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.
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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...
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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
Donnell E. Smith