The Difference Between Passion and Anger

Adam Driver, left, and Matthew Rhys in “Look Back in Anger,” John Osborne's 1956 play.CreditSara Krulwich/The New York Times

Adam Driver, left, and Matthew Rhys in “Look Back in Anger,” John Osborne's 1956 play.CreditSara Krulwich/The New York Times

  • Chance Morgan

It’s safe to say that people in the world of theatre tend to have particularly strong feelings about the artform. Fans and critics can (and will) loudly and vehemently debate everything from the merits of a particular casting decision, to the trends of the day, to who deserves the Tony.

This is true of patrons, but especially true of professionals. We all know at least one person (often more than one) who takes it all far too personally. They may get offended by notes, or turn the tension of long hours into personal drama, or throw tantrums when they don’t get their way. At some point in their lives, the line between passion and rage became blurred or was wiped away entirely. To these people, those emotions are one and the same.

They may come from similar places, but they are absolutely not the same, and the difference is simple. Passion is constructive, rage is destructive. Passion is what inspires you to attend another audition, to power through tech week, to do it ‘once more, with feeling’. Passion is how we create art and build careers.

Rage is how things get broken, plain and simple. It may feel cathartic in the moment to vent on social media, or smash something offstage, or yell at the intern who’s trying their best, but it doesn’t solve anything. Behavior like that is how professional connections are severed, how opinions are soured, and how everything gets a little bit harder from that point on. To reiterate: acting in anger doesn’t do anyone any good, especially not you.

I’ve seen a lot of rage in my years in the theatre, and I’ve seen it take a lot of forms. I’ve seen tantrums thrown over enormous catastrophes and over petty disagreements. I’ve been the recipient of rage, and I’ve been the one lashing out far more often than I’m proud of, so I offer some friendly advice.

When something makes you angry (as something inevitably will, since we’re all human), acknowledge the feeling, but set it aside until you can work through it constructively, or better yet, repurpose the energy. Practice a little longer, study a little harder, push yourself to new heights. If you get riled up, you have a choice of what to do with that energy. Don’t give in to anger, do something good with it instead.