Following your passion is sexy

Q. What do the following words have in common?

Cold-blooded, assassination, bloodstained, torture, accused, premeditated, critic, grovel, swagger, excitement, lackluster, puking, amazement, arouse and gossip.

A. They were all invented by Shakespeare. This is a partial list of words and phrases he coined that are still in use today. 400+ years ago and the guy is still relevant.


I had a horrid day and just wanted to go home, crawl under the floorboards and die, but I had a ticket to see a production of As You Like It and didn’t want to eat the $18, so off I went. Walking down 36th Street, I was thinking that the last thing I needed was three hours of Shakespeare in a small, off, off, way off, Broadway theater being presented by a neophyte company.

I walked into a nondescript light manufacturing building off of 9th Avenue and took the elevator to the third floor. The doors opened into a small, almost bare performance space. Three rows of folding chairs on a riser. Low ceiling. Actors mulling about. And then that thing happened. That thing you can’t chase or anticipate. The thing that sneaks up on you and knocks you flat when you’re not looking.

The Happy Few Theater Company, in their inaugural production, with a small budget and an overabundance of creativity, put on a gutsy, highly enjoyable As You Like It. What a relief! Each actor adroitly handled multiple roles (which, out of necessity, included cross-dressing and gender-swapping) and live musical accompaniment was provided by the cast, most of whom were accomplished musicians. As if wrangling Shakespearean dialogue for multiple characters weren’t difficult enough. In addition to co-directing, Ellen Adair made for a particularly effective Rosalind. Real tears when called for, which never fails to pull me in. The production was supplemented with effective, well-placed video clips, including an hilarious wrestling match between Charles the Wrestler and Orlando that’s played out as a WWE arena extravaganza.

asyoulikeit-137It’s a new company but it’s not amateur hour. They are all masters of their craft. I’ve always been too consumed with fear to chase the things that really matter me. When I see an acting troupe like this, I can’t help but wonder what’s burning inside them that makes them persevere, despite the long odds. They’re hot.

There were seven actors and 16 people in the opening-night audience. This blog is just a blip. They’re not going to realize a swell in attendance because of this post. But they deserve it. I wish I were a wizard. I’d wave my wand, sparks, smoke, wind, presto. A full house.

This was posted outside the elevator:

signThat’s show biz.


On the other end of the spectrum (and by that I mean $$$$, not talent), Bryan Cranston gives a transformative performance as Lyndon Johnson in All The Way.

LBJAn edge I have over the rest of the audience is that I never saw Breaking Bad, so I wasn’t saddled with the weight of Walter White pressing down on me. I’ve read some chat-room comments about how the play is little more than an expensive history lesson, but I found it absolutely riveting and didn’t feel its 3:00 running time. I love political theater, so this played into my interests. They had me at y’all.

83 thoughts on “Following your passion is sexy

  1. Sometimes we find joy in the unlikeliest of places. Good of you to toot their horn. You have to admire people who give it their all for a crowd of sixteen. They’re obviously doing what they love.

    • It’s unimaginable to me, this level of commitment. Sure, it’s easy for Bryan Cranston. One phone call and the stagehand’s union is notified. But what of these smaller productions? What propels them forward? Where can I get some?

  2. I think even if you have seen Breaking Bad, you would still be OK. We watched Malcolm in the Middle recently and it shows that he, like Gary Oldman, is kind of an acting chameleon.

  3. My daughter is in the school play, Anne of Green Gables, which opened today for the local elementary school. I’ll see it tomorrow night in the public performance and then again Friday morning with the rest of her school (where I work). Abby is Anne. She’s 12. Hours and hours have gone into the play. Memorizing is not Abby’s strong suit. She’s had a small speaking role in the local production of Annie last summer but this is a bigger deal. I’m so proud of her, so proud, in fact, that I’ve become distracted from what I wanted to say here, and that is actors act for the same reason you write. It’s creative and its fulfills your soul in a way that it doesn’t matter if 20 people watch/read or 2000. One connection? That’s a standing ovation, baby.

    • Thanks for that comment. How fantastic for your daughter. The lead, no less. Isn’t watching your kid on stage just the greatest thrill ever? Who knows if she’ll become a professional? But the experience of waking on stage in front of a roomful of people will be a well she can draw from over and over. Tell her some guy in New York who loves theater said to break a leg.

