"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...
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Donnell E. Smith