Last month I had the opportunity to speak to a class of acting students about my work. Dean Armstrong—dear friend, colleague, and founding director of Armstrong Acting Studios—thought insight into my unique career in the arts would be of value to his students. Since the speaking engagement included a trip to Toronto, I couldn’t resist the invitation.
Toronto is one of my favorite places. Both the 2006 short and 2008 feature-length films of Repo! The Genetic Opera were filmed there, so I’ve spent a fair amount of time in the city. I’ve also made many lasting friendships north of the eastern U.S. border, including Dean (Repo! fans will recognize him as Repo Man’s “Thankless Job” victim).
Even though performance is a big part of what I do—and I’ve worked with and employed my fair share of actors over the years—I’ve never spoken from an acting perspective about my profession. I suppose this is because I identify more as a writer and visual artist than ac-tor. Also: from a film production standpoint, those brief moments when the cameras are actually rolling often feel like breaks from work when compared against the years it takes to develop, assemble, and execute projects. As such, I was a little unsure how to approach a seminar geared specifically to thespians.
After brainstorming, the only thing I was certain of was that I wanted my seminar to deliver an experience for AAS students that was wholly different from that of the casting directors, agents, and actors that traditionally come to speak at the school… so I broke out the duct tape and plastic blankets, and got to it.
As a writer, I’m generally more interested in why people do what they do than how they do it. As such, I decided to kick off my three-hour evening seminar with a personal and creepy story about secretly drawing naked women when I was a schoolboy. I chose to share this tale because I believe it informs much of my present state and drive as an artist.
As has been the case with so much of my public work, the reaction from the classroom gallery to my dirty confessional seemed divided—especially when gauged by the furrowed brow on the father of the only child actor in the room—but as I went on to describe using primary passions to fuel success and find an authentic artistic voice, I think most in attendance came around.
In addition to attempting words and tales of inspiration, the T.O. visit afforded me the chance to visit old stomping grounds and reconnect with folks I hadn’t seen in years, including Dr. Berta Bacic (considering the motley band of degenerates that make up the majority of my friendship circle, it’s weird to know that any of my familiars are doctors… even ones residing some 2,500 miles away).
Berta owns and operates a dental practice in Burlington (thirty minutes outside of Toronto) and is about to open a second clinic in the city. In 2009, when I was in town for my first live Repo! shadowcast experience, Berta examined my much-neglected choppers and sent me back home to Los Angeles with a clean bill of dental health and a toothier grin. I blogged about the adventure in detail here.
Five years later—and five years since my last tooth exam—I again found myself strapped to Dr. Berta’s skillful chair.
Like a vintage vehicle, the older I get, the more maintenance seems necessary to preserve my banged-up chassis. An x-ray and a few minutes under The Scraper proved that my teeth were no exception to this declining motor standard as my mouth bore early signs of gum disease. If my jaw wasn’t already pried open, it would’ve surely dropped as Berta informed me of this. She then said that four-hours of chiseling would be required to safeguard my not-so-pearly whites.
It’s strange to have hands and metal digging under your gums. It’s also strange to realize mid-treatment that your beard has gotten so out of control that the dentist needs to push your lip whiskers aside to properly do their art. Even more strange is leaving the clinic to kill time before catching a plane back home and finding that the only place within walking distance with Wi-Fi is a McCafé. Strangest of all is answering a phone call from an identified number (with post-dental numb gums) and hearing the voice of a relative you haven’t spoken to in years calling you from prison on a smuggled cell phone. Yes, this all happened.
I want to thank Berta and Leigh Ann for tending to my devil-may-care mouth. If you’re in Southern Ontario and in need of dental nurturing, be sure to visit Dr. Berta Bacic & Associates. I also want to thank Dean and the students of Armstrong Acting Studios for making me feel welcomed, and for letting me ramble about things I love. To all my friends in Toronto, ’til the next time.
Any fair readers looking to share their own tales of joy and woe upon the dentist’s slab, please do so in the “Comments” section below.