We all made it through High School, so we all know what it's like to be labelled. See what I did just there? I just labelled all of you as High School graduates, but it is at least possible that I have a reader who is as of yet not finished with High School. It's so second nature for human beings to look at someone and categorize them for easy reference. Why would someone want to meet "Adam" when they can simply shake Adam's hand and instinctively know all there is to know about "Preppy Math Kid". It is a vicious part of the human psyche and one that I've seen people eagerly try to change in this world, and also perpetuate on a day to day basis. It goes beyond calling someone "American", there are connotations that go with it. I would bet that for a good majority of Americans if you say "Muslim" their first instinct would be to think of an Islamic Radicalist. Why? Because somewhere along the way our culture decided that those two things were synonymous. That couldn't be farther from the truth. Adam's existence as a Preppy Math Kid might only come so far as his clothing, his interests, or even so far as how he carries himself and his books as he walks down the halls.
For me? It's pretty much an every day occurrence. In Theatre it's an unfortunate occupational hazard. A necessity of the trade. There are so many 23 year old Irish actors in New York, it's absurd, and if you're looking for ONLY 23 year old Irish actors, you better put in your casting notice that this is all you want. This lets those who are not 23 year old Irish actors that they need not apply. Yet in doing so I've been given a label, a designation by which I know I pass a test. Just like in High School. Except the difference is that I have made it a requirement of my life to exist beyond labels. You see, while I recognize labeling and typing as a necessary evil to the Theatre industry, it is an evil I don't mind. In order to fit a part, you must first, indeed, fit the part. Much of the theatre canon is written to make a point about a group of people, and you need someone from within that group to make the point, consciously or subconsciously.
In my own life, however, I have always been one happy to do what I want, enjoy what I want, know those who I want to know, and strive to continue to live that way. Just today I was remarked on as an "enigma" by a wonderful person who gave me so much joy at that description.
These people got it wrong.
Last night a friend of mine asked me for some advice on a relationship she's trying to get into. I won't say who she is so that I can say, publicly, that she had been making some stupid decisions regarding how she was going about this thing (sorry darlin' for when you read this!). In a nutshell she had created a relationship around a cute form of playacting, so that neither party had to fully commit to the relationship. This gave both of them an out when it started getting to serious by going "hahaha, isn't playacting fun, but it's all just for fun!" I've realized through self reflection and from reflection of conversations I've had with friends in my life, that many of us do this exact thing at the initial stage. We create a simple out in order to protect ourselves from actually feeling anything or from feeling any pain. The problem with creating this out, is that when one party really starts to feel more, the other is never sure if it's playacting or might possibly be really interested. That is a very very stressful place to be, it causes a lot of anxiety, and more often than not, causes the confused party to take the out to save themselves the possibility of being hurt and humiliated. I am very guilty of this same problem at times, but it's always easier to offer advice rather than follow it.
That being said, I was trying to find an analogy to help her understand an alternate method of approaching the situation, and how to solve the problem of the pesky "out". In my incoherent, very often nonsensical ramblings, I stumbled across what is absolutely the best analogy I've heard for how to live your love life to the fullest. I would like to share it with you all now, I call it "The New Englander's Guide to a Fulfilling Love Life".
I posted this on Facebook last night, but here I'll try and say it a little more eloquently and less from the hip.
Taking the step towards a real, honest, fulfilling relationship is like getting into a frigid, cold ocean in New England. Everyone in the world makes it at least initially up to their ankles. From here, the population of the earth splits into two types of people. The first type of person, everyone is guilty of considering. Absolutely everyone is tempted to wade in slowly. This makes the most logical sense. By slowly allowing your body to get used to the cold until you are all the way in you never have to experience the cold in an overwhelming way. It seems like a way to cheat your way into experiencing the full ocean without having to face the fear of the initial shock. There is one problem with this method, however, and itaffects 99.99% of people who choose this method. These people always make only halfway. As the cold spreads up their legs, a relatively non-sensitive part of the body, they are lulled into a false sense of security in that their body is easily capable of dealing with the cold water. However as soon as the rigid water reaches their crotch, and the ocean interacts with quite possibly the most sensitive part of the body, it's too sensitive for them. These people jump upwards and backwards, anything to avoid having to feel in the most sensitive parts of their body. They return to thigh level and announce that this is far enough, and that they never really wanted to go into the ocean in the first place, just "get their feet wet". They will continue to stand, content and proud in themselves that they went even this far with such a challenging feat. They will splash around, laugh, talk, and have a great time comforted in the fact that they are "in the ocean" even though they are less than halfway in. They will, at least a few times briefly submerge their sensitive crotchal region again just to prove that they can, that they are brave enough. They will scream, and laughingly run back to the safe depth, and tell their friends about how wonderful it is to go into the ocean. The problem is that they're submerging such a sensitive region for all the wrong reasons.
