I'm sitting in my housing unit, in Minneapolis, sorting out the basket of events that have occurred, in just the last 48hrs. From Broadway officially shutting down in New York, to waking up to an official notice that remaining performances of The Bacchae - all production at the Guthrie Theater - have been cancelled, all due to the progression of the COVID-19 pandemic, life has taken a surrealistic turn. Until very shortly ago, my mind has been aflutter, for lack of a better description. While I am still sad that our performances are no more, that is only a slither of the sadness I feel.
During this week, my mind has been mostly on the world, but especially our nation. With the lack of preparation and information on the part of our current administration, I think about:
What are we going to do differently? My take? Instead of spending time worrying, or pointing the finger - more especially wasting time stocking up on materialistic things, for what??? - this is where we rise to the occasion and step into the new. I don't mean to get all revolutionary, but this very pandemic is further revealing more of the systems that no longer serve or support us as a People, and we cannot not readily rely on "the powers the be," because they be people just like us. At the end of the day, we are all human beings who are, at the foundation, equally at risk. "Power," "Status," and "Money" truly have less significance than we like to believe, now. We are being called to be smarter than that, and to truly be a part of the conversation of harmonic solutions. But that's just me, and I'm only one of millions. Something needs to be done, though, before we cycle back into the same old lessons we should have learned generations ago. Until soon...
#SmithDonnellE #OnMyMind #blogspot #ExaminingPieces
At present, I am sitting in my dressing room, preparing for tonight's preview of THE BACCHAE - the second one of the run. As I reflect on last night's first preview, exuberance and gratitude fill my cup. Part of me keeps asking myself, how did I manage to get to this point? Not from a place of self-deprecation, no; it just amazes me how things happen in such a way, even when I think I'm procrastinating or not doing "enough." The other, bigger part of me affirms, and so it is.
I remember when I first moved to New York, I was all about getting on Broadway; Broadway, Broadway, Broooadwaaay. A couple of years in, I resolved that it will happen when it will and that my focus should be more on doing work I can be proud of. It has served me quite well, because here I am, loving the very project I am working on, along with a dynamic and highly supportive cast, at a prestigious theater. Knowing that my commitment to the quality of the work has brought me this far, I can only be ready to embrace what is next to come. Until soon...
#OnMyMind #SmithDonnellE #blogspot #evolution #SITICompany #TheBacchae #TheGuthrie
I may sit in my solitude, be it by choice or by circumstance, and wonder where my next step will be; what it may look like. Yet and still, I will make the step. I may consider my surroundings and analyze where the pockets of emptiness are and how they could or should be filled. Nonetheless, I will humble myself to gratitude and give thanks for even being where I am. I may question any perceived setbacks or want to challenge the old adage, "life isn't fair." However, I continue with the acknowledgment that what is for me will be for me; simply because it has always been so, before. Even if just for today.
I am prone to dramatize my state of being, at any given moment, simply because I am usually asking the question, "what else is there?" For better or for lesson - making it then, that much more profound in the long term - I dare to explore the answer to that question. I am prone to changing my mind, at a moment's notice, but not before wringing my mind of all of the many possibilities and responses that could come at me in reactionary retaliation. This is all before arriving at the point of realizing that I come first, which is where I should have started. A man of my word yes, but a man of humble transparency and honesty, first. I am prone to start all over again, with no particular order in mind, to correct any perceived missteps, and redeem my soul through physical action. Then, I will have realized that every day is that opportunity to start anew. "It could all be so simple..." Could it not?
We are not bound by our circumstances, no matter how much one or any of us would beg to differ. We really are more liberated than we give ourselves credit for. We tend to put excess pressure on ourselves to make the "right" decision, or be "good" at living life; isn't living life at all, "good?" We monetize our success and compare it to the exterior perceptions we have of others who are "successful." If only we knew the full story. We are not the sum total of our bank statements, closets or parking lots; we are so much for than we give ourselves credit for.
What if we knew just how free we really were? What if we broke free of societal shame and stepped into the true Light, the owness of Self? What if we did not allow others' perceptions steer our journeys or gravel our pathways. What if the dirt of the earth was enough? What if we emboldened our communities with spirit and monetary proportions? What if we said "yes" to ourselves, first? Even if only for today...
