"How are you doing?"
"My condolences on your loss"
"I'm so sorry for your loss"
"My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family"
Well intentioned, and heartfelt phrases are said in my direction about 50 times a day at this point. They are as required a social contract as "Hello" and "How are you?" Every single one that comes builds me up, and improves my mood. What I can't describe, and what I'm acutely aware of, however, is the weariness with which I respond to these sentiments. When my father passed away, I found myself trying to respond to each outreach personally and individually, because I wanted everyone to know how much I appreciate their words. This became impossible very quickly, and so I prepared a list of stock phrases that I hand out now like candies. They are wearisome, they are cumbersome, and I hate the obligatory exchange it has become.
"Thank you, I really appreciate that" has become my standard reply. Last night while talking with a close friend, what was so refreshing was that we had a great conversation without it ever coming up. When I mentioned offhandedly that I had a lot of things on my brain, he responded with "I know that life," followed by an awkward pause, and "though not exactly. You know, my condolences, and all that." It was so honest, and it was so real. All I could do was laugh, and laugh I did, it was one of the most cathartic exchanges possible. I just want real interaction, and real conversation. People underestimate the power of laughter. You don't need to handle me with kid gloves.
So how am I?
It is now November (duh) and that means it's the month of my favorite holiday. Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving for me, has always been about reflection. It's about time spent with loved ones, be they relatives, or friends, about eating far too much food, and finding yourself generally happy and merry in the company of others. I have said for years that Thanksgiving is about the 5 F's and a B. Family, Friends, Food, Fun, Football, and Beer. But at the heart of all those things is love, camaraderie, community, and relaxation. I saw a post on Facebook earlier today from a friend who was trying a new project, and I've decided to try it too.
So every day this month, I am going to post one thing that I am Thankful for, but rather than have it just be about my life, I'm going to have it tailored to each day. Because I know the things that I am thankful for overall, but I'm hoping this project will help me remind myself of what I'm thankful for on a day-to-day basis. I think it will be a lot of fun, it will be a great way of lifting my spirits each and every day, and if you guys decide to read it, then yay! I'll be posting each one to Twitter/Facebook with the Hashtag #30DaysofThanks and if you all are inspired to do so, I think it could be a great way for people to remind others that life is wonderful on each and every day in some capacity, and we need to see those individual things just as much as we need to look at life on a grand scale!
So, without further ado. Here we go:
November 1: I am thankful for having been part of an educational community that cares enough to keep me, as a graduate, updated on school happenings, and will bring the new head of school to my city for a meet and greet with alumni. The tight-knit Waynflete community is something that has helped me personally and professionally, and I hope to stay connected to it for my life to come.
November 2: I am thankful for the discovery of CrossFit into my life. I went for a 3.5 mile run today, a run that usually finishes with me winded and exhausted, and today I finished it and felt like I could run 3.5 more. That is entirely thank to the 10 weeks I trained at CrossFit Fort Atkinson, and to the people who trained with me and pushed me along the way. They pushed me to be a better version of myself, and it worked!
November 3: I am thankful that I grew up knowing how to be alone. I spent all day with myself, organizing my thoughts, and relaxing. Too many times I hear my friends say that they don't know how to spend time by themselves, and that is unbelievably sad to me. The ability to be happy with my thoughts is something that I treasure greatly, and often find all the drive and focus I need to succeed in those moments alone. After today, I'm ready to take on the world again.
November 4: I am thankful for the invention of vehicles that allow us to span great distances in short amounts of time. Today I packed a bag, walked to a bus station, and within 2 hours was in my dad's car just under 90 miles away. 100 years ago, that concept is significantly more complicated, and can not be planned on the day of. In today's day, if someone is sick, if there is an event, if you just are feeling homesick, you can go and see your loved ones, and that is something that I am so grateful for. I am a homebody, and the ability to go home when I want to or need to makes me feel a little less vulnerable in this big bad scary New York City World.
November 5: I am thankful for a family that continuously makes me proud. Today my father lost a mayoral race to incumbent Ed Pawlowski. Projected to receive less than 15% of the vote, raising less than 10% of the incumbent's budget, and practically ignored by his opponent, my father was able to persevere and win nearly 40% of the vote in Allentown. 40%. No matter the nay-sayers, my father fought, and fought hard, and he proved that the little guy can make a statement and be heard, and I am so very thankful to be his son.
