Four years ago, I produced my play Dragon’s Breath as part of the New York Fringe Festival. A key scenic element of that production was a lectern, a big wooden unit that could be moved around the stage to serve as a podium, pulpit, liquor cabinet, or what have you. The money I had raised for the show had been earmarked for actor salaries and other expenses, so when it came time to purchase this object I spent money out of my own pocket. As a result, I was now the proud owner of a large wooden lectern, and when the show closed I took the thing back home with me.
I’m not in the habit of giving sermons alone in my living room, and I (sadly) don’t have any large codices or grimoires to display ostentatiously. As a result, I don’t really need to have a lectern in my house. But I kept the thing just the same. It was a souvenir of a show I loved.
I have a number of these. I imagine most actors do. I still have a prop I used in my very first show ever, a production of Shaffer’s Black Comedy I did my freshman year in college. It’s a silver-painted block of wood, supposed to be a piece of a modern art sculpture which I ripped off and used as a weapon at the end of that play. It’s still one of my most treasured possessions. I have posters and programs and old contact sheets aplenty. However, these objects aren’t four feet tall weighing fifty pounds or so – setting them apart in one crucial way from the Dragon’s Breath lectern.
When I moved to the Bronx three years ago, I took that darned lectern with me. Up many brutal flights of stairs to a fifth floor walk-up. It was mine, darn it, a tangible reminder that I had mounted a show. That I had written. That was good. That had existed. And I had every intention of keeping that reminder with me until the end of my days.
But I still had to figure out what to do with the darn thing in a one bedroom apartment. So I arranged the layout of my living room so that the lectern was directly under a flat screen tv, so that it could hold its digital antenna. But as time wore on, and it filled this function in my apartment, it became just another piece of furniture. And one that took up a lot of space for the function I was using it for.
As I promised in my last post, I left the Bronx last week and moved to Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. And as part of the move, I made the hard decision not to take the lectern with me. What sentimental value it still held wasn’t enough to justify transporting it from one end of the city to another, so I hired a salvage company to arrange for its donation. (Most likely to a church somewhere, which is an especially ironic fate considering Dragon’s Breath’s skewed take on religion.) There’s no space for the lectern in my new apartment, and no practical function for it to serve.
Of course, holding onto treasured mementos isn’t a practical function in the first place. That didn’t stop my heart from breaking a little bit when it was loaded onto the truck. But I wasn’t saying good bye to my memories of Dragon’s Breath. I still have those, along with plenty of programs and posters, as well as two other scenic units from that show – a pair of wooden bar stools – which have joined me here in Brooklyn.
Furthermore, in the course of packing I discovered a memento I forgot I had. Towards the end of Dragon’s Breath, the cult that has arisen out of the heroine’s YA paranormal romance novels (it’s a wacky play) has proclaimed a fatwa on the character I played. They display a picture of “the face of our enemy.” It’s my face, in character and most grotesque, blown up to absurd proportions. I’d forgotten I kept that as well, and now it’s here in my living room, ready to be mounted on the wall.
Because what better way to make a good impression with my new neighbors, right?