Grief is a hard thing for me to talk about. This year has taught me more about grief than I thought I ever would learn at 26/27; and given me a pretty constant, oppressive sense of sorrow to boot. They come and they go at the strangest times, in the strangest ways.
Today, I realized in looking at my calendar, is one of the most important days of my father's life. Today's the day he ran for mayor, running a campaign that absolutely gave the incumbent - who by trickery was listed as both the Republican and the Democratic candidate on the ballot - a run for his money. He had under 10% of the total money to work with of his opponent, and received 40% of the vote, absolutely annihilating his projections. He was told he'd never make it into double digits, and he blew that concept out of the water.
He was told he'd be gone in less than 72 hours. He lived almost 6 more days.
He taught me a lot about fighting even when the odds are against you.
As I sat next to his hospital bed in Philly, we had a lot of time to talk, and I had a lot of time to talk at him when he couldn't join in anymore. We talked about lots of things, from his past, to his hopes and dreams for me, to New England sports, to politics, to family. In his final days he was so thankful of the people who had come into and out of his life. He spent most of his time asking after certain people, or making sure that I would reach out to certain people he wouldn't be able to. People. It always came back to people. So when I talked at him, I told him stories about people. Some that he knew, some that he'd never have the fortune of knowing. I told him about people from my past, and my present. I told him about my fears, my dreams, my accomplishments, my failures. I told him I loved him.
If I learned anything from the experience of watching my father drift away into a sleep from which he'd never return, and then living alone in his house for months, taking care of his business, and then dealing with the emotional, mental, and life fallout from all of that, I learned that loneliness is sudden, oppressive, and often arrives without warning. And without people, people you trust, people you care about, there's almost nothing that can beat it back. And there will be times where those people won't be there, can't be there, and you have to face that loneliness yourself. So what do you do?
Me? I create.
For the full text of the Dr. Martin Luther King "I Have a Dream" Speech, click here
On the occasion of today, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's birth, I listened to and read the I Have A Dream speech again. Every night here at The Fireside I have the honor of hearing a portion of the speech read aloud by the incomparable Bianca Denis and every night I hear it as it applies today.
Because it still does.
Every night as she reads those ever powerful words, those words which truly go down as the spark behind the Civil Rights Movement of the 60's, those words which live in our history as one of the greatest moments America has ever known, I am reminded of today's Civil Rights Movement. Today there is a group of people demonized, and told they are less than. There is not segregation as there was in the 60's, but there is a group of people who live in constant fear of retribution. Who, in many states in this country, have to hide who they are so they don't have to worry about being fired over it. Who are told they are less than, are not worthy of equality to a group of people who are in the majority, and who have the historical superiority on their side.
The LGBT community is today's Civil Rights Movement.
Fifty years ago, a great American delivered a speech which stands as a great "beacon of light" in our Nation's history, and brought change and equality to millions of Americans who were told they were less than.
Fifty years later, our country is still pushing to fulfill the dream laid out by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. However it has lost its way in its quest for recognizing what was at the heart of the dream he gave us. Freedom. Equality.
In my college directing class, a fellow student once said (in response to a question of what directors need to do to get a performance out of an actor),
"My high school teacher told me that being actor is being willing to stab your soul on stage in front of everyone day after day after day."
In response to this, our directing teacher (the absolutely incredible Wendy Dann) said,
"Well be careful now, don't get cute with it, and certainly don't get romantic about it. Actors have a wonderful job, one that they are blessed to live every day and to be a part of, but it is a job. It is no more important than anyone else's, in theatre, or outside."
This was a very important moment for me. You see I love my job. I love everything about what I do. I wake up in the morning and I am proud to say that I am an actor. I am proud to say I am a member of the theatre community However in my experience, there is a love and praise for actors, but that love, and those praises are not extended to the millions of other members of the theatre community, the ones who aren't going out on stage every night. This offends me. There is an entire side of the theatre community that is happy to let themselves go unappreciated, and under-loved by most, and they do so with a smile, and with a passion for their job that I can only respect and feel admiration for.
