If you’ve been reading closely over the past few weeks, you’ve no doubt noticed that there’s not a lot of theatrical news in these weekly news posts. And that’s to be expected, frankly – we’ve been dealing with a global pandemic for the past year and half, we’ve been in lockdown for much of that time, and despite the (excellent) summer efforts of organizations such as the Public Theatre and my old friends at Classical Theatre of Harlem, there simply isn’t much of anything happening to talk about. Nevertheless, a significant event in my theatrical life did indeed happen just a few days ago:
I threw out a broken piece of furniture.
The furniture in question was a cheap wooden barstool, which I’d had for seven years. It was mostly decorative – I have more comfortable places in my apartment to sit – but it was a pretty dark brown lacquer, it didn’t take up too much space, and it was a nice little accent. My cat enjoyed perching atop it from time to time. She might need to go on a diet, however; its screws had been gradually coming detached over the past few months, until at last it ceased to function as any kind of stool and simply laid there, a mass of unconnected sticks. And so, sadly, I took it outside and laid it, with as much dignity as possible, against my building’s garbage pails.
I’m making such a fuss out of this – and mentioning it in a theatre arts blog post – because the barstool was one of the remnants I had of my Fringe show from (shudder) seven years ago, Dragon’s Breath. I’d purchased three items to serve as scenic elements in the show – a wooden lectern, and two barstools, all a matching shade of dark brown – and kept them after our run. The lecturn, which I’d used as a stylish holder for cable boxes and the like, was too cumbersome to survive my most recent move, and was instead donated to some Bronx organization or other (I forget which). The remaining barstool is now an orphan in a lonely corner. I still have a stack of programs, and the shirt I wore as an actor in the production, and a framed poster – but my cat recently knocked the poster frame off the wall, and is prone to eating paper, and clothing eventually wears out.
We all collect memorabilia of the shows we do, or simply the shows we see, with the expectation that we’ll hold on to those treasures forever. But forever is a long time, with a long string of perils for anything we hope to hang on to. Long before we reach the heat death of the universe, our scripts grow dogeared and crumpled, and our stored costume pieces become torn and moth-eaten. We can try and stave off these ravages through protective measures, like casings and lamination, but they require space and funds – which time has a habit of leaching away as well.
No, memories are like any other resource – they need to be periodically replenished. And throwing one away has me more anxious than ever for the Quarantimes to end and for theatrical production to return. I’m fine with food and other provisions, but I’m running desperately short on memories.