So I saw my good friend Amy
post a list of 50 things she's thankful for in 2012, and recommended that others do the same. I thought about it, and in light of everything going on in my life right now, I thought I'd take the opportunity to do the same.
So here we go, 50 things I'm thankful for, in no particular order (excepting the first two).
1.) First and foremost my unbelievably wonderful and supportive family. Without them I literally would have nothing, and they continue to give to me every single day.
2.) My network of friends, my second family. You are always there to pick me up and dust me off when I need it, and never hesitate to pick up the phone when I call. Thank you to everyone who is always there for me. I always will be in return.
3.) Ithaca College, for giving me an education that has been invaluable since I graduated in May, and for giving me some of the greatest memories I've ever had. I think on my time at IC every single day and think fondly on every person who ever influenced me there. I can not express enough how much that institution meant to me and how much it means to me now.
4.) Waynflete School, for much the same reasons as #3. 16 years felt like plenty when I graduated in 2008, and now I read about what's going on and I ache to be back with you. The faculty and staff, my fellow students, they all helped to shape who I am today. No one institution deserves more credit in that regard than Waynflete. I hold Waynflete dear to my heart, and I can't wait for the NYC alum get together next week!
5.) The Ithaca College Class of 2012, you guys inspire me every day. Thanks for being amazing and for continuing to raise the bar with how far you can go in this world.
6.) The Loveshack - the best group of college roommates a guy could ever ask for
7.) Evan Arbour and Taj Harvey, my two fantastic little brothers at IC
8.) Graham Stuart Allen for finding me my first NYC apartment
9.) Mary Corsaro and Brian Demaris for wholly prepping me for auditions in this city.
10.) Coffee...my lifeblood.
11.) Dreams, goals, and achievements
12.) The Hackmatack Playhouse, Ithaca Shakespeare Company, Merry-Go-Round Playhouse, and Theater at Monmouth - the professional theatre companies who this year have paid me to do what I love
13.) Au Bon Pain and The Hummus and Pita Company for giving me jobs when I was in desperate need.
14.) Ted Arcand and The Dogfish Company
15.) The freedom to pursue what I love
16.) Anyone who has granted me an audition, and given me positive feedback, or a callback
17.) actorsequity.org, backstage.com, playbill.com, and actorsaccess.com - literally the reason I can manage myself in this industry
18.) The New England Patriots - I dream about your season in the off-season and I live for it when football is here.
19.) Microsoft, for inventing the Xbox
20.) All the people who have responded when I've asked to get coffee with them, and have actually met with me. These amazing people take time out of their lives to help new, completely lost kids like myself, and they should be given an award for awesomeness.
21.) Sallie Mae for deferring my college loan payments by even a couple of months, though I'll be cursing her name soon enough.
22.) Good beer, may it ever continue to exist
23.) People and artists who truly work to better the arts industry as a whole, or are actively raising the bar within the industry. People like Stephen Sondheim, Michael John Lachiusa, Stew, Pentatonix, Ryan Adams, Angie Aparo, William Finn, Edward Norton, Dan Harmon, and so many more, you inspire me to keep working hard.
24.) Movies of all kinds, and those who agree to watch them with me.
25.) Apple, for inventing the iPhone. I would be completely screwed without it
26.) Jessica Swersey for housing me through the Sandy debacle when I was trapped on Manhattan
27.) The creators of Falling Skies - WHAT AN AWESOME SHOW!
31.) Bright and sunny days with a crisp, cool, Fall air
32.) Prospect Park for offering me a recluse away from the noise of the city
33.) Doug Brown, Orthopaedic Associates, and Orthopaedic Associates Physical Therapy for fixing my right knee so well that to this day it is much better than my left. I would be without a career if it wasn't for you. You gave me back my ability to dance and to be active, and I can never repay that debt.
35.) Having no regrets, only life lessons
36.) Pine Island Summer Camp, every time I see a post about you I get so happy.
37.) Mark Bedell and the training he imparted on me
39.) The Arts Community as a whole
40.) Sunshine and Rain
41.) Benkins and Jenson
42.) To always looking forward, and looking back fondly, but never living in the past
43.) Animals of all kinds that I can play with. Red Panda, I will play with you before I die
44.) Animals of all kinds that I can't play with, you're still awesome.
