Archive for the ‘Life in Canada’ Category


At the filling station

1 August 2010

Does anyone, other than Jack Nicholson’s character in Little Shop of Horrors, actually like going to the dentist? These days, however, what with the wonders of anesthesia (which my dentist insists on calling “freezing”) my worries about pain have less to do with a high-speed drill hitting a nerve and more with things that dentists seem unaware of.

Maybe it’s my height, but after twenty minutes in a fancy-schmancy dentist’s chair my back is crying for mercy. Shouldn’t this high-priced hunk of furniture be as comfy as a La-Z-Boy? And when one’s mouth is full of plumbing, pointy metal picks and power tools, it seems ill-advised to squirm about in search of spinal relief.

Then there are the parts of my face that the dentist ignores at my peril. I understand his focus on the task and the teeth at hand. But must he brace that hand against my lip, painfully pinching it against the sharp edge of my teeth? I’m sensitive, dammit. In my most recent visit, mouth full of apparatus, I was at odds to explain that he had somehow folded my ear forward on itself and could he please stop doing that.

As a prodigious producer of saliva, one of my greatest fears in the dentist’s office is that of drowning. If the dental assistant isn’t paying attention, the pool at the back of my throat deepens until only desperate sounds of strangulation awaken her to my plight. That suction hose was custom designed for spit, so put it to use!

My current dentist provides sunglasses. Maybe they are to guard against shrapnel, the friendly fire of bone or old fillings fragments, hurled into the air by whatever reno work he’s doing in there. More likely is the shades are simply to cut the intensity of that powerful searchlight of his. In any case, with my head tipped back, my glasses quickly slipped upwards onto my forehead, and for half an hour neither the dentist nor his assistant seemed to notice. And that blasted light was pointing as much into my eyes as my mouth; my conspicuous squint should have been a clue.

Oh, well, I tend to close my eyes anyway. After all, what is there to look at? Long ago I thought if I ever become a dentist I will have my ceiling decorated to give patients something to view. A mural. Puzzles. A racy novel in large print.

So you dentists out there, try thinking outside the jaws. Recognize the need for more comprehensive comfort. Make it special enough and maybe I’ll require less “freezing” when I see what I’m being charged for my visit.


A Chance in Kamloops

2 March 2009

First of all, I must note how warm and welcoming the people at Western Canada Theatre have been. Not to diminish that compliment in the least, but I have found a similar reception from most theatres at which I have worked—more so than doing film and television, where one tends to be treated rather brusquely, what with money often being of higher status than art in such productions.

Secondly, I am wowed with everyone in the Man Who Shot Chance Delaney cast (with the possible exception of myself). This is somewhat rarer. Think of your job. There is usually someone who doesn’t pull his weight or whose personality sours the workplace. But these actors, as well as our running crew, are both impressive and inspiring. The cast includes Peter Anderson, Naomi Wright, Mia Ingimundson, Bob Frazer and Brian Linds. Huzzah, all.


Thompson River Valley

I have not met nor formed any opinion of the local populace. The city of Kamloops lies at the junction of two rivers among not-too-overwhelming mountains, most of which are picturesque (the exception being one right in the middle that looks like a big pile o’ dirt). The old downtown has some appeal, while the aroma provided by the area paper mill has not.A pretty hill and the pile o’ dirt

A scenic hill and the pile o’ dirt

Our motel is generally crappy, with broken appliances and sagging mattresses, but its location up a long, steep hill from the city centre provides a great view of the region. It’s a forty-minute, three-and-a-quarter kilometer (2 mile) hike down that long hill to the rehearsal space, and just as far—including a climb up a second hill—to reach the theatre. I manage the commute down to work all right, but for someone with bad knees, a bad back and the too-sedentary lifestyle resulting from those conditions, the return trip is difficult. I have been fortunate to locate rides most days. Such hill avoidance techniques become unlikely as of today.


The Sagebrush Theatre is a good space, with lots of room backstage and decent acoustics overall. It seats over 700, although our company only offers the 450 seats closest to the stage. We sold out that smaller number opening night.

The play is a hoot, that’s what it is, and so is the playwright. Ian Weir can write funny. He is also a thinker. I’ve said it before: smart plus silly, that’s for me.


I hope to have photos of the set and characters later.


Forward into the past

11 January 2009



In four weeks, Western Canada Theatre brings me out to Kamloops, BC and rehearsals for the world premiere of The Man Who Shot Chance Delaney, an affectionate, mostly comic tribute to those sprawling western sagas as told by Hollywood. Playwright Ian Weir, perhaps best known for his television work but whose creations range from stage to radio to film as well, is apparently rewriting even now, potentially enfeebling my current memorizing of lines.