During my time in a BFA Musical Theatre program, I was so surprised to see this problem perpetuating itself as soon as people arrived as freshmen. There were many who treated BFA Performance majors like they had a right to the school that the other theatre majors did not. I made it my mission to have the class of 2012 be a true community, with cross communication and love across majors, and I am proud to say that I was not the only one who worked hard at this goal. Our class worked as a whole to break this stereotype, and we truly loved each other, regardless of major, regardless of theatrical position, regardless of intended career goals. We came together as a community, not as a group of segregated theatre artists.
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.
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.
If you had asked me 3 years ago what life would be like, I would have spouted tales of glory. Agents would be crawling on their knees for my talent, casting directors would be crying out my name as they cast me in three different broadway shows and a national tour...all at the same time.
In other words, I was a naive, conceited human being.
Today I find myself more reflective, calmed down person. Showcase is over. This is a fact that hasn't sink in yet. Showcase is over. With it the last act of my college career, and the first affirmation that yes, I am going to do this with my life. A new chapter starts on Sunday but it may as well be today. What do I have to do on Sunday but passively receive my diploma? I have no more active goals while at IC, and that fact is terrifying. What happens next? Before, my head was filled with thoughts of showcase and I forgot to look farther. Recently I began my plan, my path forward post Ithaca College, and with it I've found a sense of peace and zen. I'm so happy with my responses out of showcase and so proud of my classmates for theirs as well. The Ithaca College Class of 2012 is about to take the world by storm and I'm so excited to graduate alongside this amazing group of people. Next week I will be able to proudly announce myself as an Ithaca Alum and stand proudly beside my fellow members of 2012. Congratulations to my peers, I'm so proud of all of you.
~ Ned Donovan
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"Always be yourself....unless you suck."
- Joss Whedon
Joss Whedon is the writer/director who created such iconic television shows as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and my personal favorite, Firefly. His career doesn't stop there, however, he also created the TV show Dollhouse, wrote the Firefly spin-off movie Serenity, and created the Time Magazine Top 10 Web Series Dr. Horrible's Sing-A-Long Blog. At the start of his career, he wrote two movies which were huge in my childhood, Toy Story and Titan A.E., and most recently he is a writer/producer of the horror movie hit The Cabin in the Woods and is the writer/director of the new record-breaking box office hit The Avengers.
Before his two most recent movie hits, Joss Whedon was a bit of an enigma. He has a rabid fanbase, who fight tooth and claw to support every project he signs on to, and yet none of his projects besides Buffy, Angel, and Dr. Horrible have been very successful. Firefly was cancelled after only 13 episodes, and despite a couple of seasons, Dollhouse received lukewarm reviews from critics and fans alike. Despite all this, the members of the Whedonverse (as diehard fans call themselves) have always spouted his praises to anyone who will listen (myself included). There was a period of time, however, that Joss was underground enough that people who liked knowing new, undiscovered movies and tv shows would jump on the chance to learn about Joss Whedon. He was like The Shins after Garden State, he was hip and cool to know about. Then Joss Whedon got just large enough to lose those people. Suddenly there were newer, lesser known "genius'" and no one was willing to explore Joss Whedon anymore. Everyone had heard of him, but he had so many flops that people felt he must not be very talented. Despite my cries of his genius, and at the injustice of the canceling of his tv shows, no one was willing to give Joss the time of day anymore. I did what any good member of the Whedonverse did when such a moment arises, I sat down and watched Firefly from start to finish followed by Serenity, I watched the entirety of Buffy, and I cursed the world that ignored my celebricrush, and waited until next year's Comicon in order for Joss to reveal something awesome for me to look forward to.
Then something strange happened, Marvel announced that Joss was their man to write/direct the culmination of all of these superhero movies, The Avengers.
