American Press: Your Best News And Advertising Source - Scene Features American Press: The Only Local Daily Newspaper In Southwest Louisiana. en-US Copyright (c) March, 2017 American Press. All rights reserved <![CDATA[George Lucas gives another $10M to USC for student diversity]]> By The Associated Press

NEW YORK -- George Lucas has given another $10 million to the University of Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts to fund the student diversity program he helped establish.

The donation was announced Monday by USC, Lucas' alma mater. Last fall, USC established a foundation in Lucas' name to support students from underrepresented communities who qualify for financial support. It was funded with an initial $10 million gift from the George Lucas Family Foundation.

Michael Renov, vice dean of academy affairs, said the gift will help USC "recruit storytellers whose voices are underrepresented in cinematic media and whose inclusion benefits all of us."

Mon, 27 Mar 2017 14:59:16 CST 13739389 at
<![CDATA[Barry Jenkins' next project? 'The Underground Railroad']]> By The Associated Press

NEW YORK -- "Moonlight" director Barry Jenkins will follow up his Oscar-winning film with a drama series for Amazon based on Colson Whitehead's "The Underground Railroad."

Amazon announced Monday that it will develop the TV series, with Jenkins writing and directing the adaptation of the 2016 National Book Award winner. Whitehead's "The Underground Railroad" is a part-historic, part-surrealistic novel about a slave who escapes on an actual railroad.

Jenkins has already been at work on the series, though how many episodes are planned was not announced.

"Moonlight," which last month won best picture, was Jenkins' second film following 2008's well-regarded but little-seen "Medicine for Melancholy." Made for just $1.5 million, "Moonlight" has grossed more than $56 million worldwide.

Mon, 27 Mar 2017 14:02:55 CST 13739284 at
<![CDATA[Houston student dies days after FaceTime with Beyonce]]> By The Associated Press

HOUSTON -- A Houston high school student has lost her battle with terminal cancer days after having a dream come true in a talk with Beyonce over a video chat.

Alief Independent School District spokeswoman Kimberly Smith says senior Ebony Banks died late Saturday night.

The teen's Hastings High School classmates started an online campaign before her death to give her a chance to meet her favorite singer, Beyonce. Banks received a FaceTime call Wednesday from the star.

The school gave Banks her diploma during a graduation ceremony in the hospital last week.

Students gathered at a candlelight vigil Sunday to remember Banks. Video posted on social media shows students raising candles to Beyonce's "Halo."

Mon, 27 Mar 2017 11:38:53 CST 13739098 at
<![CDATA[Actress Shailene Woodley reaches deal in pipeline protest]]> By The Associated Press

BISMARCK, N.D. -- Hollywood actress Shailene Woodley has reached a plea deal that calls for no jail time over her involvement in protests against the Dakota Access oil pipeline in North Dakota.

The "Divergent" star was among 27 activists arrested Oct. 10. She livestreamed her arrest on Facebook.

She initially pleaded not guilty to criminal trespass and engaging in a riot, misdemeanors carrying a maximum punishment of a month in jail and a $1,500 fine.

Woodley signed a court document Friday agreeing to plead guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct, serve one year of unsupervised probation and forfeit $500 bond. The agreement is awaiting a judge's approval. Woodley was scheduled to stand trial this Friday.

Opponents of the $3.8 billion pipeline worry about potential environmental damage. About 750 protesters have been arrested since August.

Mon, 27 Mar 2017 11:38:48 CST 13739095 at
<![CDATA[Lake Area Ballet Theatre Spring Gala: Performance will celebrate talents of over 50 local dancers]]> By John Guidroz / American Press

The Lake Area Ballet Theatre’s second Spring Gala is set for 7 p.m. Saturday at the Lake Charles Civic Center’s Rosa Hart Theatre and will feature more than 50 local dancers performing classical, modern and contemporary ballet.

Colleen Cannon Benoit, the theatre’s artistic director, said the event includes a mixed repertoire of short pieces from well-known productions, along with Passports, a production that features original choreography and music.

“We’re trying to reach a diverse audience so they can appreciate art in a different way,” she said.

Benoit said Passports features choreography by KaLinda LeJune and music arranged by Lonny Benoit and performed by the McNeese State University Percussion Ensemble. The high-energy piece features music played on Ghanian drums.

Benoit said the piece was arranged somewhat unconventionally, with choreography being done first, and Lonny Benoit writing the music to match the performance.

“I think it’s going to be a crowd pleaser,” she said. “The music is just great.”

?tudes is a traditional 20-minute ballet piece that will feature 24 dancers showing the classical moves ballet dancers learn. She said the black and white tutus were designed by a former Lake Charles Ballet Society dancer who now lives in Florida.

The gala will also feature O die Frauen!, a waltz by Johannes Brahms. Benoit said the Lake Charles BalletSociety first performed the piece in 1987. She said the piece will feature eight dancers and will depict a range of emotions, from despair to joy.

