The Drunk Shakespeare Society
By Lucia Rossi
The actors of The Drunk Shakespeare Society believe that “Drink, Sir, is a great provoker…,” and they aren’t just talking about Macbeth, this is their job.
With one actor out of the group having to drink five shots of whiskey before a show, what could go wrong? Anything goes with this Shakespeare performance because it embodies how theatre truly was in that time, creative and drunk.
On 356 West 44th Street, the society resides above Quinn’s Bar & Grill in Manhattan, where there is no stage, just a bar, tables, chairs, and a throne in the middle of the room. The throne is reserved for that performance’s King and Queen.
In this show, any bar patron can be royalty. The King and Queen of the performance have the privileges of sitting on the throne with crowns, drinking a bottle of Moet and Chandon, eating fine caviar and chocolates, drinking 2 signature cocktails with premium liquor, and the power to decide a drunk actor’s fate of “pardon the fool” or “off with his head” three times during the performance. “Off with his head” means the actor needs to drink more, “pardon the fool” means they had enough.
If no one reserves this package in advance online for its retail price of $500, then the throne is auctioned off to the highest bidder right before the show.
Royalty or not, the experience is a friendly and warm one. Once you are in, you get a membership card that gives you a discount the next time you come and then you are greeted by an actor with a free shot. Mine was called a Lemonhead because of its strong lemon flavor.
Before the show, other actors pace about the room in casual costumes and go to every table to mingle with the guests and introduce themselves. They have such high energy and perkiness that you can’t tell if they’ve been drinking or not. They may even ask you to dance with them.
You can sit wherever you please when you walk in. On each table is a number with a small food menu as well as a pen to write what drinks or food you want to order. By doing it this way, the waitress can fulfill your order without speaking and interrupting the show. However, be aware that if you order drinks and want to pay with credit, the bar will ask to hold your credit card until you leave and can pay the tab.
The Shakespearean play of the night for me was Macbeth and the actor who had to take the five shots of Whiskey was Christina Liu. The troupe had very few props but made up for it with their enthusiasm. The actors also had a signal of their own called “point of order” which was when all the actors stopped performing for a moment and decided to do or change something. This happened quite often because the actors enjoyed doing fun and spontaneous things with the audience.
At one point, two male actors had an eating contest with a pack of Lunchables, the loser who finished last has to take a shot out of the other one’s belly-button. At another point, there was a bar sing-a-long of Hero by Enrique Iglesias while actor, Whit Leyenberger, played ukulele. At another moment, the team of actors did the dance routine to Nsync’s “Bye Bye Bye.”
Needless to say, don’t expect a normal play of Shakespeare. Expect a lot of improvisation and hilarious ridiculousness with really friendly people who are just trying to have fun. In the end, the play performed was nothing like the real Macbeth, but that’s okay because it was so enjoyable.
Even though everyone is a stranger, there was a feeling of unity there when the actor did five toasts with every shot. Everyone raised their glasses and joined in. The show was very interactive which made it all the more personal and special.
If you are wondering how can a person be a professional drinker and still be healthy, the society provides this on their website, “We do not condone excessive drinking. Our actors have a regular rotation system and are carefully monitored at all times. Drinking in moderation can be fun. Drinking to excess can ruin your life. We promote healthy drinking.”
Tickets can be bought on their website drunkshakespeare.com for $33 for the 90 minute show or found on Groupon. They host parties for all occasions. Groups of ten or more can get group discounts and groups of forty or more can do a “buyout” of the whole lounge for an exclusive party.
Beware that drinks and food are not cheap here. Other than that, cheers!