American Life Radio Show

458: Play the Part

 http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/458/play-the-part

This radio show was about playing the part of someone doing something on camera or for people that they would never do themselves on a regular basis. The show featured two stories. The first story, act one, was titled The Audacity of Louis Ortiz. The story is told by Ryan Murdock, who is making a documentary by the same name.

Luis Ortiz is a 30-something year old Hispanic man living in Harlem. He was a military man and is now in search of a stable job to keep a flout. Ortiz has something special about him that could help him make his way out of his hole. He looks just like the president of the United States, and the one feature that makes it believable is his ears. Louis notices this, thanks to someone in a bar pointing it out and goes with it. First Ortiz buys a suit, gets head shots and begins his impersonation career on one of the largest stages in America – Yankee Stadium. Ortiz dresses as the president, asks his law enforcement friends to protect him and enters the stadium getting recognized and asked to kiss babies. The suddenness of recognition is what skyrockets Ortiz’s career.

As his career progresses, the calls for appearances and jobs fade as Obama’s approval rating disintegrates. His and Obama’s careers are interwoven. He also gets all the negativity that Obama personally can’t get. He experiences racism like never before and is genuinely scared for his life. Louis Ortiz, after his career has hit a low point, tries to reconcile his relationship with his daughter, who he never sees. But lack of money and stability this attempt is unsuccessful. Louis is now trying to perfect his craft in order to revitalize his career as Obama’s look-a-like in an attempt to get his life on a steady track.

The story itself was very compelling. Produced on the radio it played like watching a documentary. Through transitional sounds and music the show was able to tell the story with energy and interest. All of the interviews were pre-recorded, which allowed for fluidity as the story was being told. Interviews included voices from all of the main characters, including Ortiz and Murdock, the documentarian.  The radio also employs use of sound effects to put the listener at the places described by the various characters; this keeps the story very intriguing. Also playing speeches and an expert from ­Flight of the Concords puts context to the story as it’s being told to queue in the audience if they have not seen or heard about these Oritz appearances, which adds depth to the story being told.

By telling the story in such a dramatic way, with production techniques like such as interviews, music and sound excerpts, the radio show is able to have a energy that keeps the listener engaged and moved by the story. The show remained gripping and had a life that did not sound read, but rather preformed, which is a treat to any listener.

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