#SmithDonnellE #OnMyMind #blogspot #IfOnlyForToday #freedom #self
Be it that I've taken some time away from this section of my site, I almost beat myself up, in paranoia of missing out on potential connections. Quickly, I shifted my thought and nestled into the understanding that I cannot not be everywhere and make every connection at once; no matter how much society will have me to believe that it is the way of the era. I had to recalibrate and redefine what my Journey means to me.
In June of 2011, I moved to New York with the mission to cultivate my career and take things to the next level. It was a true leap of faith, in every sense of the word, and much to my gratification. I booked my first gig a month in, and it's proven fruitful since then. With that initial gratification came this "vow" (of sorts) to stay in New York, no matter what, until I got to where I wanted to be. At the time, that meant Equity-status and Broadway. I seriously would not even so much as visit home - which was an easy 3-hr bus ride away - simply because I feared missing out on some great opportunity that would lead me to my purpose for moving to the Big City. That's just ridiculous, right? But it was a real train of thought. I wanted to devote my full self to leveling up and getting the best experience possible. Thus, learning the hard way, how to navigate.
After burning myself out a number of times - saying yes to every offer, sometimes working overlapping projects and not resting properly - I had to realize that I wasn't about "booking" more than it was really about maintaining a work-life balance. That sounds like something more befitting for the Corporate realm, but it's very much necessary in our industry of Creativity and Entertainment. The more I was making my career a nine-to-five, the more I was resenting not being able to have fun auditioning, or taking a rejection with a grain of salt. It became the crux of my life and almost the bane of my existence. It wasn't until I learned that life experiences feed my Art experiences that I began to release this empty "need" to "make it." Now, for me, "making it" hold a completely different meaning, and one that I am thoroughly pleased to be living in.
May you be the balance you need in your path. Until soon-ish...
*Video Alert!* This is a quick one, but I just wanted to share the promo-trailer for Too Heavy for Your Pocket, for your viewing pleasure. Now that the show is underway, it's all about living in the fullness of the world that has been created. Hope to see you in the space!
A week and a half ago, I embarked on a journey through the world of a play that I fell in love with, at first read. Though the conversations leading up to the day rehearsals started were concerning - causing me to question the whole prospect - I still felt a deeply great sense of pride, honor and joy in being able to be a part of such a profoundly written story. Day one, there was instant chemistry with my cast mates - how often does that happen? I have never bonded so much, so fast with a cast I just met for the first time, before. Since then, we have been nearly inseparable. I couldn't be more grateful for that.
Experiences like this show me that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. They are assurances that let me know that when I listen to my heart, follow my intuition and walk in Love, all that I desire aligns perfectly with all that I am meant to do. I am living in my Purpose. That and the help of the current mediation journey with Oprah and Deepak Chopra has immensely informed how I navigate my day-to-day and how to maintain a sense of peace and grounding in the work that I do as an Actor, in this particular process. More reasons to be grateful.
As we continue through the rehearsal process, the word "Preparation" keeps resounding within me. More than just going over my lines, or doing my historical research, Preparation embodies the mind, body and spirit. My mental, emotional and ethereal self has to be aligned with this physical body, in order for me to effectively carry out the work that is being asked of me. And more often than not, my prep-work begins the night before, not from the time I wake up. A partner to Preparation: Self-Care. Rest, meditation, exercise, vocal warm-ups, nourishment and openness all connect to each other and inform how I operate in the rehearsal room, and beyond. They are the very reasons I acknowledge that what I do is more than a career; it is a lifestyle. I look forward to what discoveries I will continue to make, over the course of this production.
Here. Doing the thing, this Actor thing. Patiently waiting my "turn" yet I don't stop moving. Sometimes I worry. Sometimes. I keep going, though. What alternative is there? Stop? Nah, that simply doesn't compute with who I Am.
