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.
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.
I find myself hilarious, and I use this blog to stroke my own ego. Thanks for indulging me.