Growing up, I often wondered what made people live in cities/towns that were prone to natural disasters. Having only experienced, at most, severe thunder-storms and blizzards, I thought that was enough to deal with. As I became an adult and started traveling, finally getting to know the world outside my own, I began to understand there was little difference from what I was used to as a child and how people in those areas see it. People can only be where they are. Those who leave are the ones who can; those who stay - or move to those areas - have their reasons, and they need not be questioned or challenged.
How, though? I wonder about the psychological effect it has on a community who might yearly endure the damage or loss of property, the seemingly daunting task of having to pick up the pieces and begin again. I do not pity these communities, but rather salute their resilience and resourcefulness in the face of elements out of human control. Those cities and towns I have been fortunate to visit over the years inspire me, because Life goes on. It must. It is a reminder that we are a part of Nature, whether we realize it or not. Having the gift (or curse) of will is not an exemption from the evolution of the planet we share.
The social constructs we feed into, and inevitably perpetuate, are merely distractions. They are ill-usions, compared to what really matters. Yet, despite it all, the natural cycle continues. Where and how we fit into that is based on what we choose to acknowledge and contribute to the evolution, be it helpful or otherwise. Nonetheless, we weather the storm, and we continue forward.
To those who are, have been and will be affected by the natural elements: You are forever on my mind and in my prayers. Stay strong, be safe and Live on.
#SmithDonnellE #OnMyMind #Pray4TheNations
The flicker at the center of hopeful eyes
The base of the waves in the afternoon tides
The grind between jaws of determination
The heart of a nation
I Am anticipation, resilience, elevation
Of the Human Spirit, I Am
The roundness of lips professing Love
for the first time
I Am the reach in the strive for success
The assurance of a mind at its best
Rest for the weary, answers to the query
In search of a release
I Am Clarity at the precipice of Peace
Get to know me
The hug after a nightmare
The kiss in the midst of fallen tears
The missing heartbeat in the face of fear
Never defeated, I Am always there
The open palm of gratitude
The exhale of relief
The waist of lovers' cuddle time
Rest but never sleep on me
I Am the flex in a Freedom Walk
The confidence in Revolution's talk
The stand taken
The air that upholds the Fist of Justice
I cannot be held down because
I Am the ground that supports The People
But I cannot be walked over because
I Am the Future inevitably manifested
I Am the haunted Past
The part of hi(S)tory tried and tested
And I passed Evolution because
I Am the Present
The surprise in gifts God-given
The breath of the Living
The strength in Forgiving
The reason for Giving
Not to be dismissed because
I Am the storage facilitating memory
So miss me with amnesia because
I Am the analysis in every diagnosis
The decibels in every scream
The calm before the storm
The pulse of the alarm
I Am every thing and any thing in between
#SmithDonnellE #OnMyMind #blog #iAm
Loss (n): the state of being deprived of or of being without something that someone has had
Losing anything is never convenient; keys, wallet, a job, a relationship, oneself... Though a lot of these mishaps are only temporary, and many are avoidable to some extent, there is a piece of us that is altered/modified. Whether we believe it or not, something in our perception changes. Nonetheless, a lesson resides at the end result of the matter, be it when the item is found, a new job is had, the relationship is mended or at least civilized, the worth of self is rediscovered. Or the opposed...
Loss (n): death, or the fact of being dead
Perhaps the heaviest loss I have ever experienced, and undeniably the most traumatic, has been that of a very dear friend and former castmate of mine, not even a month ago. This dear friend and I recently shared the stage in the very play that our hearts were set on from our introduction to it - Kill Move Paradise - back in April/2016. A true bond was formed; and not solely covered in Art, but one steeped in the abundance of Life. I cannot readily admit that I have come across another being who carries such a Light and capacity for Love that it viscerally magnify's one own capacity. Even as I type this, I find myself having a quite difficult time understanding or fully processing his transition. True as it may be that his energy, Light & Love are significantly larger than the shell of his flesh that once contained it, there is the (selfish) part of me that wishes that shell could have carried his physical presence just a while longer, 30-40 years more. It's not fair...
My life has changed, quite literally. Every day, I wonder, I ask aloud, I sit in a cloud of confusion, trying to make sense of what I am afraid I will never fully understand. There is a part of me that is at a tremendous loss. Loss (n): a losing by defeat. We lost at battle with fate. No, it does not make me afraid to live, but rather determined to live more fearlessly. But it does hurt. Every day it does, and in a way that is different, almost newly compartmentalized; every day. This loss feels permanent, and I have yet to discover the lesson at the end result, because I am not entirely sure what that "end result"' is [supposed to be].
