A keepsake

Exercises without a Theme

I’d ask acting students to bring an object to class that’s “important to them,” with no other instructions. This exercise produced: Bibles, guitars, knitted sweaters, photographs of sisters, and plastic swizzle sticks. Some were beautiful keepsakes almost holy ones. Once a student brought a graceful vase of cremated ashes

What turns mere things into keepsakes? Once I brought my grandpa’s ashtray to class. It is made of dark brown wood, carved with

leaves, fruits, wishbones, pine cones, and anchors. It is heavy solid wood, with a 4”long concavity for holding pipes or cigars, and perfect for tobacco ashes. You could call it butt-ugly. He’d smoke his cigars down till they were too short to hold, and then smoke the rest of them in the bowl of his pipe. Frugal, these Dutch guys. The ashtray really is pedestrian and crude. It reminds me of a narrow bowl that has been rubbed…

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