Another piece, Jukebox, is described as a high-energy 1950s number that focuses on a character similar to Fonzie from the TV show “Happy Days” and a woman as his romantic interest. Benoit said the Lake Charles Ballet Society first performed the piece in 1978.

Benoit said the dancers spent roughly two months preparing for the show, as most professional companies do.

Tickets are $25 and can be purchased online at or at the Civic Center box office.

For more, call Lake Area Ballet Theatre at 478-1654 or email


Thu, 23 Mar 2017 10:01:46 CST 13730280 at
<![CDATA[Wild Beast Feast: Symphony fundraiser chefs cooking up some down-home goodness]]> By Lisa Addison / American Press

Whet your appetites and get ready for the Lake Charles Symphony’s 17th annual Wild Beast Feast fundraiser on Saturday, March 25 in the courtyard of the Historic Calcasieu Marine National Bank.

With dishes that chefs have created incorporating game, poultry and seafood, there will be unique culinary offerings at every table.

Entertainment will be provided by Grammy-nominated musician Mickey Smith Jr. and Sax in the City.

Attendees can also take part in silent and live auctions featuring items like hunting and fishing trips, an LSU tailgating package, jewelry and gourmet dinners.

Wild Beast is the major fundraiser for the Symphony and money raised goes to support its educational and outreach programs.

“When it comes to local cooking events, I like to think of ours as the granddaddy of them all,” said Shelly Appleby, executive director of the Symphony. “This event got its start when one of our board members, Frank Pruitt, wanted to come up with something to get men more involved with the fundraising side of things and he basically said to them, ‘Go home and pull whatever you have out of your freezer from hunting or fishing trips and let’s get cooking’ and that’s exactly what they did and then over the years it has really taken off.”

Tickets are $50 (14 years old and up); $25 (7-13); and free admission, 6 and under.

Doors open at 5 p.m. and tickets may be purchased at Gordon Drugs and Fine Gifts on Lake Street and Crave Gourmet Baskets and Gifts on Ryan St., at the door, or online at

Thu, 23 Mar 2017 08:40:23 CST 13730005 at
<![CDATA[Maplewood Discount: Home of the Stuffed Burgers]]> By Lindsay Huth / American Press

Sulphur’s Maplewood Discount is, well, a convenience store. There are neon beer signs in the windows, aisles of chips and candy, and a wall of refrigerated drinks.

But on the store’s Facebook page, the “About” section contains a single sentence: “Home of the Stuffed Burgers!!!!” Indeed.

Served up behind a counter along the store’s right side, the massive burgers are stuffed with everything from bacon and cheese to shrimp and crawfish.

It wasn’t always this way. Krish Patel bought Maplewood Discount in 2011, back when it was just a store.

But he’d grown up around food; his parents have registered over 20 years in various food businesses. In the ’90s, the family bought a store in Tampa, Fla., and started churning out fresh, ever-more-creative takes on Cuban sandwiches.

“Really, my parents got involved in food,” Patel said. “That’s how I fell in love.”

Patel himself has worked for several restaurants and took over operation of a hotel, too.

So it’s no surprise, then, that he and his parents started experimenting with sandwiches again, this time within the confines of Maplewood Discount.

His mom, he said, does most of the research for the burgers — even though, as a vegetarian, “she’s never had meat in her life,” Patel said. His dad, who also helps create the menu items, only eats chicken and fish.

“My mom can put something together in her head, without tasting it, and it’ll be good,” Patel said.

Patel and the crew unveiled their creations in May or June of last year, Patel said, starting with four or five burgers.

Since then, they’ve expanded the menu to 10 varieties, ranging from $7 to $12.

I picked three burgers to try: the bacon stuffed, the barbecue stuffed brisket and the Cajun Kick, all ordered on sourdough buns.

Patel said he recently cleared the front third of the store for tables and chairs, giving a convenient space to dig in onsite.

The bacon stuffed burger is simply massive.

Long strips of bacon are sandwiched inside the oversized patty, which lies on a gooey bed of pepper jack cheese.

I ordered mine with everything — lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles and mustard — and the tanginess of the pickles and mustard contrasted well with the richness of the meat and cheese.

The barbecue stuffed brisket burger was similarly huge, with shards of brisket compacted into a patty and stuffed with pepper jack cheese.

The sandwich was topped with caramelized onions and absolutely drenched in a sweet barbecue sauce, making for a messy but satisfying dish. Patel said the brisket burger is his most popular.

Last came the Cajun Kick burger, the only non-stuffed burger on the plate.

It came laden with lettuce, tomato, onion and melted pepper jack and covered in Maplewood’s signature Cajun Kick sauce — a creamy, spicy sauce with a definite tang.

The heat was almost overwhelming to me, but I’m sure braver souls will find it to their liking.

All the burgers came with a generous helping of medium-cut french fries, with a crispy exterior and creamy, potatoey interior. They were topped with a spicy, salty seasoning for good measure.