I was made for this
Born and bathed for this
Even when I had no clue
That this was my lane,
The Universe aligned me for this
A continual batch of steps
Ordered fresh by the Divine Infinite
Doused in Grace and Inspiration
So there is no "quit"
Nah the pathways are too lit
Passion ablaze to light my way
Again, I was made for this
Prayed for this
Got frustrated and meditated
Fasted and then praised for this
No hot sauce in my backpack
But still swag
Slide a script my way
And I slay that shyt
Season gets light
So, I write
Still, I rise and grind
Self-made, I stay lit
Put in my heart, gave it my soul
Every existence of my being
Driving toward the goal
Not a destination, I'm the journeyman
The goal is to grow, absorb and evolve
Emit my best and even better than
So i'm not stoppin'
It's not an option
Times get hard, the tides get rough
But so what, that's Life
And in it there will always be sacrifice
So I don't silence my soul
For some corporate dough
I much rather this Artistic flow;
Even when it hurts
It's not just a job, it's my life's work
I won't shirk the responsibility passed down to me
It's rich history, the honor of storytelling
The tradition of the Griot...
How many of yall know? Do your research
Discover what its work was worth for society
Basically creative piety
See why this is the life for me?
I can go on and on and on and on
But for those who want to know more
Read more, learn more about me,
"What are you excited about?" That was my opening question, in a speech I gave today, at an annual luncheon. Having asked this question in my first encounters with individuals, it has always proven to lead to very authentic conversation. Usually, it shows up in the person's eyes what moves them. It is sometimes the most simple questions that will lead to some of the most impactful answers and discoveries.
In 2013, when I was performing at The Vital Theatre (Upper West Side, NY), I came in contact with an organization who brought a group of children, in foster care, to see the show - "Show Way," written by Melody Cooper. During the talk-back we had after the performance, I remember thinking to myself, "who are these kids? They're brilliant!" I was so moved and became so interested in learning more about the organization, that I would soon come in contact with Linn Tanzman, the Founder of said organization, Culture For One. Over the next four years, Linn and I would stay in touch and I would finally take the steps to become a volunteer.
I bring this up because it was the small move then that has created one of the biggest impacts I've experienced, thus far in Life. It has informed how I interact with people in general, and how I navigate the work I do as an Actor. It empowers me to realize that it's all come full circle in a way that reminds me that everything we do, know and learn is somehow connected to each other; lends themselves to each other.
During my work with The Playwrights Realm on Jonathan Payne's "The Revolving Cycles Truly and Steadily Roll'd," this summer-to-fall, I made it a point to connect them to Culture For One, with the hope that they would be able to work out an opportunity for a group to see the show. Then it happened, and they came. It was such a powerful night! So much so that it compelled the Founder and Staff at Culture For One to ask me if I would be interested in being a featured speaker at their upcoming Annual Fall Luncheon. Thus, bringing me to today.
So many little events came together bring me to this big moment; one that I would not have believed was coming, back in 2013. And that is exactly what I spoke on, this afternoon, following my opening question. The thing(s) which excites us, then, motivates us to rise to our greater selves. From there, we find ourselves contributing to an extraordinary cause, or leading a monumental movement. I am immensely grateful that I took the steps toward Culture For One, am humbled by where it has brought me, and am excited to see what's on the horizon. Until soon...
#OnMyMind #blogspot #CultureForOne #LittleBigMatters
I remember when I was a kid, really young, growing up in Baltimore, my brothers and I would spend the day with my grandmother, while my parents worked. On this one particular day, during the summer, my grandmother took us to the downtown area of Baltimore. I recall going to Lexington Market to get a chicken box and twisty glazed donuts (my favorites, growing up). On the bus ride back to the house, there was a disagreement between this young man and woman, that turned into an argument. It was one of those situations where is was more annoying than threatening, but I was that nosey kid trying to see what they were arguing about. Eventually they got into a physical fight - I can't quite recall who started it. The woman ended up pepper spraying the man's face, which incidentally caused it to cloud an spread. Chaos broke out. Folks were coughing and shouting, scrambling to get out of the way of the fight and the mist of the pepper spray. The bus driver slammed on the brakes and pulled the bus over, opened the doors, yelling for everyone to evacuate the bus.
Getting off the bus, I remember being pushed and then pulled, the atmosphere vacillating between hectic and orderly, in rapid shifts. My brothers and I made it off the bus, but there was still a great number of people needing to come off. I remember crying, wondering where my grandmother was and if she was okay. Finally, I saw her appear in the threshold of the back door, crying, nose running, holding on to both sides of the frame, trying to step off the bus. A middle-aged man, came to her rescue, helping her off. Once were reunited, it was a matter of waiting for the police to arrive and the okay to get back on the bus - or on a new bus. I know it had to have been at least 45 minutes that passed before we were back on the bus. I cannot recall if one or both agitators were detained, but I do remember the man apologizing to my grandmother; being both ashamed to look her in the eyes, yet looking for some sense of forgiveness or acknowledgement. It was like he was a child again, apologizing to his own grandmother. I'll never forget that.