This past month has been an ironic balance of tragedy and triumph. While mourning loss, I have been giving myself permission to celebrate recent career strides, bookings and new friendships that have formed. It helps. I get that one can not understand the fulfillment of joy without the awareness of pain, yet these reminders only lead to more questions: (1) why this kind of pain? (2) why his life? (3) why now? (4) why? Again, the answers may be out of reach, right now, but I have to trust that they will come. Otherwise, I would go through Life at a loss of Faith, which is sure to be at my own demise, yea? Until soon...
#SmithDonnellE #OnMyMind #blog #SidikiFofana
Yesterday was the final performance of Kill Move Paradise, at The National Black Theatre (written by James Ijames, Directed by Saheem Ali). The final curtain also happened to fall on the birthday of Tamir Rice, who would have been 15yrs young today, and was greatly represented in KMP, as Tiny (Sidiki Fofana). For the first time in my career - and even uttering this feels strange - I honestly do not know how or what to feel. Closing shows can usually be a challenge - especially, when working one to be proud of - but this was not like any type of show I have ever done. I am not so sure the recovery, or "getting back to life" is or will be so simple. This piece is such a strong representation of Life that I began to notice when the world of KMP felt more like realism than the world I walked into when I left the building after each performance. What of that? How does one walk away from that?
The rave reviews - especially one such in The NY Times as a Critic's Pick - the cheers and standing ovations, the celebrity appearances have all been outstanding and truly humbling; however, what I have found the most gratifying has been the privilege to witness lives changed. Literally. Lives have changed in front of our eyes, and that is something that cannot be measured by ratings or applause. It is the way those eyes rest on the subjects before them, how they search for the right articulation while their spirit shouts monologues of gratitude, openness and liberation. It is the awakening in their energy that is so tangible that it can be held. I have never seen anything like that before, As Daz (Clinton Lowe) says in the show, "that's transformation." That's magic. That is the beauty of Theatre.
Today, I celebrated my 6th anniversary living in New York. With that celebration came the bittersweet taste of a job successfully executed, but passed. In the morning, I silently hoped for an email requesting a special encore performance, just so I can get back into that world and touch one more life, say their names one more time, be a part of the release that the is and has been much needed in our communities. I wanted one more time to stand up for and represent every Grif in America who carries - knowingly or otherwise - the burden society has place on their psyche, on their flesh. I wanted to cry, to laugh out loud, to shout, to get angry, then forgive, to play and feel hopeful of a better tomorrow. What I resolved to do, however, was to do every bit of that in Donnell's life. I resolved to be as free in my daily life as I was able to feel in Kill Move Paradise. I am going to claim my ascension on this earthly plane. The message and the purpose has not faded; nor shall my contribution to it. Isa (Ryan Jamaal Swain) said it best: "A little more work to do." Until the next Piece of Power...
Thank You, Sade Lythcott, Jonathan McCrory, Nabii Faison, Denzel Faison, Paris Campbell, Randolph Logan, Byron McCray, Cheryl Duncan, Gabriel Lawrence, Garlia C. Jones-Ly, Christine Jean Chambers, Kojo Ade, Chris Holland, Laksman Shapiro, Gregory Caldwell, Candace Leacock, Reynaldo J. Nunez, Alan C. Edwards, Palmer Hefferan, Ntokozo Kunene, Maruti Evans, Darius Smith, Darrell G. Moultrie, Adrian Alexander Alea, Christina Franklin, Saheem Ali, James Ijames, Ryan Jamaal Swain, Clinton Lowe & Sidiki Fofana for your Love and Being.
#SmithDonnellE #OnMyMind #KillMoveParadise #NationalBlackTheatre #blackboymagic #blackboyjoy
Whew! What else can I say, having journeyed through two full performance weeks into our dark day? With only eleven shows left, and twelve completed - including the three previews - I Am increasingly humbled by the responses and conversations had, so far. Kill Move Paradise is truly changing lives and opening up people's minds and perspectives on how much needs to change in this country. It could not have happened at a better time, given the current condition of our nation and government. For too long, we have swept issues under the rug, to the point we can no longer hide the mountainous fabric of our impurities. More on that in another blog...
