While a lot of people will pay big money to travel to and fight the crowds at Disneyland this summer, the Miami Valley and surrounding communities can stay in the area and enjoy Donnell Land over the Memorial Day weekend.
Comedian, actor and podcast host Donnell Rawlings, who moved to Yellow Springs a year ago, wants to share his enthusiasm for his new community with the public by offering a variety of events including with a standup comedy show on Friday at the Clark State Performing Arts Center and a kickball game on Saturday and river trip on Monday in Yellow Springs.
Rawlings’ talents allow him to perform everything from standup comedy to television sketch comedy on “Chappelle’s Show” to drama on the acclaimed series “The Wire” to doing voices in animated films such as Disney’s “Soul.”
He said he was always a city guy. Visiting his pal Chappelle, who he’s been friends with for 30 years, and the country life made him trade in Tinseltown for a small town.
“I fell in love (with Yellow Springs) during the pandemic. It made me realize Hollywood was all hustle and here you have peace, trees, a place to reconnect,” he said. “I didn’t come here to be sedentary. I came here to be part of this community.”
For a man who is on the road performing much of the time, his new town is the perfect respite. The idea started out small by seeing how much fun the day of activities with others were waiting for Chappelle’s Summer Camp outdoor comedy shows in Yellow Springs. It inspired Rawlings to create Donnell Land.
“What did it for me was all my friends with kids asking their parents ‘Are we going to Donnell Land this year?’” he said. “I just wanted to create everlasting memories between young and old.”
Rawlings hasn’t spent much time in Springfield, aside from a visit to COhatch, but he looks forward to taking a step by headlining “Donnell Rawlings and Friends” at 7 p.m. Friday. Tickets are still available.
Rawlings’ comedy style, which he compares to the late standup great Robin Harris, has earned him a faithful following. His style and language are frank —but he said that’s who he is.
“There are two people in the world – somebody who needs to laugh and somebody who wants to laugh,” Rawlings said. “If you can’t find something to laugh at, you’re a dead soul. You’ve got to live life, and comedy can take you to a different place.”
Rawlings likes the style of Harris for his versatility, from storytelling to improv, and he likes to base his comedy on what’s going on and what he sees.
“At the end of the day, our job as comedians is to make fun of the trouble in our world. I don’t go overboard, but like to meet people and recreate what I saw in a funny way,” he said.
Donnell Land is meant to bring people together. Saturday will see a kickball game at 10 a.m. at Gaunt Park in Yellow Springs between the Creeks and the Streets. It’s free to attend.
Maybe the highlight of Donnell Land is the River Run that will include kayaking down the Mad River followed by a barbecue, dancing and kids’ activities. It’s foremost a way to bring families together.
“There were 350 people there last year, and it was the best feeling. They were black, white, gay, straight, conservative, liberal, Republican, Democrat, everybody was represented, but no views, just people together,” Rawlings said.
The River Run will be at 11 a.m. Monday at Birch Bark Canoe Livery, 1455 River Run Rd., Urbana. For ticket information, go to www.facebook.com/BirchBarkCanoe/.
For the future, Rawlings is always on the move from standup to podcasting, but he looks forward to continuing the transition from city guy to country life. He gets a thrill at seeing live deer and apple pies.
“I didn’t come here to be a superstar; I came to be a part of this community and want to support that vibe and contribute,” he said.
For more information on Donnell Land and tickets to the standup show in Springfield, go to www.donnellrawlings.com/.