Captive Audience: Duo Performs Shakespeare on New York’s Subway

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Jonathan Woods for TIME

All the world’s a stage for these Shakespearean players — even the New York L train.

Two enterprising thespians have taken their brand of street theater to the New York subway, bringing the Bard’s greatest hits to the downtown line’s commuters.

Twenty-somethings Fred Jones and Paul Marine (stage names Popeye & Cloudy) began their unique form of busking on a lark. “Fred and I share this courage in terms of the places we’ll go as performers,” Marino told the New York Times. (We’ll assume he means that literally.) Since they began in January, they’ve performed scenes from Romeo and Juliet, King Lear and even a bilingual Hamlet for audiences making their way around Manhattan. (Ser, o no ser, esa es la cuestión.)

Popeye & Cloud rake in enough to live on, but the job isn’t without hazards. Alongside a continuous spate of illnesses (they now carry Purell along with their various props), they’ve been tackled by a sozzled passenger and had bottles chucked at them. “Drunk people start doing strange things when Shakespeare starts occurring right at their feet,” said Jones.

Yet there are upsides too: when it comes to picking a Juliet out of the assembled commuters, they get to do the casting.  Apparently lots of ladies are willing to lend them their ears — and their numbers.

(PHOTOS: The Royal Shakespeare Company’s Complete Histories)