45.) Subtle reminders that life is more important than the bullshit.
46.) Personality Flaws, that I may always strive to correct them
47.) The Bungalow circa Fall 2010
48.) Delores and Charlene, two great cars that got me where I needed to go. RIP both of you.
49.) All loved ones who have died. Your lessons imparted and the impact of your presence will forever be a part of my soul. Rest in Peace, you've earned it. Some of you died too young, but all of you died having lived a life worth living for however long or short it may have been.
50.) Having far more than 50 things to be thankful for, and having to cut myself off when I could just keep going. For some people, 50 things to be thankful for might be hard, and I am forever thankful that my list is innumerable.
I highly recommend that in this month of Thanksgiving, and in light of recent events, you all make a list such as this for reflection and confirmation that there is more to life than the negatives that drag us down.
Why can't anyone write a full complete thought in song form anymore? I have a playlist on my iTunes that syncs to my iPhone which is all music that I haven't ever listened to in my iTunes library. Recently I've had a string of newer Hip-Hop, Alternative, Rock, and Pop and I'm a little annoyed with what I've been hearing.
It's not the quality of the songs, or the accompaniments, or the simplicity or intricacy of the musical writing, what has been annoying me specifically is what I call "Twitter" lyric writing. In other words, lyrics which serve only to be smart or clever to themselves. Lyrics which rhyme, and complete a thought short enough to be encapsulated in a twitter update. The more clever of these lyrics start with a very convoluted, dense, and undecipherable sentence, they then add a "because" or a "so" or a "when" or some other word meaning "check out what comes next to wrap up the phrase". They then end with a equally convoluted, but more decipherable sentence which helps to explain the last one. Afterward we move on to a completely new thought, and a completely new set of lyrics which also could be their own twitter status'.
Let me give you an example:
"Yeah I'll ride the range, and hide my loose change in my bedroom,
'Cause riding a dirtbike down a turnpike always takes it's toll on me"
- Own City "Cave In"
This means, literally nothing in relation to compared to the moral/meaning of the song, it is simply a clever lyric designed to make people impressed with Owl City's lyrical prowess.
There are some rules in my book about current art about what I will enjoy, in generalizations. I tend to not be a fan of what I call the "angsty" musicals, because when done well, with great storytelling, they can be fantastic, but generally the productions fall into the angst. I don't like shows where the message is more important than the story, I would rather see a show that has a profound message, but if all I wanted was to watch a story and not get it, I could. I am getting tired of plays/movies about the Holocaust. I tend to dislike child actors before I like them. (The exception to this, of course, being Henry Thomas' audition for E.T. for the role of Elliot. That is officially the greatest example of acting of all time, and since seeing this video I have considered dropping from the profession because I will never, ever be this good in my lifetime. Ever)
Jokes aside, all I knew about "And a Child Shall Lead" before I walked into HERE Arts Center on thursday, October 25th, was that it was a play about a Jewish Concentration camp, and it featured almost entirely a cast of children. Needless to say I was a bit nervous, because it broke two of my rules. I mainly was going to see it because a good portion of the production team are my good friends, and my dear friend Ethan Itzkow (one of the two actors over the age of 20) was playing one of the main characters.
I had no need to be nervous at all. The play was absolutely stunning from start to finish. Laura Luc's direction is just short of miraculous. I may not be giving these amazingly talented kids enough credit, but it is hard work as a director to create a play which relies heavily on children for the dramatic weight of the show and the forwarding of the plot, and she got some amazing work out of this cast.
The play takes place in Terezín Concentration Camp during the nazi reign in Europe. It takes place in two barracks, one of all girls, and one of all boys. We are greeted by a game of Hide and Seek to start, and this sets the stage for what this beautiful play is really about. It's not about the inhumane treatment of humanity by the nazis, we've seen those plays, they are in heavy abundance. What this play is about, is how can a child grow up in that environment, how fast do they grow up, and are they forced into an adulthood before they are ever really children? That story, is new, it is riveting, and it is utterly, utterly heartbreaking. As we meet these boys and girls, we are given a glimpse of their previous lives, and of the new ones they've created for themselves, together. The heads of this strange little family, are Miroslav Weiss (played stunningly by my dear friend Ethan Itzkow), and Eva Hellerova (a spell-binding Lilly Wilton). They are 15, and 14 respectively, and while Eva is mainly concerned with the safety and well-being of her sister, Jana (the youngest character and member of the cast, Mia Sinclair Jenness), they both work to keep the other kids' minds free of troubling thoughts, and always in a world of the future, of make-believe, of something better. I should mention, by the way, that Ms. Sinclair Jenness' character was six, she didn't look a day above it, and her focus, engagement with the text, and ability to deliver a very large amount of lines was phenomenal. As the play progresses, Luc's direction masterfully staged these children into a variety of experiences the whole audience could relate to (the first awkward kiss between two young kids in love, a young girl forcing a boy to play house, creating skits with a sheet for a curtain. All of these things had people smiling fondly as the children on stage played their way through this horrific life they were forced to live.
