Smile Politely

People with a passion

I went to Pecha Kucha a few months ago. I won’t speak about it because Lord knows that Smile Politely has done quite a bit already, but one thing that stuck out to me there was how interesting something could become when you’re observing someone else who is truly passionate about it (and how excited I was to go to the next one).

We’ve all had that teacher, or that colleague, or that friend who just geeks out about something and possesses a passion that can lead to fist fights, as well as fast friendships when you have that passion in common.

After Pecha Kucha, I realized that the best case scenario is when a passionate person spends the time and energy to bring his or her passion to other people. This article showcases two people who, because of their passion, bring neat things to do in Chambana!

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Andy Borbely

Andy Borbely

I admit it―Andy’s one of the passionate presenters at Pecha Kucha that got me inspired for this article. As the manager of Seven Saints, Andy’s presentation on his passion for whiskey was funny as well as informative.

When asked about what got him passionate about whiskey in the first place, Andy said that what he loves is the back stories behind the lesser known products behind the bar. Most recently, he’s been interested in the back stories of spirits, but overall, the products that get the limelight and the marketing pitches aren’t necessarily the best product. The stories behind how the whiskey or other spirits got produced tend to be the best part in the process.

If you have a passion, he continued, it seems that it’s your obligation to bring it to the people. Whiskeys in particular have a vibrant spectrum beyond Jim Beam white and Jack Daniels black. The well known products are the logical first step, but once people have the opportunity to try the rest, in Andy’s experience, they don’t tend to go back except for some feeling of nostalgia.

A self-described “anti-wine snob,” Andy Borbely has found that in the world of beers, spirits, and cocktails, people are much more approachable, as people love to share their passion and opinions, rather than drink alone.

Andy started beer classes five years ago when he worked at Crane Alley, and now, in Seven Saints, he has been having beer classes for the past three years. They tend to be on Thursdays at 9:30, but he is quick to add that he organizes classes and presentations on whatever degree of individuality that his guests would prefer.

In his classes, he’s taken offerings of just one brewery and spent a night trying different products from their portfolio, and he’s also done themes like German Lagers. He’s done these for whiskeys, and when I mentioned my predilection for vodka, said he’d be pleased to do that too (and now I know what I want to do for my birthday this year!). One class that Andy is particularly fond of is a once-a-week tasting course of Scotch that he held for five weeks with a group of individuals.

Seven Saints

From spirits to cocktails, arrangements can be made for whatever the patron would like. All you have to do is contact Seven Saints to set something up, with information found here. Also, I highly recommend going to Seven Saints on Wednesdays, where Andy started Whiskey Wednesday, 50% off a select type of whiskey every week. My whiskey-loving friends schedule their Wednesdays around it, so be sure to check it out.

Andy Borbely has taken his passion and done everything possible to bring it to his audience through his job. And, as a special Smile Politely bonus, he told me to let readers know that if you ask for him and say hi to him when he’s in, he might let you know about some good stuff behind the counter, that only those-in-the-know get to try out.

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Matt Fear

Matt Fear

Matt Fear has a passion for the theatre. As a freshman in 1990, he got his first taste of acting, and realized that he loved it more than anything else. He loved the entire process, from acting to directing, from rehearsals to the final production. He began directing in college, during a class, and ruefully recalls that his professor’s response to his first effort was, “Did you learn nothing?”

Matt FearMatt moved here four years ago, and got involved in The Phantom Tollbooth at Parkland. He met many people in different productions, and had his hand in quite a few in Champaign. He’s directed Shakespeare in the Park, and recently, Jesus Christ Superstar at the Virginia.

He enjoys the performance aspect more than direction, but admits that there is something about being able to call a show your own. And from his passion for the theatre, a few things have come up of which citizens of Chambana should be aware.

One of Matt’s first big projects began with Mikel Matthews Jr. They sat down in early 2008, made up a list of names for their project, and knew that they wanted to start something different. From there, they made the Abe Froman Project.

The Abe Froman project began with Matt, Mikel, Katie Baldwin, and Mike Prosise. The group has grown and members have come and gone, but from just goofing off the first six months of the project to becoming an established event, Abe Froman has an dedicated group of followers and continues to do well. On the 1st and 3rd Mondays of each month, there are improv shows at 9 p.m. On the 2nd and 4th Mondays of each month, there are improv workshops at 9 p.m. All of these are free of charge, upstairs at Mike ‘N Molly’s (19+).

They are, of course, heavy on audience participation, and a complete blast to check out. Information is found here.

Matt’s latest project, though, is what he is currently enthusiastic about, as something that is still being built and almost ready for the public.

Matt Fear met Niccole Powers at a Halloween party in 2008. They became friends and were involved in different theatre projects with each other. In the beginning of 2010, they started working in earnest towards starting a local burlesque troop. In that time span, they’ve gotten seven girls, one boy, a house band, a variety of acts, and they have booked their show at the Canopy Club, June 5, 9 p.m. As the MC, Matt Fear is Billy Boudoir, and the project’s cofounder, Niccole Powers, is the stage manager, Ms. Powers.

“With improv, there is a good community here to add to, but with burlesque, there’s a bigger scene just waiting to be started.” While there is a seasonal burlesque show already in town, Matt feels that there’s a potential just waiting to be tapped. He’s of the opinion that while people have spoken of this place as a stepping stone, it should be a place that people feel free to do their own thing and get shows started. With the influx of students as a continuing resource of new blood, the location, spaces, and support are conducive to whatever performances people want to have, as long as there’s enthusiasm and passion.

Carnivale Debauche

Carnivàle Debauche is the name of the project, and the burlesque group is called “Fishnets and Feathers.” Tickets are on sale now, and future appearances are already in the works, from a WEFT benefit at Cowboy Monkey to other shows. Information on the troupe is found here, as well as Facebook information and Twitter feed.


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