November 6: I am thankful for this wonderful, crazy, upsetting, glorifying, profession that I find myself a part of. Tonight reaffirmed why I do what I do, reaffirmed what I feel that I'm good at, and made me once again fall in love with acting, even without ever falling out of it. That's the power of this world, the power of New York City, and the power of a community so welcoming that they'll always give you a chance. Today I'm so thankful for this profession and for the amazing community of people that I find myself a part of by being an actor. If you're a member of the theatre community in some capacity, I am so thankful for you.
Dear New York City,
Let me introduce myself. My name is Ned Donovan, but you may know me better as that guy who hawked falafel all summer on the corner of 6th Avenue and 17th Street at The Hummus & Pita Company. For visual reference, here is a picture of me in my work garments with my roommate’s cat, Lucy, on my shoulders.
Look familiar? No? Well then I can’t help you. But since this is my website and my blog, I’m going to give you some thoughts I’ve had about you since I became a very visible member of your city.
You see as an actor, I’ve made a living out of creating characters, becoming characters, and incorporating characters into the various roles I’ve played over the years. When I became the “Weekend Falafel Guy” for The Hummus & Pita Company (or as multiple heart-melting small children have said to me, The Hummus and Pi Taco) I didn’t quite realize how close you and I were going to get. I got to know you and your residents very, very well. I was given a job as the face for a company, handing out their fantastic product, for free, to the people of this city, and nothing brings out a person’s true character, like seeing how they react to something that is free.
A few caveats before we jump in. This is not a demonization of any specific person or persons, or any specific group of people; in fact, the types of people I have observed are refreshingly devoid of delineation by race, gender, class, nationality, sexual orientation, creed, etc. This is also not meant to belittle any of the customers of The Hummus & Pita Company (please don’t fire me, Dave, for writing this), I love this restaurant, the people are great, the food is unbelievable, the customers for the most part are patient, friendly, and exceedingly polite, and the company as a whole really does a great job. If you haven’t eaten lunch/dinner there, do yourself a favor and go.
Alright, now that I’ve done the prerequisite “don’t fire me” speech, here we go. In my observation, there are six different types of people walking your streets in regards to free samples, and I would like to offer other samplers out there some advice on how to recognize them, and how to deal with them.
Success is such a relative word. How do you measure your own success? I was recently talking to my brother about this while I was delayed in the Portland Maine Airport. We couldn't decide how one measures success for themselves, and therefore if there was a scale upon which you could relate one's successes against another's.
It was told to me by a New Yorker while I was still in college that to be successful in the Acting field is to work. To work more than others. To consistently prove you are in the upper echelon of the field. That is the only way to success. Or so I was told.
That sounded exhausting to me. So I chose a different path. I forged my own. I decided right then and there that I would work hard, and tirelessly for me. Not for comparisons, and not for the sake of people telling stories about me, or for my parents to brag. I decided to work hard, every day, for me and me alone.
I was fortunate enough that after college, I was employed essentially straight from June 1st until the end of September. I used that time to focus my craft, cultivate friendships, and most importantly, enjoy myself. It's easy for me to forget that I do this because I love it. I feel truly alive in the moments where I remember that I am lucky enough to not have a job that I hate, that I'm able to support myself on my art, and that I'm able to be surrounded by some of the greatest people I've ever known.
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.
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.
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.
Well here we are, it's July 9th, which means I've been graduated for almost 7 weeks now. It's amazing how good I feel with my 7 week post-college life, because a TON has happened. To recap, since graduating from Ithaca College I have:
Whew, that's a lot to handle in 3 months. I am so blessed to have had these opportunities immediately post college. It's so easy sometimes to look at those who are just as fortunate as I and say, "what are they doing that I'm not?" but that's foolish. I am a gainfully employed actor and fight director in a variety of shows and companies. I have been very blessed to be surrounded by talented, hard-working people, and to be given such support by my friends and family.
I find myself hilarious, and I use this blog to stroke my own ego. Thanks for indulging me.