Maplewood Discount also serves several meat-and-cheese breakfast sandwiches, and Patel said he’s added some meatless fish sandwiches, too.

He’s always adding to the menu, and two new burgers are now undergoing testing: a stuffed Italian burger and a stuffed macaroni and cheese burger.

Maplewood Discount, at 4124 Maplewood Drive, might be a convenience store, but there’s much more than chips and candy to be found there.

Thu, 23 Mar 2017 08:39:13 CST 13730001 at
<![CDATA[Butterfly release to benefit Harbor Foundation]]> By Pamela Sleezer / American Press

The Harbor Foundation will host its second annual butterfly release at 11 a.m. Saturday, April 1, at the Lake Charles Civic Center’s Amphitheater.

Admission and food is free, along with several kid-friendly games and activities. Live music will be provided by Louisiana Bad Habit.

Items available for purchase are T-shirts and live butterflies that will be released at 1 p.m. Each butterfly can be purchased for $10 and will be released even if its purchaser is not able to attend.

All proceeds from the event will be used to support local families receiving services through Harbor Hospice, created to help provide additional assistance to families with the costs of care for their loved ones.

Harbor Hospice is based out of Beaumont, Texas, and continues to be supported from that office, but spokesperson Whitney Peterson said local fundraisers like Saturday’s allow the funds to be focused solely on Lake Charles families.

“We are very grateful for all the support that we receive from our corporate office, but we know that every little bit helps and we wanted to do our part to bring in as many funds for our local families that we can,” she said.

Peterson said when it came time to choose what type of fundraiser to hold last year, a butterfly release seemed to be the moist poignant way to represent what Harbor Hospice is all about.

“A butterfly can mean many things to different people. They can be released Saturday as a way to express hope for a loved one currently receiving care, or it can be released as a way to pay remembrance to someone who has passed away,” she said.


For more, call 409-981-1888. Butterfly purchasing forms can be found at

Thu, 23 Mar 2017 08:38:09 CST 13729999 at
<![CDATA[Comic J.J. Jasper takes stage in DeRidder]]> By Pamela Sleezer / American Press

American Family Radio personality, comedian and author J.J. Jasper will perform in DeRidder Saturday night for a local Crisis Pregnancy Center benefit.

Doors will open at First Baptist Church on U.S. 171 at 6:30 p.m., with Jasper taking the stage at 7 p.m.

A native of Mississippi, when Jasper is not on the air he is traveling across the nation appearing as a keynote speaker and comedian, where he shares his insights and testimony of struggling with loss and living a Christian life.

He is the bestselling author of “Losing Cooper: Finding Hope to Grieve Well” and” Moses Was a Basketcase” as well the children’s book “When I Grow Up.”

The event will serve as the pregnancy center’s main fundraiser of the year, and director Theresa Allen said proceeds will help the center continue its mission of helping support women in a crisis pregnancy situation and educate them in parenting skills until their child is 2.

“We offer programs here at our center to help educate women of all ages who find themselves in an unplanned pregnancy. We teach them how to cope with the pregnancy and how to handle the challenge of being a new mother,” Allen said.

Allen said the center operates solely off of donations from the community, and that events like Saturday’s will help keep its doors open.

General admission tickets are available for $25, with VIP session tickets available for $100. Tickets can be purchased early at First Baptist Church, or at the door.

Thu, 23 Mar 2017 08:36:59 CST 13729996 at
<![CDATA['Rockin' for Recovery': VOA fundraiser to feature music by GTO]]> By Lisa Addison / American Press

Beats & Eats, the annual fundraiser for Volunteers of America, will be held 6-10 p.m. Friday, March 24, in the Buccaneer Room of the Lake Charles Civic Center.

In its ninth year, the theme is “Rockin’ for Recovery,” with music by the GTO’s and a buffet dinner prepared by Treasure’s of Marilyn’s. Attire is business casual.

“We will also have a personal testimony from one of the folks that we have served though our mental health case management program,” said Kay Vanchiere, VOA spokesperson. “We’ve been able to help him with lots of things including getting his own apartment and in maintaining his lifestyle balance. We’re looking forward to him sharing his journey with those in attendance.”

The dinner menu includes choices of smothered pork roast or shrimp etouffee; salad; rice pilaf; green beans; dinner rolls; and dessert choices of chocolate or lemon treats.

There will also be an auction with more than 75 items including: fishing trips; art by Candice Alexander; pottery by Rex Alexander; and restaurant gift certificates to many local restaurants.

A raffle drawing will be held at the event for a gift card bundle valued at $625; it’s not necessary to be present to win.

Volunteers of America provides education, community support, and housing to individuals with behavioral health disorders, disabilities, the elderly, support for child care centers, pregnancy counseling, and infant adoptions.


Tickets for Beats & Eats are $55 and are available at the door. For information, call 337-497-0034.

Thu, 23 Mar 2017 08:35:56 CST 13729995 at