  4. I hope The Happy Few do really well and then tour the UK.
    I wish I had a bit of determination and drive… I am a bit sleepy and too easily distracted!

  5. Now I’m bummed I didn’t see All the Way last week. Bryan Cranston was the draw, but I worried about it being way too high on political speak for me. I opted for Of Mice and Men, which blew me away. The trip the month before I saw No Man’s Land, a Pinter play starring Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan.(It’s the show playing in repetition with Waiting for Godot.)

    I’d highly recommend both plays. Chris O’Dowd killed it in Of Mice and Men. Killed it. God, it was so good!

    I really should spend more time looking at the off broadway options. Next time.

    • All The Way was heavy on politics, but much more weighted towards drama. Will you be back soon? It’ll be around for a bit and discounts are available. It’s worth your time/money. I have tickets to Of Mice and Men next Thursday night. It’s got great buzz. The chat rooms are all lit up and I’m looking forward to it. I opted for Gogot over Pinter. It’s one of my favorite plays and I could only afford one or the other. Plus, I only like Pinter in small doses.

      Next trip, feel free to ping me offline and I’ll let you know what’s what.

      • I will definitely take you up on that offer! The Pinter play was just sorta …meh, but McKellan and Stewart’s acting chops kept me riveted the entire time.

        Oh I’m so excited for you re: Of Mice and Men. James Franco surpassed my expectations because, let’s face it, he is a major douche. But he delivered the goods. But O’Dowd… holy shit. He slayed me.

      • Yeah, it wasn’t the best production of Godot I’ve ever seen, but watching those two grand old dinosaurs of the theater duke it out on stage was a real treat. Not to be repeated, I’m sure. Billy Crudup wasn’t so hot.

      • If I closed my eyes, Crudup sounded EXACTLY like Russell Brand. Not exactly fitting for the upper crust accents being sported by the other two thespians. 🙂

      • By the way, Of Mice and Men opened last night and the reviews this morning are all either positive or raves, with the exception of Ben Brantley, the craggy old man from the New York Times. He didn’t like it. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out. Brantley has more power than the rest of them combined.

  6. Sigh. I enjoyed reading this. Kind of just living through you. Once again, I decry the meagre choices we have for, well, anything except a drunk-up or a multiplex. Or both at the same time. And that’s just Friday or Saturday night… the other days of the week, we try to emulate our weekend experience by drinking at home and watching curling on the tube. Have you ever watched curling at home while drunk, Mark? I didn’t think so.

    I’m jealous. I hate being jealous. I think I may need to move. My family would not be pleased, but between the cold and the preponderance of Miley flipping Cyrus music in our town square that once a year when we actually have something approaching a festival, something has got to give.

    I haven’t watched Breaking Bad either, by the way.

    • Awww, don’t be jealous. I hang on my cross for other things. I’ll be happy to tell you offline if it’ll make you feel any better. They are not things that you’ll ever read about in this public space. But I am glad for my entertainment options. Anyone who’s out here and doesn’t take advantage is missing out. And you don’t have to spend a bundle! That ticket for As You Like It was under $20 bucks. Can’t go wrong. And God bless my wife for allowing me late nights out without her. What a gem! We take turns, but I’m definitely out more than she is.

  7. Hey, do you ever write theater reviews? I don’t just mean on here, I mean properly? (Not that your blog isn’t proper, but you know what I mean!) If not, you should consider it! You watch a lot and you know your stuff.

    • I used to write about theater all the time at my old Blogspot address but what I found out was that, generally, nobody cared. So I stopped. Please spare me any lectures about writing what you enjoy and not trying to please an audience. If that were all that’s wrong with me I’d consider myself bloody fortunate.

      In the past, I’ve been given comps to a few shows and was invited to write about them, which I have done. In fact, I was offered press tickets to As You Like It, but since it’s a fledgling company and the tickets are only $18 bucks, I paid for one. I like to help when I can.

      • I was just really thinking of whether you had thought submitting reviews to online places that take them, you know like “What’s On” type sites that may have hard copy papers/magazines and an online site with blogging type reviews or just the online presence. I know of a couple of people who have done that (not specifically for theatre, one was for reviews of art exhibitions and the other TV shows) and they started out doing them for free, just submitting anywhere that takes them, and then ended up getting asked to do them and paid for them. Not trying to lecture you or tell you what to do, I just like to see people achieve things within areas that they enjoy and are good at, so wasn’t sure if you had thought about it, but clearly you have. Sometimes we don’t realise that we have become fairly expert at something because it’s just part of things we do!