I get to portray a handful of colourful characters, among them a travelling salesman, a sadistic gunslinger, a newspaper editor, and a small town mayor. The script seems great fun and I know of at least one terrific actor with whom I’ll get to share the stage. I met Naomi Wright a year ago at a party but finally saw her awe-inspiring work just last week as a guest performer with the amazing improv group Impromptu Splendor. She, too, and the rest of the cast, will play a variety of denizens from the saloon and into the sunset.

Set in Texas, New Mexico, and Kansas, the story spans the years 1855 to 1907. In a minor turn of the century coincidence,  Ah, Wilderness!, for which I begin rehearsing at a different theatre three weeks after Chance Delaney closes, is set in 1906, albeit in Connecticut. 

I may even get to wear a bowler hat in both plays.


Pastorized and Borderline acting

16 November 2008



I filmed a scene playing a minister in a new Hallmark TV movie, Taking a Chance on Love, that stars the gracious Genie Francis (the legendary Laura from General Hospital, among other credits) and the gregarious Ted McGinley (a regular on numerous TV series including Happy Days, Dynasty, Married with Children, Sports Night and Hope and Faith). I have not learned when the movie will air; might they rush it through post in time for this Christmas season?

Despite another small, forgettable role, the day was a happy one, thanks to the last minute addition of spoken dialogue for my character, the friendly cast and helpful crew, and the affable writer-director, Doug Barr. Thanks to all.

The Canadian film & television actors’ union, ACTRA, holds semi-annual conferences for their members with discussions, workshops and even some “free” food. (It’s all paid for by our dues, of course, but the volunteers who put these things together are to be lauded.)

Four cast members from the TV series The Border generously graced the most recent conference, answering questions at one session and re-enacting scenes from their show with selected non-stars at another. I got to do a brief scene with Nazneen Contractor, who was lovely and sweet. It was a truly enjoyable three minutes, no lie.

Now somebody please get me onto the actual damn show. Merci.



Rank? You bet!

1 November 2008


According to Foreign Policy magazine, Toronto makes it into the top ten “Global Cities.” Out of 60 ranked cities, Toronto comes in at #26 for “Business Activity” (surprisingly behind Milan and Stockholm but ahead of San Francisco and Berlin), #24 in “Political Engagement,” #18 in Information Exchange,” #10 in “Human Capital” (edging out Paris), and (insert fanfare here) #4 in “Cultural Experience” (trailing only London, Paris and New York).

Like all such lists, this index begs for arguments. Nonetheless, I shall enjoy a moment of pride. Happy to help your rating, Toronto. And rah, rah, culture! 


If you want to kiss the sky, better learn how to O’Neill

25 October 2008


Eugene O’Neill. American playwright. Tragedy. Gloom and doom. Disillusionment and despair.

And yet, O’Neill wrote one comedy. A gentle, nostalgic look at the boyhood—and the family—he wished he’d had.

I have been cast in Ah, Wilderness! at Chemainus Theatre Festival (same place I did Miracle on 34th Street last year) as Nat Miller, patriarch and owner of the local newspaper. It’s a role that has been played by the likes of George M. Cohan (original Broadway cast, 1933), Lionel Barrymore (movie, 1935), Jason Robards (Broadway, 1988), Craig T. Nelson (Broadway 1998), and Walter Pidgeon (musical version—Take Me Along, 1959).

A warmhearted and classic piece of theatre by an immortal. Spring on beautifully scenic Vancouver Island. Actual work in my actual profession. Good all around. 

April 22 to May 23, 2009. Be there.


Latitude stats

22 October 2008



Toronto beach

Toronto beach

When I announced I was headed north for my birthday vacation, most of the responses I got were variations of “You’re already north!” My friends and relatives do not as a rule tend to be idiots, so it was with some confidence that I assumed these comments were meant as jokes. 

Still, it seems a good idea to give a more precise view of my relative north-ness. I drove 225 km (140 miles) north-northeast from Toronto to our motel. The province of Ontario extends beyond that (to the northwest) another 1,500 km (930 miles). Canada itself stretches more than 2,800 km (1,740 miles) past Ontario’s northern boundary.

At latitude 43º 39′ 0″ N, Toronto is farther south than every other Canadian province and territory outside of Ontario, and only a few other Ontario cities are farther south than Toronto.

Toronto is farther south than Minneapolis, Seattle, and Portland, Oregon. In fact, Toronto is farther south than all of Alaska, Washington state, Montana, and North Dakota; south of almost all of Minnesota and Maine; and south of half of Oregon, Idaho, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Vermont and New Hampshire.

Toronto is farther south than the United Kingdom, Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Germany, Poland, Switzerland, Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine; as well as most of France (including Paris), Romania, and Russia.

Despite our near-tropic location, a brief flurry of snow yesterday—can you say early?—gave us a taunting of things to come. Yikes.