Those who have been able to experience the journey of Kill Move Paradise, will understand when I express my excitement in getting through our first two-show day of the run, on Saturday, June 10th. One performance night requires quite the lot of energy, focus and openness, as it is; two give that 110% twice in one day...like I said, I am thoroughly relieved to have been able to endure it, without over-exertion and fatigue. Many folks many not believe it, nor understand it, but acting requires such a level of athleticism - physical, mental, spiritual, emotional - and Actors are often under-estimated in that regard. Nonetheless, because we are so very passionate about not only our work as Artists, but about our mission as Storytellers. James Ijames has penned quite the message to communities, to this nation, that the four of us, the Crew and Producers all have a moral obligation to upholding every fiber of that message and ensure that it is told properly. A certain publication has acknowledged said message and humbled us with its perspective.
Yes, as if this Journey could not get any more gratifying, The New York Times came out and so profoundly reviewed Kill Move Paradise. Ben Brantley, Chief Theatre Critic of TNYT, evidently felt what many others have been feeling after leaving a perfomance and eloquently expressed it, encouraging readers to take advantage of the opportunity to see for themselves, while the show is still running. Last night's audience-surge was a result of his outlook, along with the ever-increasing social media postings and hashtagging. The Love and Support is real! It is truly a deep, deep honor to walk on-stage with my Brothers, my fellow Kings: Sidiki Fofana, Clinton Lowe and Ryan Jamaal Swain, every night, every performance, every Journey to a space of Healing. Don't miss out on the ride. Get yours. Until soon...
#SmithDonnellE #OnMyMind #blogspot #actorslife #KillMoveParadise #NationalBlackTheatre #Harlem #BlackBoyMagic #BlackBoyJoy #TheNYTimes
The Opening of Kill Move Paradise proved to be a monumental milestone in my career and creative experience as a whole. Not only was the show sold out to the point of having to encourage the folks on the wait-list to return another night for entry, but the house was filled with people who's work and journey I admire and am inspired by. It was humbly gratifying and soul-opening to share that kind of time and space. Words, words, words...there aren't enough to acutely capture what I am feeling. I Love my Journey. I Am grateful for its trajectory and embrace every step of it with open heart and Light. Thank YOU ALL who have stepped into KILL MOVE PARADISE so far! May the next seventeen (17) performances grow exponentially!
#SmithDonnellE #OnMyMind #blog #KillMoveParadise #NationalBlackTheatre #healing #transformation #blackboyjoy #blackboymagic
...I know not how else to begin but to try my best to capture what my whole being is going through. Wow... Simply wow... Last night was absolutely magical. I feel that I may use "magic" numerous times and in various ways; please pardon the repetition in advance. To have been on the receiving end of the kind of Love, Graciousness and Support that we felt last night, after our first preview - when elements are still being tested and moments explored - was more than I could ever hope for in a show. I can only imagine what tonight will bring! Perhaps, you, the reader, will be in the House tonight, yea? Don't tell me; I want to be surprised :)
I sit here, listening to Josiah Bell, on Spotify, thinking on all of the jokes, laughs and tender moments that have constantly been shared amongst my fellow Kings - and including our Queen the Stage Manager - during the rehearsal process for Kill Move Paradise. I realize not only how much it has bonded us, but how much that Joy is appreciated when we understand the weight of the Message we have been called to relay. There is a balance. We do not laugh to keep from crying; rather, we laugh out of the release of the burden and the understanding and appreciation of having endured so much, yet still be able to find that Light and bask in its Brilliance, knowing that Victory is ultimately ours. "That's transformation." Until soon...
#SmithDonnellE #OnMyMind #blog #KillMoveParadise #WorldPremiere #NationalBlackTheatre #Harlem #NYC
Today is monumental in so many ways! Having been preparing for tomorrow's first preview, along with knowing that today is the day of my parents' remarriage, I woke up to news that my youngest brother had his first child. Wow, right?!? Needless to say, I am ELATED to the point of combustion! What a way to start the day!
To top it all off, tonight was our final dress rehearsal for Kill Move Paradise, and it could not have felt more electric, in that time and space. Mind, you there was only a select number of guests who were able to get a sneak peek of the show. I have and will always believe that the audience is a crucial character in a show. Even if the fourth wall is not broken, there is something about the energy that emits from an audience that ignites the space in a whole new way. I can only imagine what a full audience will be like! Stay tuned, more to come! Until very soon...