This post is inspired by a identically titled post by Devon Solorow Cox, a wonderful girl I had the honor of calling one of my freshmen while at Ithaca College. To read her post (which is much more eloquently written than mine) click this link
So why this post? Well it's been an interesting weekend for me. Since last thursday I've seen two shows, both of which were in the development stage and had broadway starlets in the cast, I drove from Auburn NY, to Brooklyn NY, to Allentown PA. I moved into my father's house and began organizing my life for my upcoming NYC move on September 1st. I wrote a blog post about the dangers of contact slaps in theatre which has now been read over 10,000 times in the last 48 hours (which is far more traffic than anything else I've ever created in any medium, ever), I was hired to be a background extra for the TV show Smash
this morning, and have since caught a bus to NYC and am now back on Manhattan thinking about what it all means.
Holy crap. That's a big ol' weekend. However it's been a big ol' three months. Really a big ol' year. One year ago today I was in my final week of preparations for my senior year in college. I was living with Priya Iyer, John Gardner
, and Elizabeth Hake, and was ready for the greatest year of my life. I was preparing for fall auditions (I REALLY wanted to be in Plumfield, Iraq and I was, so yay!), and I had just been called down for Next Broadway Star
, a musical theatre competition run by Broadway.tv. This competition is still on-going by the way, I'm now a semi-finalist and waiting for the next round to be scheduled. I had no idea what it would be like to be a mentor to Evan Arbor and Taj Harvey, and as it turned out, it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. My little brothers are all-stars and if their names ever come across your desk, hire them immediately.
Where am I going with this? I'm not really sure, but as a man who makes a habit of playing his cards close to his chest, I feel like I'm going to burst. I went to school for the first time in the fall of 1992. Every single fall since then I have returned to a scholastic atmosphere, be it Waynflete School in Portland Maine, or Ithaca College in Upstate New York. This fall? I move into my first "real person apartment" and find a job. What? That's not real. That's the kind of thing that gives me nightmares. In fact, it's the kind of thing that causes me to weep in the middle of the night for no reason, to call my parents and blubber about how this world is crazy, and to sit at home alone and wish someone, anyone, was present to hang out and steal my brain away from the impending terror that is the real world.
Now after all of that, it's not entirely bad. I am so anxious for the real world to begin, in a way that I have never experienced before. Every fiber of my being tingles with excitement and anticipation at flying into this world guns blazing. I have never been more ready for anything in my entire life. I am luckier than many in this profession. I have worked consistently since I graduated, in fact I have spent only two unemployed weekends since May. I don't say this to toot my own horn, it is to say I have no reason to be as trepidatious as I am. Yet I am terrified.
I am full on, crazy, flat-f***ing terrified of what might come, and also so excited for that terror to come to actualization, or not. Those two emotions course through my veins like a fire ready to burst out. I feel like a million dollars, and a pile of dung all at the same time, I am, in a nutshell, a college graduate.
Cute animal slapping photos are funny
“It’s okay, just slap me. I don’t mind.”
Those words strike fear into the heart of every fight director I know.
Right now there is a trend that I have been seeing, one which might be called an attempt at "realism" in theatre, or more likely a money-saving attempt by a theater company to cut the "staged" part out of staged combat moments. In other words, when it comes time to slap someone on stage, directors, actors, producers, choreographers, whoever are becoming more and more comfortable with really doing it.
I have met very few fight directors who approve of this measure, so my only way of justifying it is to say that theaters are less and less willing to hire a fight director for a show. A notion that I get suspicious about especially at Equity theaters where they are required to do so. Often I find the director is trained, or even "trained" and does it for his or herself. Now I'm not one to doubt the abilities of someone, but as a fight director, I will simply say this: I hope you're the Michael Bennett of staged combat if you're going to play that card.