This memory struck my mind, out of thin ether, last weekend. At first, upon memory, I was like "where did that come from?," and brushed it off. Now, reflecting on the first full week of rehearsal of having been completed today, I can see how the memory might have been triggered from reading and re-reading the script. Ironically, during one of the rehearsals, we got into an in-depth conversation about trauma and PTSD: from the basic definition of both, to how each is diagnosed, treated and coped with. I brought up that story about the fight on the bus, to my peers. During that recanting of the story, I got teary-eyed and started reliving some of the fear I felt that day - mind you, it was over 20 years ago. This wasn't the only memory that has re-emerged in my psyche, but possibly one of the strongest since the start of rehearsals. I have no idea what other memories may be triggered in the process, between now and the run of the show, but I certainly hope that it will only serve as a platform for inner healing and a reclaiming of my peace with the past. I, too, hope that anyone who comes to see this show, who might experience a similar trigger of a past memory, will able to do the same. Until soon...
Season's Greetings of the Summer Persuasion!
I took some time to myself, to be with myself, given the fact that Sprout House went on hiatus as of June 29th. There was this idea in my mind that I'd flee to some vacation location for the month of July, where I'd reflect and regroup my Being, in preparation for a luminous return to the hustle and bustle of NYC; just in time for the next creative pow-wow. Then I was reminded that Life doesn't always go according to my plans.
To be clear, I wasn't necessarily disappointed with the absence of a vacation from the city. In retrospect, the diversion was exactly what I needed in order to check myself, in a new way. My impetus to leave the City for July was based on the recall of events from that time last year - those who know me, or have been paying attention to my entries, know what I am referring to. This was my turn to be very intentional about how I was to spend my time here, since I was going to be here. I had to be honest with myself about what I needed, and what I needed what to not be left solely to my thoughts and memories, for acknowledgment of my bouts of depression. True, it was a fear I had, that if I stayed in New York, I might isolate myself and go dark. I had to preserve and protect my energy.
I always speak on how important it is to flip one's perceptions, in dire situations; to transform the abyss of fear into the well of infinite possibilities. So, that's what I needed to do. My remaining in NY meant that I was to live in intentional joy, not allowing myself to fall idle, unless in a state of meditation, silent gratitude or prayer. That if anytime I felt myself drifting, I knew I could call on someone in my support system to lean on, laugh with and be reminded that Life is not meant for sorrow. This was where I discovered my Power, my Yes - I know this sounds all types of corny, like an infomercial, but I'm a certified cornball, so bear with me. I also opened myself up to getting a part-time job doing something that I enjoyed, because why not keep an income flowing, in the meanwhile, right? My goal became all about stitching new patterns into this quilt of memory.
Here I am, six weeks later, feeling like I've maneuvered triumphantly through the trenches of my mind, proudly emerging from the illusions of fear, with new Light. I've made some profound connections, rediscovered what this heart of mine is capable of giving & receiving, and have laughed more than I have in the whole year combined. My smile is earnest, not a product of expectation. Truly, I feel like a whole human being, able to embrace my every emotion and still carry the purest of Joy, without strain. I did finally get to leave the city and go home, on the weekend of King's birthday, to parallel the number one priority we always talked about: spending quality time with family. It was worth every waking second, too, much more than I would've sought to find in a month-long escape.
The lesson? Just Be. Those two words have taught me so much in this last year, and every day, I feel like I get to learn a little more of what that really means. It serves me little-to-nothing to try too hard, to force, to resist, stress, worry or fear. Many times over, it has been revealed to me that the best in Life occurs when I am just open to receiving it. After I've said "Yes" to Life and committed to Just Be. So, here I continue: until soon...
