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A Chance in Kamloops

2 March 2009
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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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Forward into the past

11 January 2009

 

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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.

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Stop fighting me! (Happy New Year)

31 December 2008

 

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In the movie Bedazzled (the demented Peter Cook/Dudley Moore original, not the disappointing Brendan Fraser remake) the devil is portrayed as one who spends less time causing wars, plagues, and disasters than simple aggravations. He puts scratches in record albums (remember those?) and causes a pigeon to poop on a clergyman, resulting in a blasphemy. 

This concept seems to me a remarkably true one. Day-to-day annoyances are more than enough with which to do battle. I am often heard to cry, “Stop fighting me!”

A sock that insolently falls behind the dryer. A key that requires interminable fidgeting. A garden hose that refuses to relinquish its kink. A drawer that somehow entangles its contents so that the one item you need brings unwanted friends along. All the trash that when tossed at a wastebasket bounces off the rim and onto the floor.  A zipper or a button or a snap that simply will not close, dammit. Plastic wrap! Stop fighting me!!

The world becomes an obstacle. One’s mood sours, which leads to snapping at others which leads to hurt feelings as well as guilt and shame, and on downward we go until we’re doing the devil’s work for him.

It’s almost a relief to have governments, banks and overpaid executives to blame for things. Most people I know have said that 2008 was a bad year. For me, it wasn’t a catastrophe but it certainly was not much fun.

I’ve noticed something interesting as we approach 2009. Experts predict a difficult year ahead, but the general public seems surprisingly optimistic. I believe this is for two reasons. First, Obama. More than just a man anymore, he is a symbol of hope for many of us. Good luck, Barack. You’ll need it.

Second, because ’08 was unpleasant or worse, there is a compelling need for it to be over. It may be wishful thinking that the change of a digit will also mean the change of our fortunes, especially since New Year’s is such an arbitrary date anyway. Still, people see the change of the calendar as a new beginning that could finally bring blessed relief.

Despite the odds, I truly wish us all well. 

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Present Imperfect

21 December 2008

 

watchyerlanguageTime was, if you heard some news or a suggestion you liked, you might respond, “Good.” What with language being a casualty of inflation, what once was a thoroughly appropriate word was often supplanted by “Great!” Lately I’ve been hearing a ridiculous overuse of “Perfect.”

Really? Perfect? I doubt it. Unable to be improved upon? Unlikely.

I lament how the meanings of words become diluted. One such victim is “awesome.” The next time you hear someone use the word, consider if what they are referring to actually might fill anyone with awe.

I cringe at word misuse. “Unique” does not simply mean unusual, but rather “one of a kind.” One, only one! Something cannot be “very unique.” It might be mighty rare, or quite uncommon, or even “nearly unique,” but once it is unique, that’s it. Otherwise, it’s like saying that the light switch was turned “very off.” Or that something is “very perfect.” Can’t be.

Absurd abbreviations, in a deluded attempt to be hip, are another matter. Is anyone actually so hopeless as to follow an advertiser’s campaign and say “SoCo” instead of “Southern Comfort?” A local TV channel, in their onscreen graphic promoting upcoming programming, has inexplicably replaced the word “Tonight” with “Ton.” How does that help? And recently I heard that, in place of the aforementioned “perfect,” someone actually uttered, “Perf!”

Weakening words and their meanings results in our being less able to say precisely what we intend. Because both god and the devil are in the details, I decry the pervasive, lazy sloppiness that cuts our vocabulary off at the knees. Like littering, the discarding of clarity demonstrates humanity’s appalling apathy.

Alas, I realize it will only get worse. There’s no stopping the dumbing down of language. Hey, everyone’s doing it. Because after all, no one’s perf.

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Celebrity Tally

22 November 2008

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Since becoming a professional actor in 1980, I’ve gotten to work with celebrities now and then. Here’s a chronological list of those with whom I shared a scene or more in film, television or theatre. (Not counted are stars who shared a show but not a scene with me, or famous folk I’ve met but not worked with.)

How many of the of the 22 productions represented can you identify?

Dawnn Lewis
Griffin Dunne
Anna Chlumsky
Mike Speller
Hervé Villechaize
Sam Waterston
Melissa Joan Hart
Jeff Altman
Justin Timberlake
Dolly Parton
Phylicia Rashad
Ellen Burstyn
Elizabeth McGovern
Stephen Root
Gregory Harrison
Rene Auberjonois
Heath Ledger
Donal Logue
Jason Isaac
Harry Connick, Jr.
William Atherton
John Travolta
James Gandolfini
Scott Caan
Lonny Price
Michael Andrew
Lauren Graham
Genie Francis
Ted McGinley

Of course, there are many other actors I consider stars with whom I’ve been privileged to perform. They should not take it as a slight to find their names missing here, for their names are in my heart. Or my pants.

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Pastorized and Borderline acting

16 November 2008

 

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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.

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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!