      • That doesn’t feel like a lecture at all! It feels like advice from a friend sitting next to me on the bar stool. I’ve actually never submitted anything I’ve written. Ever! That’s kind of sad, when I think about it. Believe it or not, I was unaware that there were places who would published an unsolicited piece. I thought that’s why I had a blog. Because who else would put this stuff out?! You’ve given me and idea. Perhaps I’ll look into it…

  8. I don’t mean to be pedantic, oh wait yes I do, assassination derives from the Arabic word Hashshashin who were a group of malcontents living between the 8th and the 12th century who’d knock off your enemies for a small fee.

    • Look at you! Coming out of the woodwork to be all pedantic and whatnot all over my comment section! Many of Shakespeare’s plots were based on old Greek plays so I don’t suppose it’s surprising to see that he borrowed from other sources as well. No matter. I still respect him. All’s well that ends well.

      [Do you see what I did there? Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to Google pedantic.]

    • The word “assassin” may derive from 8th century Hashashin order, but the word “assassination” is a new word because while it shares the root with “assassin”, it has a different meaning. So it may well have taken a few extra centuries for the word “assassination” to be created. Sorry for trying to outpedant you… Oh – hey, a new word!

      • The plot (or, the pedant, as it were) thickens. Listen…I read that Shakespeare invented that word on the internet, so that must be the truth of it. I mean, they wouldn’t put a fact out there without researching it first. Reet?

      • Wikipedia says that the first literary usage is believed to be by Shakespeare. So all we need to do to confirm is to read every work of literature ever published. Shouldn’t be too hard.

  9. Hey, you’re a cool reviewer and a serious theater goer. I’ve only been to a couple of plays in my life and I enjoyed them and you’re orders of magnitude above me. I think it is a great idea for you to post reviews and such. When I read your post, I too thought you must do it professionally – very well done.

    • It’s true that I see a LOT of theater. I don’t know how it got under my skin. I don’t recall what happened. Although, I’ve never wanted to perform. I like being the audience. They’re nothing without me.

    • I’m just now home from another play that was just incredible. One of those things—like a book or piece of music that really moves you—that you want to share with everyone. I wish I could drag all my friends to this play. I see some real dogs on stage but I’ve had a streak of good luck recently.

      My unfulfilled passion? G’won. I’m sure you can guess.

      • It’s an off-Bway show called “London Wall.” About the women who worked in a London law office in 1931 and how completely fucked they were if they didn’t find someone to marry them. Women had it rough back then. Drama, but really funny, too. An unmarried woman was 35 and crying because she’s washed up. Said she was going to end up in the Old Virgin’s Home.

      • I have tix for “Of Mice and Men” next Thursday. Opened last night to almost universal praise. Panned by Brantley in the Times, though. James Franco called him a “little bitch” on twitter.

    • Thanks for the link! It’s always interesting to get another take on it. I’m in agreement with pretty much every point the reviewer makes, however, I thought the video elements were a welcome addition and although Nat Cassidy turned out a fine performance, he needs to watch his volume. It’s a small venue.

  10. Bryan Cranston is just a beautiful actor, at least in Breaking Bad (and he was decent in a small role in Argo). I believe he also had a quick character piece on Seinfeld. I’m so glad you had a pleasant reprieve to a dreadful day. I’m usually asleep by 8pm so I guess I’d have to see a matinee.

    As far as following passions, supposedly this is bad, elitist advice to give people, particularly in our current economy, but who cares. What is life unless you live it?

    • What is life unless you live it flies in the face of a mortgage payment and a $380/month commuter pass. People think that money is expensive cars and big houses but that’s not it at all. Money is freedom.

      • There was an article in Slate about this that made the rounds of the blogosphere a while ago:

        I always tell my kids that they need to find something practical to do, but it should be in order to support their passions, though the lucky people are the ones who do both at the same time.

        But then you have people (like my husband) who are so fixated on one particular field that they can’t function outside of it. I don’t know what advice to give those people.