Memories of what I used to have fill my mental matter, as I long for what's to come. Maybe I keep myself busy, by counting the mistakes that have turned into blessings. Perhaps, I consider the times my smile was a transformation out of depression. I believe, then, that I will not wait for long. I'm smiling again, just thinking about it. Maybe everything that glitters isn't gold, but everything that rumbles isn't danger, either. That's how I learned balance. Now the ground that opens up isn't for me to fall into, no. I realize that it is for me to watch growth from the Earth; growth that will take me to higher plains. I guess that abyss of fear really was a well of infinite possibilities, this whole time. Just because I can't see but so far doesn't make knowing impossible. There is a reason I know now what I could not understand before. Time. How can I receive that which I am not (yet) capable of holding? Yet. Does that mean I have never really been without? That, maybe...just maybe, I have always been provided what I needed to do what I needed to do to get ready for what comes next? Then, I'm not wanting...right? I'm living and learning, growing and knowing which way is the way for me.
#SmithDonnellE #OnMyMind #InTransitSeries #blogspot
He thought me strange, from the way I claimed my name. Like, foreign-like, but from the very land from whence I came. I almost puzzled myself when I professed the next few sentiments I felt. Like, am I attempting to defend the man that I am, to my own kin? He smirked at my confusion, as if I were an illusion. Bruised from the mental intrusion, I redefined my bravado, speaking accelerando, speaking honest sonnets and haikus, direct like the news, my truths. He was not amused; now whose confused. He straightened up like a militant, eyes focused like a diligent student. He was not amused. He was...intrigued. Believed that I might be the energy he needs to break free from his own degree of masculinity. He had it all wrong, all along. It's not about braggadocio, but how to use what you know, to prove how far you can go. He began to understand what it really means to be a man. The transformation was beautiful; and not unusual for guys who look like me. Guys who have to believe in something greater than what they see, to acquire this kind of reprieve. And all we ever wanted was to be free.
She looked at me, inquisitively, as though I spoke my truth exquisitely. My eloquent verbal benevolence caught her by surprise. She gazed into my eyes, as if to spot a glimpse of a disguise she must have been hoping lied inside. Her smiles archived files of the moments when words escaped her, before they had the chance to verbalize. She was coy, cute; curious to know the history. My story. O' the glory of her secret worry that I may very well not be who she was told I'd be, but something far more intriguing: authentic human being. Imagine the conversation with the rest of her population when it is discovered that lucid imagination, paired with ignorance and sprinkled defamation is what births the downfall of a nation. So, may the notion create a sense of devotion to Love and truth; proof that hi(s)tory can be told in a bold manner, without daggers, in an honest way to say, "Yes, his life does matter." That, I am not the narrative some thought imperative to paint on the walls of society, with compromised sobriety. I am not the monster under your bed, nor the voice of danger in your head. "I am just a soul, whose intentions are good. O' Lord, please don't let me be misunderstood."
But I'M BACK!
I had some technical hurdles on the digital home front, but I am back and here to stay. It never ceases to amaze me how often I am reminded about the Gift and power of patience and inner peace. The few days without access felt like an eternity, in the midst of it, but I look back and can see that it wasn't that bad. Such is life.
So much has occurred, since my last entry; where to begin? It's definitely great to see and feel more of the Sun. This past winter has been among the darkest for me, so I am absolutely committed to soaking up as much Vitamin D as I can. Roller blading, walks, cookouts, i'm up for it. Beyond that, is a blessing to live in the manifestations of my goals and passions. Mind blowingly - I know, it's not a real word, but I'm in a safe space - my three most recent major projects have all been recognized:
TIME: The Kalief Browder Story (Netflix) - Peabody Award Winner
Kill Move Paradise (Theatre) - Drama Desk Award Nominee for Lighting and Set
Sprout House (NBCU Kids) - Daytime Emmy Nominee
Like, whoa... Again, I'm just really grateful to be a part of projects with a powerful message and ones that speak to the communities. May I continue to do the type of work that I am eternally proud of, that speaks to who I am and what I stand/advocate for. Not only that, the fact that in each of these projects, I have been surrounded by people who were passionate about the work they put out, and the story or message(s) being shared; the makings of success.
Also in this time, I've been working with my fellow Producers on our short film, FAWK. Since we're in the crowd-funding phase, to help get through post-production, it's been crucial for us to be as present as possible. Now that this site is back up and running, you'll likely see more info and updates in the near future. For now, I have some other writing of my own to tend to...*wink* Until soon...
Donnell E. Smith