So when I see a show, and I know it contains a fight of some kind, and there is no one listed as “fight director” or “choreographer” or whatever in the program? I know there is something rotten in Denmark. Why is it that when an actor says “It’s okay, just slap me” the director goes, “GREAT!” and the fight director’s job is no longer needed? Worse, however, is when the director says, “Oh just slap them, it’s one slap.” There is literally no other non-violent profession in this country where a boss can say that and have it be okay. I am trained extensively to tell you that it’s not okay, that there is a ton that can go wrong. I’m not saying that every real slap is going to injure an actor. I’d say that 95% of the time, it will all be fine, maybe even 99%. But do you really want to take that 1-5% chance every time you put your show on its feet in front of an audience?
Before you answer that, let me just give you a couple of examples, they are extreme, but they are relevant.
Kudos to those who understand this reference
Those words used to sound dirty to me. "Stuck in Limbo" just sounds like nothing's happening, and nothing's moving on. I was worried that's where I'd be at this point in my life, which is after my summer engagements have ended, and before I've moved to NYC, in other words, just waiting for September 1st without any forward progress possible. Of course that's a ridiculous thing to worry about, this is me we're talking about, I never stop doing something, even if it's getting really really good at "Space is Key 2
" (before you snicker, that game ROCKS).
However right now, I find myself having a few minutes for me. I find myself cleansing my thoughts, organizing not only my life, but my brain. I've become increasingly despising of Paul Ryan (if you're friends with me on facebook, then you know all about that), and I've had some time to reflect on just where I am as a person.
My name is Ned Donovan and I am 23 years old. I am a graduate of Waynflete School in Portland Maine, though not with honors (sorry Mom and Dad). I am a graduate of Ithaca College with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre and I graduated Cum Laude (hope that made up for it). Prior to graduating Waynflete I was an athlete, a singer, a debater, a musical arranger, an actor, a dancer (sort of), a New England sports fan, and a lover of all things video games. After graduating Waynflete and arriving at Ithaca I was...an athlete, a singer, a debater, a musical arranger, an actor, a dancer (sort of), a New England sports fan, and a lover of all things video games. So what's changed? Not really anything. That's awesome. I hope it's a good thing, but I feel like I have not changed since high school, merely evolved, adapted, become a more realized, fully fleshed version of myself. I have become more adept at what I do well.
I have worked to turn what I do well into a career. Talk to me in 5 years and I'll let you know how that turns out. Right now I am paid to do what I love, which is act, sing, dance, and punch people in a remarkably fake manner so that an audience believes I just broke someone's nose. Oh wait, I get paid to do what I enjoyed when I was 5.
The Cockney Quartet in My Fair Lady
Well it's about that time, eh chaps? My Fair Lady is coming to a close, only 6 shows left and one of our wonderful cast members (John Little) is leaving us early to go do Oliver Twist at the Shakespeare Theatre of NJ. His understudy will be great but it feels like the end of a great thing. I don't tend to get nostalgic about shows, I think what's magical about them is that they run, and the they close, and they live in people's memories, for good or bad, forever. This one, though, deserves to keep going. Every review we've had, every post-show comment has been that this show is one of Merry-Go-Round's greatest accomplishments. Everything about this show from the ground up is perfect. So this one ending is more bittersweet. I love that all shows come to an end, but this one deserves to be seen by more people before it goes.
Yes, I am moving on to another classic at another phenomenal theater, and I can not wait to get started on Of Thee I Sing at the Theater at Monmouth, but I will miss the Merry-Go-Round, dearly. If you are in the upstate NY region, please come see our show, you won't regret it.
Within the next 20 days everything changes for me. I move to NYC to start my life there, I become car-less for the first time since I was 15, and I begin truly trying to make it in this crazy CRAZY industry.
I can not wait.
For now, I hope I get chances to be a part of productions as special as this one for years and years to come. Oh and if you're a broadway producer? You should move this production to the great white way;) I'm just saying.
So here's the big night, it's opening for My Fair Lady
at the Merry-Go-Round Playhouse! I'm so blessed to be a part of this amazing cast, crew, and theatre and can't wait to get an audience in here to see this! The show is absolutely beautiful (it would be, it's designed by Ithaca College alum and all around brilliant designer David Arsenault) and the performances are stunning. Kim Burns as Eliza Doolittle is a force to be reckoned with, and Will Erat (Broadway's Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
, and Catch Me If You Can
) gives a completely fresh, and new interpretation to Henry Higgins which is sure to leave you all breathless. If you are in the upstate NY area, this is not a show you want to miss. For more info, visit the official website for the production and buy some tickets!
All the information can be found at: http://merry-go-round.com/2012-season/my-fair-lady/
If you do come out to see the show, let me know!
My best to everyone!