By NICHOLE DONJÉ
About five years ago, when I was serving as Vice President, I was asked to speak at our New Year’s Eve celebration. This date is especially significant to The Players: it is the anniversary of “the gift of deed” when Edwin Booth bequeathed our club to its membership, to be shared and enjoyed long after he was gone. We call it "Founder's Night." I came across this speech in my files and thought now, when so many of us are apart and missing one another, it might be a reminder that we will all be together again...and not just on our Zoom happy hours!
My years here have shaped me in ways I could never put into words: the things I have learned, the friends I have made. This place is sacred. It is our home away from home. It's where we can be ourselves and be accepted as a cherished, mashed-up family full of character and personality. Oh, and the best happy hour in town! (God, we all miss Eddie, our beloved evening bartender. We'll see him again soon.)
I was excited to be asked to speak tonight, because this is the perfect chance to share how much this place has meant to me over the past five years.
I hate to admit it, but I was one of those people who had never heard of The Players until I started coming here as part of a playwriting group called The Continuum. And of course, part of any gathering here at The Players means time spent in the Grill. After each meeting we would head down for a drink, and I started to get to know people, some of whom are now dear friends. As I spent time here and learned about the club's significance in history, I as a theatre gal began to fall in love -- with the atmosphere, the staff, the people and the ghosts. Such wonderful and unusual ghosts that don’t haunt, but instead are simply present in every laugh, every shared artistic experience, every step through this building.
As an actor and director I have found collaborators. As a businessperson I have found connections. As a student I have found mentors. As a leader I have found partners. Most important, as an individual I have found friends.
There is a spirit here at The Players. If you welcome it, you can feel it the moment you walk in the building. Simply knowing that this place was created to build respect for our profession and the people who pursue it is impactful. This is a social club like no other. A place built to inspire mutual respect of those from all professions and ALL backgrounds. Not for the furtherance of careers (though that does happen symbiotically), but for the furtherance of one another as friends who cherish the arts, who cherish one another despite all our differences.
As head of Admissions for the past two years, the two things I have heard over and over are,” There’s something special here: I felt it the minute I walked in the building,” and “I belong to other clubs, but there’s something about this one that makes me feel at ease, like I can just be me.”
The Players has played and will continue to play a significant role in my life. I am thankful to be a part of this precious gift from Mr. Booth. One of our founding members, Mark Twain, said a great deal about why this club was created: "Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”
Happy New Year, everybody. I am honored to be spending it HERE and with all of YOU.
Nichole Donjé is a director, producer, poet, artist, Players committee addict, man-lovin’ feminist, dog mamma, fabulous wife, and all-around crazy person. Oh, also Brief Chronicles publisher and Players Communications Chair.