The Minstrel's Dream by Jim Pryts


Photo (C) Jim Pryts, 1985

Scratched message on a dressing room door - Napa Valley Opera House  author unknown - spelling un-corrected

Know one but me will know who wrote this - June - 9 - 1913. I had a pleasant dream in Napa. I dreamed she came back and we made up - The hard bitter past was forgotten. Only a dream.

don't erase this. If I ever come again I want to read it.

  I found this poignant message scribbled in pencil on the dressing room door while I was photographing grafitti at the Napa Valley Opera House in 1985. Many people don't realize that the opera house was actually a Vaudeville stage. Minstrel shows, and comedy acts, as well as light entertainment, and plays were far more common here than opera. Around the time that the theater closed in 1914, motion pictures were sounding the death knell of many such community entertainment centers.
I composed the following poem based on the powerful content in the original anonymous message.

The Minstrel's Dream by Jim Pryts

(C) Jim Pryts, 1989

Across the sagging stage I walked, thin sun and I invading where through many years the darkness reigned, and only occasional, curious feet would stir the air and cause the dust to drift, backlit by the suns rays falling on the floor.

It is such swirling, silent cameo's as this that cause the mind to silence all the more, and prepare itself for what it finds upon an un-hinged wooden door, in an old forgotten theater where laughter used to be. Where music, and the smell of grease paint, and the antique sense of times long past traverse the silent years to me.

It was 1913 when he wrote it down upon the dressing room door, and no-one will know who wrote these words in Napa town at the opera house so long ago. He wrote that he'd dreamed of Her and the hard bitter past, and how She forgave him for what he had done . . . and no-one will know what it was that he did, and most will not care, but it's written there in thin fragile pencil, in sad fragile lines beneath the warped and rotting floor in the damp darkness at the opera house, on the dressing room door.

He scratched it all down, then just to be sure that the unfulfilled dream in his message endured he wrote, " Don't erase this ", and then he wrote down, " I want to read it if I ever return." . . . then he did what he did as a minstrel back then, whatever it was that he did, and was gone.

Perhaps he came back to re-read his lines, but more likely his message was sealed from his eyes when the minstrel show era in months following died, and the opera house closed in the movie show tide . . . .

So, the dust finally settled on the dressing room door and I found it down there and some will not care, and no-one will know who scribbled a hope and a dream

. . . that he'd had of his lost love so long ago.

All content copyright Jim Pryts, All Rights Reserved

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