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Player's Portraits: Worth 10,000 words


As a new member, I come to the Grill a couple times a week for conversation and a good meal. I usually sit across from the portrait of the original Players of 1888. I have been coming for almost a year, but recently I noticed who was in the photo montage I would blindly stare at.

Having studied Photography and Film Making back in the day, I had a Photography teacher who recommended we read “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Repair” by Robert M. Pirsig. The gist of the book which my teacher tried to communicate is that there is a deeper meaning to what we see and that there is a function of really looking at a subject before we click the shutter. I didn't read the book, after he told us what he thought it meant. Why bother?

But the truth of that statement regarding deeper meaning has stuck with me all these years later. So, I took a deeper look at the montage on the wall of the Grill. I looked closely at Samuel Clemens and Edwin Booth. Whether by coincidence or choice, both men are posed to look as though they are facing one another. So, it would seem the composer of the montage wanted to convey that the two men had a relationship and communicated with each other.

I'm sure Clemens and Booth approved of the positioning and the actual portraits which were added. I focus on these two men for their storied pasts. But as far as looking deeply is concerned, if you look at the individual portraits, Clemmens face looks frozen in a smile, but his eyes are sad; Booth has what I would consider a worried or astonished look. You read into it what you want. That is why photos are worth 10,000 words.

A TV show lost in history, that I saw as a child, chronicling the catastrophic loss of Clemens family in a short period of time, made a lasting impression on me. That frozen look in his photo could have been the result of what we now call PTSD. Beyond being the brother of the man who killed Lincoln which would make anyone suffer PTSD, Booth's life was filled with other tragedies, such as the bankruptcy of Booth's Theater which cost $1 million in today's money to build and run.

The fact is no one can know the full impact of what makes what we see in a photograph real. When we see an old photograph, see a movie, listen to a song, view a painting or sculpture we are inspired to try to understand what is going on in that story and sometimes try to create meaning for ourselves or others.

Jay is a new Player's member, a novelist and writer among other things.


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