation of Beauty and the Beast was presented, excitement was not part of the initial reaction. I had known of the theater for decades but had never paid enough attention to consider it a viable entertainment option in Laredo. Honestly, I’ve never thought of Laredo, Texas as a hub for “theatrical” talent. Still, the kids wanted to see it and Dad was going to deliver.

Upon arriving, I was a bit concerned as the lobby, with its mild, stale odor, was hot and humid. Considering the dated look of the structure, I wondered if the air-conditioning/ventilation system was also well past its expiration date. Wrong. The theater area itself smelled fresh and the temperature was very comfortable, enhancing the theater’s nostalgic charm. Once I located our seats, the waiting game began.

The crowd shuffled in and soon, the place was packed with a variety of faces of all ages. From the young to the elderly, there was a growing electricity in the atmosphere and, I must admit, it got me excited. By the time the lights went down and our host hit the stage promptly at 8:00pm, I was ready for the experience.

The performance began and I was quickly captivated. The opening scene was clean, audible and convincingly acted. One by one, the key players came into focus: Princess Belle (Janette Tijerina) quickly showcased her beautiful vocals and the villainous Gaston (Mark Astudillo) was comically brutish with brawny charisma. Cheering and placating Gaston with poise and quick wit was Gaston’s quintessential sidekick Lefou (Ricky Hernandez Jr.). The kid also showcased solid singing prowess. All of the opening performers brought key talents that elevated the story.

The cast introduction continued into the castle scene. The crowd was delighted to see the adaptions of the half-man, half-clock Cogsworth (Mario Rojas), Lumiere (Rogelio Huerta Paz) with his candlestick hands, Mrs. Potts (Richelle Garcia) a tea-offering pot, and her charming son Chip (Ben Garcia), the human cup. The Beast (Alberto Cruz Jr.) was as angry as one would expect him to be, considering his situation.

05cb28c8aec6c908e8a69ff2e8b3355f_9nt9All of the cast members showed great vocal range and competent stage acumen. From my vantage point, the night belonged to Belle, Gaston, Cogsworth and Lumiere. Each of those thespians delivered with comedic timing, vocal grace and fluid movement. Cogsworth and Lumiere were extremely entertaining and kept the plot lively even when the storyline hit low points.

This is not to say that the other actors of this play were lacking brilliance. Mrs. Potts, Beast, the chorus and all of the supporting cast participants delivered dazzling performances. The “wolf” dancers were the epitome of elegance and power wrapped into one. The play kept a solid pace and climaxed at the right time. It was as enchanting as it was surprising.

As the show came to an end and those on the dais took their final bows, I realized that well over an hour had gone by and not once did I feel regret for having been present. The fact is, the only regret that entered my mind that night was that of a person who had been closed-minded by the potential of local acting talent. This is a mistake that has been gladly corrected. Now, I am a fan.

(Note: tickets were sold out last week and may be sold out for the final run of the show ending August 9, 2015.  Still, try to go see it.  Click link for ticket info.)

Decriminalizing Marijuana in Texas: a ‘Divine’ Cause?

While the legalization of marijuana campaign continues to gain steam as multiple states, including Colorado and Washington (having moved past the “medical” portion of the argument and included “recreational use” as part of their revamped laws), many in Texas believed that the Lone Star State would not be considering any form of legalization soon. Texas remains one of the true bastions of far-right traditionalism and has furthered the move to the outer limit of right conservatism under Tea Party rule. Therefore, it was a bit of a shock when House Bill 2165, an act that would completely legalize adult use of marijuana, was proposed and actually gained some traction.

The bill was not the only marijuana decriminalization proposed this legislative session (see House Bill 507), but it was the only one that touted full toleration of “weed” for adults.

The statute was the creation of David Simpson, a Christian conservative Republican out of Longview, Texas, with strong ties to the Tea Party. During an interview with the Texas Observer in May 2015, Simpson rationalized, “Right now, you can’t legally use the plant responsibly to help people with PTSD, epilepsy, cancer or pain.” He added, “We need to change that.”

As is the case with the vast majority of conservative Christian politicians and their supporters, the separation of church and state tends to be a mere suggestion and Simpson’s reasoning for the legislation had a religious foundation. During the same interview, Simpson was quoted as saying, “I don’t believe that when God made marijuana, he made a mistake government needs to fix.”

As bizarre as that may sound to some non-Christian conservative right-wingers, one thing is for sure: according to Simpson, one can now add divinity as a legitimate argument for the decriminalization of marijuana. The masterful blending of church and state, Texas style.

Amen, anyone?

And while the initial justifications are far more accepted and utilized in the fight for marijuana decriminalization, it is likely “pot” pundits will accept any reason they can if it means it will help the cause. Bill 2165 made it out of the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee by a 5-2 vote but met its end in the House Calendars Committee: a graveyard for bills that lawmakers do not wish to tackle publicly. It’s a failsafe area used by the government to avoid “hot topic” issues deemed not ready for public debate.   Buried alongside 2165 was HB 507 (Sponsor: El Paso Democrat Joe Moody), which would have made possession of less than 1 once of cannabis a civil offense.

Regardless of the outcome of both pieces of legislation, the fact that two Texas bills harvested support to decriminalize marijuana suggests that lawmakers will have to debate this issue in the near future.

What are your thoughts on the legalization of marijuana in Texas?