I’ve decided to stop compromising. You have to draw the line somewhere, right?

So from now on, I will no longer perform for any organization or venue that I don’t agree with. I’m writing it here so you’ll hold me to it.

That means I will no longer be working for any establishment that uses non-renewable energy. We really need to start caring for the environment so I’ll be doing my part, too.

I guess that means I can’t drive or fly to any gigs because I shouldn’t be using fuel, so I will only be doing gigs that are within walking distance of my apartment.

Also, please no religious messages at your event. I’m non-religious and there are probably people in your group that feel the same way. Of course, I’m happy for you to believe whatever you want but if your event includes prayers I will be unable to attend.

Is it too much to ask people to not wear or eat any animal products during the function?  And while we’re at it, I’m not a fan of big banks or tobacco products or gambling or drugs or alcohol or ignorance or bad politics or racism or sexism or misogyny or bad opinions or country music. Please be advised if you choose to book me for your next event.

I mean, I need to take a stand, right? I shouldn’t work for any company I disagree with. I shouldn’t use any products that don’t align with my beliefs. And I shouldn’t associate with people who have a differing viewpoint than my own. If I did, people might mistake me making a living for making an endorsement.

Look, the way I see it is you can either be the guy who drops in for one weird evening in Madison, WI or you can be a barista at Starbucks and either way, you’re still working for "the man". If you want to make a living at this, you're going to need to compromise. Even Leonardo da Vinci did commissioned work to get by.

It’s so easy to take the hypothetical high ground when it comes to these debates. But for those of us actually working, traveling, performing, and living off of art alone, it’s not so simple. 

This is complex territory. It’s not that we don’t have principles, it’s just that we also need to work to survive. We have to make a living and sometimes that means doing a gig that doesn’t fully align with what you believe. 

I know that means a career full of meeting-in-the-middle and deals and choosing my battles so I can get ahead. But that’s where I’m headed and I make no apologies for compromising every once in a while to get there.

I’ve heard people having the same debate multiple times on my travels this summer. They wonder “Doesn’t it cease to be art once you get paid for it?”

No. It doesn’t.

Don’t confuse hard work with a lack of artistic purpose.

After college I slept on couches in shitty apartments in Los Angeles. I took the city bus two hours away to meetings alone and did gigs for $50 just to get my name out there.

As a newlywed, I invested every bit of money I had into a career that my wife couldn’t possibly envision like I did. But I believed in it and knew what I wanted to be doing.

And now I am. 

I didn’t sell-out. I just worked really hard to find a way to make a living doing what I’ve always wanted to do. 

I know where I want to be and I’ll do everything I can to get there. When it comes to that, I refuse to compromise.

Rave Reviews At Port Fringe

I'm in the middle of a run of five shows at PortFringe in Portland, Maine. I've already performed two shows and have three more to go.

The first half of my run is being performed at Geno's Rock Club, with the last two shows being held at Fringe Central. In my downtime I've been exploring Portland and taking street photos.

People seem to be enjoying the show here in Maine. See below for a few of the reviews I've received so far!

The ending left me on the verge of happy tears. (I’m welling up just thinking about it!) My mind is still blown.
— Joseph Cagney IV, Port Fringe
Mark Toland clearly created his show with the skeptic in mind - not because it will convince you of the supernatural, but because it’s presented in the spirit of fun and entertainment. It’s full of laugh out loud moments and countless surprises. Mark is brilliant, funny, and energetic with just the right amount of awkward energy to let you know he’s a performance nerd at heart.
— Robbie Carey, PortFringe First Looks
I’ve been instructed not to spoil the show, but suffice to say you might just have your mind blown.
— Anonymous, PortFringe First Looks
Mark Toland is truly, bogglingly, mystifying - on top of that he ingeniously gives the illusion that he’s giving no illusion - just a really nice guy casually doing the absolutely impossible.
— Richard Sewell, Maine Theater Collective

The tour isn't over yet! I still have three shows left at PortFringe, then head to San Diego for five shows at the San Diego International Fringe Festival. Ticket info below!

Stick With It

This is my 45th “Thursday Thoughts” entry. Between 44 and 45 something interesting happened. I got an email from someone that started with the following:

“Hi Mark,

I stumbled across your blog and was fascinated with your love of theatre, writing, and mentalism. I’d love to have you perform at our upcoming event in New York…”

That's right. It took me 44 posts but I just booked a show from my blog.

That was never the intention, of course. I just started writing because I enjoy it. I’ve had multiple blogs throughout the years, covering a wide range of topics, but this is the longest I’ve stuck with it. It just feels right, like I’ve finally started to find a voice and have important stuff to say.

It’s not always easy. Sometimes I write next Thursday’s post on last Friday. Other days I don’t get around to it until I’m at the airport early Thursday morning. But I haven’t missed a day and I guess people are actually reading.

I’ve considered putting the blog on hold so I could focus on other things. It takes a lot of time each week to craft a post that I’m proud of. I could easily spend that time working on more important, lucrative, tangible projects. But I enjoy it, so I keep writing.

And after 45 essays, 239 drafts, 106 abandoned topics, many late nights and early mornings, that’s the best advice I can give you.

I’m not saying you should start a blog or try to be a writer. I’m just saying that whatever you’re doing, you should keep at it. 

There will come a time when it feels pointless and you don’t want to keep doing whatever you’re doing any more. When that time comes, that’s when you need to work even harder.

That’s the moment when you have to give whatever you’re doing all you have because that’s the moment that matters the most. If you persevere and push through your roadblocks then there’s something great waiting for you on the other side.

Whatever you’re doing, you’ve gotta stick with it.