#KillMoveParadise #SmithDonnellE #OnMyMind #blog #theatre #actorslife
DAY 1. We have accomplished a helluva lot over the last two and a half weeks of rehearsal; now comes the fun part. TECH *cue the suspense strike*. No matter how much I love what I do, especially when it comes to Theatre - and I absolutely looove what I do - I can never seem to get through tech week without getting antsy. Having full understanding of its purpose, necessity and benefit, I still melt in place with the constant holding, starting and stopping, rewind, repeat, re-stage... You get my drift. By no means is this a complaint, but rather a healthy observation of my anticipation of performing before an audience.
Today's tech actually went by pretty fast, and we achieved quite a bit, considering how tech-heavy this show really is. To know that today was only a half-day is already putting me in the proper mindset to utilize every millisecond of time that I may not be needed on-stage during the course of tomorrow. It is no longer about remembering lines and blocking; there are layers upon layers of ideas, movement, intentions and justifications that I am confident we will discover anew every night we perform.
I can go on and on about how proud I am and how much of an honor it is to be a part of such an adventurous Cast and Crew. We all have stepped up to the plate and poured our everything into our specific fields, and the way it has come together, already, is completely mind-blowing. This is without a doubt one of those productions that feels so right, I wish I could step outside myself and see it. And the fact that we embody the familial element makes this process all the more rewarding. The only ego is the Stage itself, 'cause it is one baaaad.. you get my drift.
I'm on my old man tonight, because we're putting in a 12-hr day tomorrow. That means that by 1am, I need to be in bed, resting with the script under my pillow - judge me not - and the music/sounds going on the playlist to put me where I need to be in the morning. I am reminded daily that while Kill Move Paradise is a journey of Healing, we as Actors still have to be willing to go through the fire to meet those in search of and in need of that healing so that by the end of every performance, at least one person has a better way of coping and persevering through the world around us. Stay tuned in the meantime, there is more to come.
#SmithDonnellE #stage #healing #KillMoveParadise #NationalBlackTheatre #BlackBoyMagic
Today was my first day off, having completed week #1 of rehearsals for James Ijames' Kill Move Paradise, and I am beat DOWN! What a week it has been; a productively gratifying one!! Already, this is proving to be a journey of true self-discovery, as every person involved is being called upon to step onto a whole new level of expression and storytelling. From the Designers to the Director, to the Cast and even the Theatre Company, we are exploring a dynamic level of newness into which James has so exquisitely summoned us to arrive, through his words and Vision. Plus, this Cast isn't just a Cast; these are my Brothers. We are Kings who have come together with like minds and spirits. The process is truly a beautiful one. I can't wait for Monday to roll around, so we can jump back into it.
Speaking of excitement, I had the opportunity to see a production of Twelfth Night, also directed by KMP's Director, Saheem Ali. I could not stop laughing, it was so phenomenally hilarious. Its genius was even more prominent by the fact that it is a part of The Public Theater's Mobile Unit Program, which means the set is only painted through the imagination. The way the Players brought their world to ours was impressive beyond words and made me wish I were able to see the show so much sooner, just so I can see it again. Yup, 'twas that great! So much so that I almost resented the fact that this evening's performance of Much Ado About Nothing was cancelled - due to the constant rain today. I was eager to bring some new discoveries to Claudio. Ah, that'll make tomorrow's performance that much more invigorating for me.
For now, I'll use the time tonight to dive back in to the script for KMP so that I can be as off-book as possible. The less I have to wonder about or second-guess my lines, the more I can play in the world that has been created. Perhaps I should warn my roomies? Naaaah, they're used to my in-practice antics. Until soon!!
#SmithDonnellE #OnMyMind #blog #actor #nyc #NBT #KillMoveParadise #theatre
As I was preparing for my meditation this morning, I had an impromptu vision of myself, giving an awards acceptance speech. An Oscar. Best Support Actor in a Drama. I saw the crowd I was speaking before, the Award in my hand, the suit I was wearing...then, the rest of my senses began to join in. I heard the applause, the music as I made my way to the stage, I felt the drop in the pit of my stomach, the surprise in my eyes, the chills that ran up my arms when My Name was announced. I smelled the various fragrances that surrounded me, the scent of fresh vacuuming in the carpets. I then went from experiencing all of this in the first person, to now hovering above myself, and witnessing my reaction to it all. My Speech...