      • Thanks for the link. This may sound kind of dreary, but I think it’s a great disservice to tell little kids that if they can dream it, they can do it. That all they need to do is work hard and they’ll achieve their heart’s desire. That’s just not true, is it? But you can’t discourage them from making their best effort. It’s tricky business.

      • That’s an excellent article, thank you toomanyspiders. As someone with bailiffs knocking at the door and debts that I’ll never pay off — and having *chosen* to live like that for the immense other payoffs I get in terms of having time to myself, and no boss — it irritates me no end when people — always richer than myself — tell me to “follow my dreams” or some other idealism. The only people who ever advise you to do that are people with the capital, the inheritance, the shares, in order to do it themselves.

      • You should read her blog. I think she’s a little on the conservative side–I don’t know if you care about that–but her posts are excellent. Highly entertaining.

  11. Allow me to go all Buddhist here but i’d have to disagree, money is not freedom, it’s slavery, it’s addiction, and while i know the latter better than the former (or maybe of course you could say they’re one and the same seeing as the addict can become the slave to the addiction) some of the best periods of my life were when i was flat broke, of course the childrens change all that sort of thing cuz you want them to grow up in a peaceful and sound environment but while i stress fiscal responsibility to the boyos i also stress that money is not the end all be all of existence that our culture makes it out to be, and as you know from my rather checkered past i’ve made and blown more money than the average bear and i’m not saying i didn’t have a good time, you look like a fucking hero when you pick up a $600 bar tab and toss another Franklin or two at the bartneder but in most cases (barring the trustafari’s) wealth brings great power and responsiblity but it also brings corruption and the world view that you are right now matter what and that the rest of humanity can suck on it because you have the dosh to do what you want but enough of this soapbox let me step onto another… i don’t feel is that i’ve ever tried to write for an audience, hell you’re one of the handful and i do mean handful of people who visit the lounge on occasion, in fact i’ve caught myself self editing and thinking about an audience and when i catch myself i hit delete, i’m working on something now, at a snail’s pace of course cuz i’m lazy and prone to bouts of drugging and drinking, that i’ll attempt to sell to the public if/when it gets finished and since i’m trying to sell it i might edit or think about the market cuz i have to but when it comes to this jazz or the quote unquote serious literary shit (yes you can call me a pretentious wanker right about now) i basically kill whatever audience might creep up in my mind, it’s why i have none on the lounge, it takes a bit of strange mind to appreciate that stuff but i do it for the love of the game so to speak… and now i’ll climb down off my cross so we can use the wood for the fire…

    • Very well stated, my fat, happy, Buddhist friend. Money holds a complicated place in the modern world. I can agree with your sentiments up until the time we have kids and mortgages and all the associated responsibilities that go along with that. To satisfy those responsibilities, we need cash. And more often than not, we end up doing things we don’t really feel like doing to get it. Who said that most men lead lives of quiet desperation? It’s true and it’s the lack of money that created that desperation. Money can’t buy happiness. It took me a long time to finally let that lesson sink into my thick skull. But I still think it can buy freedom. What you do with that freedom is up to you.

  12. I haven’t watched one episode of “Breaking Bad,” partly because I don’t want to binge through another 90 episodes of a show and waste my time, but more because it bugs people that I’ve never seen it.

    That theater company sounds awesome. Keep supporting them so they don’t give up. Us artsy types got to look out for one another.

    And did you say Shakespeare invented the word “puke?” I want to see that. “Juliet, I love you so much I could just fucking puke.”

    • I haven’t seen The Walking Dead or Mad Men or Game of Thrones or Dexter or, or, or… When I admit this to people, they look at me like I have lung cancer. It’s almost worth it just for their reactions.

      I wish I had a big bag of cash. I’d give them some. They deserve it.

      I don’t believe that’s a direct Shakespeare quote but it’s in the same spirit.

  13. Oh, what a treat, Mark! I bet there’s so much talent just oozing out of the all the cracks and crevices in New York City. I don’t know how that sounded. It’s meant to be a compliment. I, too, don’t have many choices, or I can’t afford it. This performance sounds really cool! I hope they get more of an audience. And, as you said, it’s about passion, because it’s most likely not the money. Thanks for sharing.

    • I can concur that you are 100% correct. New York oozes. It oozes all manner of good and bad. The beauty of this place is that you can find some really fine, fine performances and you don’t need to break the bank to do it. $18 bucks! Totally worth it! Thanks for stopping by + commenting.

