EDITOR'S NOTE: Every week during the run of Jason Robert Brown's musical The Last Five Years at WaterTower Theatre, TheaterJones will feature one item collected by director Kelsey Leigh Ervi for a display about breakups. The musical chronicles a relationship through song, with one character telling the story from meeting to break-up; and the other character from break-up to first meeting. The musical stars Monique Abry as Catherine and Seth Womack as Jamie; Adam C. Wright is the musical director. The show runs through July 1.
Here's the fourth Object Spotlight, with the description from the person who submitted it. Ervi's statement follows.
My mom bought us these mugs for Christmas, one with each of our initials. But then we couldn't figure out who should keep which mug.
Is it weird to drink out of a mug that says "I am grateful for..." your own initial?
Doesn't that look like you are grateful for yourself?
Well, shouldn’t you be grateful for yourself?
We could swap, I’ll be grateful for you and you’ll be grateful for me?
Before coming to a conclusion, we broke up.
Mornings were the hardest. Eventually I’d make coffee, open the cupboard, and see them: J and D. They didn't represent some morning tradition — I don’t think we’d ever used them. But every day they grew in anthropomorphized significance. One morning I’d open the cupboard and feel weird if they were too far apart from each other, too many mugs between them (They should be together, they’re a set!). The next morning I’d feel weird seeing them together (Separate them, he’s probably moved on and you’re being pathetic). Then the next morning they’d seem conspicuously distant (Now you’re being vindictive, it’s not the mugs’ fault, move them a little closer.) Finally I hid them in the back of my pantry, where they’ve sat unseen and untouched for most of 2018, the mug version of a lovers' exile. I can’t bear to throw them away because, even now, I am so grateful for you. And I am grateful for myself. And I am grateful that they can be together somewhere. And I am grateful to not see them every morning.
About The Object Project, from The Last Five Years Director Kelsey Leigh Ervi:
A few years ago, while visiting a friend in Los Angeles and exploring the city, we happened upon The Museum of Broken Relationships. The collection consisted of carefully curated objects from romantic, familial, and other relationships that had ended. Next to each object was a small card that said the time span of the relationship, where the relationship existed, and a short description of the object’s connection to the relationship. The experience of glimpsing into a stranger’s past and the connection that a particular object had to their broken relationship was arresting. I was fascinated by the transformation of people’s relationships to these potent objects: how something could hold so much meaning while in a partnership, and how quickly that meaning could change once that partnership had ended.
While preparing for The Last Five Years, my experience at the museum kept bubbling to the surface. I began searching my apartment for any objects that I knowingly or unknowingly had held onto from my past. My most recent relationship ended three years ago and I was certain I had purged of everything that held any significance. But I did find one object: a print she had given me for my birthday. Almost immediately, a rush of memory went through me. I remembered when she gave it to me. I remembered where we were and how I felt. And then my memory went even further back. I remembered our first kiss. I remembered the way she looked when I told her I loved her. I remembered fighting with her over a stupid video game. I remembered what the weather was like the morning she broke up with me. Despite the time that had passed, this object still had the power to transport me to those potently emotional moments.
To me, The Last Five Years, is a collection of objects. This story is a glimpse into a relationship of differing perspectives filled with the full array of human emotion: joy, pain, amazement, resentment, anger, doubt, and love, among others. Are all of these emotions invalidated because this relationship has ended? What effect does time have on the answer?
When you enter the theater at WaterTower during the run of The Last Five Years, it will be very obvious to the audience that our scenic design drew heavy inspiration from my experience at the museum. But the audience won’t be able to get up close with everything on our stage. So in an effort to provide the audience with a more close-up experience, we’ve created a small-scale version of objects from broken relationships in the Lobby of our theater. These objects were donated to me from friends and colleagues and will be on display throughout the run of the show. I warmly invite you to arrive early for the show for a chance to view our lobby display. My hope is that it will provide a small hint of the experience I had in Los Angeles. And if anything, will have you reflecting on what objects you might have held onto and their meaning has or has not changed over time.