I sat up a little in my seat. "I'm sorry, who? My man? Joss Whedon? The guy who creates everything that is good and holy for television/movies, but the studios never like it so they fire him and cancel his shows? Marvel Studios is trusting The Avengers to him? They're trusting Joss with Robert Downey Jr as Iron Man, Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Chris Evans as Captain America, and Edward Norton as The Hulk? Dear sweet jesus this is going to be the greatest movie of all time, and no one but me is going to like it! Wait, what? Oh they fired Edward Norton and hired Mark Ruffalo? Well he's gonna suck in that role." All of those thoughts went through my head. I told everyone Joss was taking it over, and predictably, everyone told me that like all the rest of his movies and tv shows, this would be underwhelming, and only a select few people would get it.
Guess what didn't happen?
I'm losing my faith in the educational system. Of course, right now, I am a senior in college at a small liberal arts college, with aspirations of one day going to get a master's degree, I am from the upper middle class, I am white, and I went to a small private school in Portland Maine. In other words, I am considered to be the stereotypical college aged kid, and I am following the system to a t, so therefore I don't really get the authority to criticize it since I am the poster child. Fine, I accept that. However I think my issue with the educational system has to do with everything I hear and understand about the schools that I did not attend. I have been fortunate, unbelievably fortunate in my experiences and opportunities in this world. However every step of the way, I look back at what I received, and then look at what those institutions are giving to the students arriving in my wake, and it is different. Very different. I could get into the specifics, but I love my current school and my old school and I have no interest in being critical of what I am sure were important, and difficult decisions which came from a place of much more experience than I have. Instead I'll talk about what I received, and what I see happening these days.
When I was in school, I was given a well-rounded, reason based, education which also focused on introducing kids to athletics, music, art, performance art, as well as various cultures, races, religions, creeds, and ideas. It's entire purpose was about a educationally hands on approach, while still allowing kids the space to utilize their knowledge to make their own discoveries and understandings about life. Instead of being lectured at, we were brought into conversation, and the teachers were skilled in leading conversations to outcomes they intended us to arrive at. What has changed? On the surface, nothing. However what brews under the surface is much more important. I was schooled in school, I took part in extra-curricular activities, and when I was at home I was away. What was important is that I was taught how to think, but rarely taught what to think.
I'm now taking a class at Ithaca College called "Social and Cultural Foundations of Education" and I find the class absolutely fascinating. It comes at education from an idealistic place, so that instead of allowing pure cynicism about the faults of the educational system, it uses the negative as opportunities to create more positives. Through the class, and different explorations of aspects of the educational system every week we hope to create a set of standards which school's could adapt to possibly better themselves. However, I'm having trouble believing in them.
Here is my issue:
Sometimes I'm just like Calvin
Today I am learning a very valuable lesson, making an honest assessment and being okay with the fact that "I can't." Let me back up. Currently I'm enrolled in 9 separate courses, 6 of which have a ton of outside of class work, cast in a major Main Stage musical, hold two jobs, am fight coordinating and starring in a senior Thesis film. Now this is not necessarily new for me, in fact I've taken on more in the past, but this is the most classes I've taken with such a substantial amount of outside of class workload.
With all of these classes, I've made a valuable lesson this morning, which is I can't do everything. Even before the school year has officially kicked off, I'm already ready to have my skull implode, because at least 6 of those things require substantial outside of class work. That on top of my two jobs, and extra-curricular interests have forced my hand. I can either be mediocre in all of them, or I can drop one and successfully do the work for the other five. For the first time in my life I'm swallowing hard and admitting that I can't do it. In the past I've viewed my admitting of this fact as a weakness, but now I'm happy i'm making the choice. Just by dropping one of the courses, I'll have an extra 5 or 6 hours a week to distribute among the rest of the major classes, and managing 5 classes is significantly easier than a full six.
I find myself hilarious, and I use this blog to stroke my own ego. Thanks for indulging me.