Bartenders exist in the middle of the metaphorical storm, quietly taking in everything around them from behind their bar. For a bartender, it’s rare to find the time to fully pursue dreams, but observing the human condition? There’s plenty of time for that.
With a combined 15 years of bartending in New York City, Mary Guiteras and Christine Holt know the challenges that accompany feeding the next wannabe novelist with their liquor of choice — and they had enough foresight to turn years of slinging drinks and after-hours bonding into an improv show called Two Bartenders Walk Into a Bar.
“Oftentimes people are shocked when they realize their bartender is a smart, living, breathing human who also exists outside of a bar,” Guiteras muses when asked about popular misconceptions that are attributed to bartenders and the F&B community at large. “We have had regulars we’ve served for years, and if we run into them outside the bar, we’ll have to explain who we are.”
Their improv show is inspired by the same people they’ve encountered. “You really do see the best and worst of folks when you’re standing behind a bar,” Guiteras says. “That’s something we take from the bar — people fully being themselves.”
Guiteras and Holt bonded working long nights at the Magician. “It would be a packed with just the two of us running back and forth behind the bar,” Guiteras says. “We would always joke about how we felt like we were in a Cirque du Soleil show.”
With their entry into the expanding library of works based on a life keeping folks feeling floaty, we ask Guiteras if she thinks it’s been fairly represented in art. “There are moments that feel like Cheers, moments like Coyote Ugly, or like Its Always Sunny. Moments you feel like you’re in the middle of a Tom Waits song, moments you feel like you’re in The Bar at the Folies-Bergeres by Manet. There are so many aspects to a bar and bar life that there’s room for all of those to be true.”
Every bartender in the Charley-O is known to have a good story about that one time that one thing happened, but Guiteras, smartly keeps her tales relegated to the stage. “Our best and worst memories of working at the bar are probably not fit to print in such a genteel city’s newspaper. But if people come to our show, we’ll have a drink with them afterward and spill it.”
Piccolo Fringe. Two Bartenders Walk Into a Bar. June 2, 4 at 7 p.m. 1 hour. $16. Theatre 99, 280 Meeting St