  14. i want to know if they got the yellow coat back. for real. you should ask. if not, i might start looking for one for them…. thievin’ bastards won’t steal their joy!

    never watched “Breaking Bad”, either, but i DID love Bryan Cranston in “Malcolm in the Middle”…

    • Actually, I asked about that coat. it turns out it belongs to another acting company who also rents that space. What a heartless thing to do.

      I’ve never saw “Malcom…” either. I’m so out of it when it comes to TV. It’s not a snob thing. I just don’t have the time. Maybe when the kids get older and are less demanding.

  15. At last. I’ve been trying to use the useless machine called a bl**dy laptop for over a week, and this is the first time it actually worked.

    I think you’ve been lucky. Most small performances I’ve seen were dire.

    At least your performers were professional.

    Small scale amateur dramatics are the absolute worst.

    Be of good cheer.

    Maybe if you’d followed your deep-seated ambition, you’d have ended up as an arms dealer in Syria?

    • Make no mistake. I’ve seem some small performances that would sour anyone from ever stepping into a theater again. Actually…I’ve seen quite a few BIG performances like that, as well. But you’ve got to take your chances. Every once in a while, lightning strikes. And I want to be in the theater when it does.

      Does being an arms dealer come with dental benefits? How about paid time off?

  16. It’s great when you come across a group of talent like that. I suppose that when you have a talent or passion then it burns inside you and all you need is persistence. Can’t EVER beat persistence.

    So, what is your inner dream that’s frightening the shit out of you?

    • Persistence PLUS luck. You need luck. Truly.

      This sounds very cynical but, in a way, I’m glad I’m not cursed with an overabundance of drive and talent. It’s great when it works out, but if you spend your life chasing the unreachable, it can be pretty irritating, I imagine.

  17. The highlight of my week was seeing “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and ordering Stefan Zweig’s book “The Post Office Girl.” I feel as if I am wasting away very, very slowly. xoxo

      • I’m going to see it again when the MITM is home. It was visually gorgeous and the cameos were hilarious. I know that sounds like faint praise, but in my own defense, I went to the movies whilst feeling less than stellar, so any critique is unfair. I did laugh quite a few times, unlike the other senior citizens in the audience. In fact, just remembering the scenes, I’m smiling! (I spent the rest of the weekend asleep on my couch!) xoxoxo

      • What do you mean the “other” senior citizens? That’s not you! No matter how old you get, I can’t picture you as a senior citizen. It’s like no matter how old I get, I’ll never be old enough to buy clothes at Brooks Brothers.

  18. It’s great to find a few nuggets of amazing in your everyday life. I remember taking a theatre appreciation class in college and enjoying it very much. I really like live theatre (as opposed to dead theatre) and never go as much as I think should whenever I do go. There -does that make any sense? Naw – too bad 🙂

  19. Everyone is so eloquent here–I’m afraid to say anything, except, I will, anyway. Having spent my life working in the Theatre, I know it is a true passion, a true love and an undeniable need that one must do this work/play—whether it pays money or not—How wonderful to see this fabulous production of AS YOU LIKE IT…..(“Why cousin, why Rosalind..not a word? Not one to throw at a dog”…says Rosalind—I learned that 63 years ago—-it could have been yesterday—Oh, the memories…)
    To be thrilled by Theatre—-there is nothing like it……How wonderful that you support this dedicated talented little company of obsessed passionare people. And Thank God for them!

    • Never be afraid to vent here! Are you kidding? Your thoughtful commentary is always welcomed.

      How lucky am I to be in the audience for something like this? It looks like a great lot of fun up on the stage but watching these things unfold isn’t such a bad way to spend an evening, either. Yesterday I received a very nice email from the director thanking me for this post. Pish. *I’M* the one who should be thanking her!

  20. What a lucky boy you are: to have two magical evenings at the theatre. I miss the thrill.
    I do hope the small group get the plaudits they deserve.
    Fancy you not having seen BB. Save it for a time when you really need taking out of yourself.
    As it were.

    • I got a very nice letter from the director thanking me for this post. In it, she said that the following weekend they had full houses. I’m not implying that had anything to do with this idiot blog. It didn’t. More likely, word got around. Also, remember that this was a very, very, very, small house and a sell-out is not that hard to accomplish. Still…I was glad to hear her news.

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