UP until this very moment, I have been contemplating what I wanted to share in this first (and loooong overdue) blog of 2018. Earlier this evening, I read an email from a dear friend of mine, who wanted to express his gratitude for and to the people in his life. Humbled to have been on the receiving end of that email, that list of I Am's, I was inspired to happily oblige and reply with my gratitude-now list. I then wanted to continue these positive vibes and send my list to the people who humble and inspire me. Then, I decided I would do it in a slightly different way.
IN reading my friend's list, I realized that the very act of professing our gratitude brings about a feeling of renewal, and a fresh start, in that very moment. We do not have to wait for New Year's Day or life anniversaries (birthdays) or even the beginning of the week to begin anew. Every day we are given to rise from our beds, we are already new. We get to use today to be better than yesterday; that is our clean slate. No matter what occurred yesterday, it does not keep you from being your best You, today. With that being said, here is my gratitude-now list:
I Am grateful to have been a part of a dope email chain (re: dear friend's shared gratitude list).
I Am grateful that I get to have passionate people in my life who inspire me to be passionate about Life.
I Am grateful for stillness and silence.
I Am grateful for getting to wake up and make today better than yesterday.
I Am grateful that I have stepped into my Purpose and get to live in it every day.
I Am grateful for my Blackness.
I Am grateful for parents who support my path, even though they were afraid I'd be homeless or broke, in the process.
I Am grateful that I got to experience being homeless and broke during my time living in NYC - without it, I might not have realized how resilient and resourceful I really Am.
I Am grateful that I can find a way.
I Am grateful that I have found a way to maintain inner-peace, assurance and gratitude, in the face of uncertainty and bullshit.
I Am grateful for Love over fear.
I Am grateful I get to be a Happy Black Man on a show that little Black boys and girls will see and remember when they're grown.
I Am grateful that I no longer feel that I have to prove myself or have to fit into the boxes that society has created, just to feel like I matter (dammit!).
I Am grateful for Our stories, Our strides, Our history.
I Am grateful for my commitment to Happiness, no matter what.
I Am grateful for my own permission to cry, to get pissed, to need, to ask for help, to stumble, to fall, to cry some more and then to get right back up and be dope as shit - that felt good, right there...
I Am grateful that I know who I Am, and that much assures my stability in every situation.
I Am grateful for the ones who take the time to know me, the ones who understand me and all my quirks to know that my Love goes beyond words.
I Am grateful to those whose eyes have reached this point - no matter what you may have said about this long list, along the way - because it means that on some level, you believe in me and my mission. Thank You! Until soon...
#SmithDonnellE #OnMyMind #newness #gratitude #blogspot #thankyou #iAM
WHAT is it about this time of the year that has many of us either going into overdrive, trying to tie up loose ends, or deeply introspective, meticulously evaluating the course of the year, to date? We increase productivity, we shop more, we workout out more, we connect with more friends and we eagerly anticipate the coming of a new year. But why? Are we lamenting over our actions throughout the present year and are in need of a clean slate? Have our sown seeds shown us what is to come in the next season, that we cannot wait for it to manifest? I wonder...
USUALLY, I treat my birthdays as my own Personal New Year. Even when I wish others a "Happy Birthday" - Disclaimer: I do miss birthdays here and there, and kick myself for it because I want to catch everyone I know - I try to include "Personal New Year" somewhere in my message to the one in celebration. It's one of the primary reasons I opt to travel on or around my birthday, to give myself permission to go inward, analyze my Journey, get to know me more and find out what about me is evolving. Then, when New Year's Eve comes around, I am the guy who is happy staying in the house, watching TV, meditating or pigging out. Don't get me wrong, I do still hold on to some of the ritualistic superstitions like: making sure all of my laundry is washed, or detail-cleaning the house the day before, and even making sure I'm going into the new year with a certain amount of money in the bank and on my person. But, I also find myself stressing less and less, the closer to the closing of the year that we get. Nonetheless, I am intrigued by the way we, generally, start to get antsy in the final month of the year.
THIS year's Journey has taught me how to surrender and to let go; and in a myriad of ways. I look back over my steps and I realize the patterns of walking away from certain situations without hesitation, embracing new ideas and values with open arms, even understanding the loss of loved ones gone too soon. I realize that none of it is in vain and each step has either been with fully conscious intent or subconscious dharma, always informing the next step and contributing to the overall mission. Even when I did not understand how - and there are certain lessons I still grapple with - I made the choice to lean more into Faith, instead of stress. I have learned that uncertainty is the greatest platform for opportunity. Now, I'm really starting to see that it is about the Journey, because the destination is a deceptive illusion that will have you chasing your own ego, before you get to taste the fruits of your desires.
PERHAPS, it is in my practice of silence and stillness that I have been able to reach this level of clarity. Perhaps, this very moment is the only one that should be getting all of my attention. Perhaps, I will stay on this effortless flow out of 2017 and step confidently into 2018, no rush necessary. Perhaps, I should challenge you to do the same. Until soon...
#SmithDonnellE #OnMyMind #blogspot #NewYear #rocksteady
To date, it has been 6 years, 3 months, 3 weeks and 5 days since I moved to New York; and as it closes in on the week leading up to my Personal New Year (birthday), I have found myself in a space of deep introspection. I have constantly been thinking about the course of my journey - which I would not trade in for the world - yet, also wondering how different it might have been if certain vital steps and opportunities were missed. There have been many a day when I would kick myself for not being where I feel I should have been - and honestly, from time to time, I still do. I have complained about things and circumstances, yet always find myself right back to a space of Gratitude and Humbleness. Those moments are my reminders that I am right where I am supposed to be.
Today, I sat in a cafe and journal-ranted about all of the elements that I felt were working against me, or seemingly holding me back. In the midst of that rant, I began to recognize the solutions/remedies for those same complaints. Literally, for every complaint I spoke of and listed, there were one or two solutions I was able to clearly see that would combat that thought process and challenge myself to turn them into opportunities. I realized that I was beginning to allow myself to get so distracted by the elements I wanted to see changes in, that I nearly missed the open door to those very changes. Mahatma Gandhi was right: Be the change you want to see.
Being present does not necessarily mean having all the answers. Rather, it means acknowledging where you are, what you feel and where the opportunities to modify and improve lie. It's all there, really. I am learning, every day, how to live in the now and how to see the light in every waking situation, step by step. Of course it is not always easy, but very much worth the effort, in the long run. Yea, I'm still figuring it out. Until soon...
#SmithDonnellE #OnMyMind #blogspot #FiguringItOut
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
Donnell E. Smith