During my Meditation, I felt this intense Light shine all around and through me. It was Joy, it was Assurance; Faith. Though my internal chant was "So Hum (I Am)," I felt this deeper message ring: "Be not dimmed.... Be not dimmed..." The Light grew, warmer - but not hotter - more comforting, bold and Pure. I couldn't help but smile during my meditation, and almost laugh, I felt so good. My breath fluid, my mind calm but focused, my body still, my soul receptive. I could have lived in that Peace forever.
It's easy to get caught up in the hullabaloo of societal woes, political and otherwise. Many times we may find ourselves trying so hard to avoid the endless news of terror that we compromise our own organic sense of Serenity and Solace. It's not resistance or a fight for Peace that is needed, but the realization that Peace exists and reigns freely and triumphantly, in spite of it all. You just have to be receptive to it. Namaste.
"It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness." - Confucius
Ironically, as I prepare to type this entry, while listening to a random playlist, on Spotify, of music from Billie Holiday, "Strange Fruit" plays as I insert the title. Coincidence? Perhaps. Make of it what you will. I digress.
Among today's eventfulness was an early morning trip to the dentist. Oh, you know, just your average visit to Urgent Care, after dealing with an unfortunate (but hidden) tooth ailment. When my name was finally called, I was surprised at how calm I was. Even on the other side of [the procedure] I was quite serene, and it wasn't due to any type of medication, either. There was a great lesson in that; I knew what needed to be done, and I knew what was needed in order for it to be accomplished... Focus. From the time I sat down, I placed some feel-good music in my ear, awaited the anesthesia and summoned peace and relaxation. C'est la vie.
Now, those who know me, know I can be somewhat of a hard-head when it comes to medication. I'm all for meditation and holistic approaches to ailment, but I also know that tooth pain is worse than a flopped audition in front of a favorite Casting Director...wait, let me rethink that... Anyhow, at first, I resisted any type of pain killers when the numbing started to wear off. Then, it hit me. Not the pain, but the realization of [the procedure] and the pain that was sure to follow. So I downed a couple of ibuprofen and prayed to the holistic gods that it wouldn't alter my chemical balance - these things go deep for me. I was fine. Fast forward to my plucking away the Series I've been working on. With a self-set deadline for the end of the month to meet, I am in it, propa. Focused. I pause, notice a twinge of pain coming on, but I use that as motivation to dive right back into my writing. Pain. Writing. Pain. Inspiration. Writing. More pain. Deeper inspiration. Intense writing... Coincidence? Hmmmm... Make of it what you will.
The greater the focus, the weaker the distractions, the more effective the accomplishment. Donny, out.
#SmithDonnellE #focused #OnMyMind #BillieHoliday #writing #Spotify #committment #dentist
I remember being in school and looking forward to Mother Nature's wintry wrath and having a day (or more) off. These days, it's a different story. We adults don't always get that luxury, and as Creatives, we are pretty much like the Postal Service - "whether rain, or sleet, or snow..." But guess who is rebelling on this particular slushy day? Yup, this guy.
While it's not a complete day off, I do take solace in delaying my departure from the house, to get some internal work done; updates, emails, phone calls, things that don't require me to leave right away. Realizing that I've not communicated via blogging in some time, was the perfect excuse to stay in and a great way to keep creativity flowing. True, it's not as bad out as it was made to be, but I'll take a work-from-home day, as long as productivity prevails. I usually recognize that there is always something to be done, so total days off - whether snowy or not - are usually few and far in-between. Especially these days, in support of the new docuseries, TIME: The Kalief Browder Story.
Tomorrow will air the third (3rd) episode of TIME, and I normally like to contribute to spreading the word by using the social media platforms to remind and encourage people to tune in to SpikeTV or BET to catch the series. It's not an easy series to watch, but one that is very necessary for our communities and, essentially, the nation. We are in a new type of political climate where the hard truth is walking right in front of us and a lot of people, groups, values, and morals are on the line. I'm glad to know about and hear the conversations being had, and hope that they will manifest into even greater action than ever before taken. So, while gearing up to tune into tomorrow's episode of TIME: The Kalief Browder Story, at 10p EST on SpikeTV, here are a couple of videos with commentary from friends of mine who have been willing to talk about it. Until soon...
#KaliefBrowder #TIME #SpikeTV #TheCinemart #SmithDonnellE #LetsTalkAboutIt #iAm #change
Donnell E. Smith