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Missing Man Table and Honors Ceremony inspiration for William E. Spear’s THE EMPTY TABLE August 26, 2008

Posted by William Spear in >> Dramatic Radio, >> Out Basket.
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The Missing Man Table and Honors Ceremony is a solemn, nearly prayerful inflection moment meant to call to mind the suffering of, and hope for, America’s Prisoners of War and Missing in Action. A round table is set with six empty dinner plates representing missing members of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard, and civilians lost while in service of the country.

The six plates rest upon a white tablecloth. Also on and around the table are the following items:

  • Single red rose and vase tied with a ribbon;
  • Slice of lemon placed upon a bread plate;
  • Salt;
  • Upside-down champagne glass;
  • The Bible; and
  • Empty chairs.

The Missing Man Table and Honors Ceremony explains the relevance of each item and offers a moving toast to America’s POWs and MIAs. It is the basis for Spear’s THE EMPTY TABLE – A SOLILOQUY which is reprinted below.

 

“THE EMPTY TABLE – A SOLILOQUY”

by

William E. Spear

 

adapted from

 

“THE TABLE”

an audioplay

by

William E. Spear

 

INT. FINE RESTAURANT OR DINING ESTABLISHMENT

Well-dressed patrons are seated at tables at various stages of enjoying sumptuous meals and conversations. They are being served by an appropriately attired wait staff.

The NARRATOR enters carrying props.

Narrator places props on THE EMPTY TABLE. Without any attempt to draw attention, Narrator begins to speak.

 

NARRATOR

There is a table

Which is set

Wherever people congregate.

(BEAT)

From upscale restaurants

To downtown soup kitchens;

From dining rooms

To dining cars

To diners;

Invitations have been sent to six guests

And their comrades of many thousands more.

 

Narrator rearranges props and steps toward audience.

 

NARRATOR

There is a table

Which is set

With circular proportions.

(BEAT)

It signifies our intent,

Our unending desire,

To know,

Understand,

And believe . . .

(BEAT)

. . . That our missing guests

Will someday be present.

 

Narrator returns to The Empty Table, begins unfolding and smoothing a white tablecloth, and speaks to the props.

 

NARRATOR

There is a table

Which is set

Draped with a tablecloth of white.

 

Narrator turns and steps toward audience.

 

NARRATOR

(BEAT)

It symbolizes the purity

And virtue of our guests,

To act,

Protect,

And engage . . .

 

Narrator steps next to The Empty Table.

 

NARRATOR

. . . For the service of the country

In a unique and special way.

 

Narrator smoothes the white tablecloth and stands up the vase.

 

NARRATOR

There is a table

Which is set

With a vase and single red rose.

 

Narrator asks a Patron to place a rose in the empty vase. Narrator asks a second Patron to tie a red ribbon around the vase.

 

NARRATOR

The rose is sheathed with barbed thorns

And symbolic of each guest

Whose loved ones

And friends

Are keeping the faith.

The vase is bound with a red ribbon

As we are bound to our guests.

 

Narrator places rose and vase with ribbon on The Empty Table.

Narrator picks up slice of lemon on plate.

 

NARRATOR

There is a table

Which is set

And laden with lemon and salt.

 

Narrator gently squeezes lemon onto plate.

 

NARRATOR

The slice of lemon drips upon

The bread plate of lives.

Bitter

Are their fates

Kept from the table.

 

Narrator places lemon onto plate and puts both on The Empty Table. Narrator picks up salt shaker, unscrews top, pours some salt onto hand, and takes a pinch between fingers.

 

NARRATOR

Grains of salt are tears wept by the missing

Guests, their families, and friends.

 

Narrator sprinkles salt over lemon on plate and places salt shaker on The Empty Table.

Narrator picks up champagne glass, looks at it, and speaks to it.

 

NARRATOR

There is a table

Which is set

With a champagne glass placed upside down.

 

Narrator, still looking at champagne glass, places it upside down on The Empty Table.

 

NARRATOR

It holds no toast

And contains no celebration.

It is hollow

Empty

A void.

It will never sparkle

Without the brilliance of our guests.

 

Narrator addresses patrons.

 

NARRATOR

There is a table

Which is set

For guests who can not come.

Upon the table rests a Bible offering strength,

Faith, and a reminder of our country’s roots.

The chairs beckon, but go unheeded, by our absent guests.

They are comrades, loved ones, and friends who are with us in spirit if not in actuality.

Each served the nation in a special, and now unending, way.

All shall be remembered while we ask questions and await answers.

We raise our water glasses in honor

Of America’s Prisoners of War and Missing in Action.

We shall forever strive to learn their fates because we will never forget them.

 

Narrator lifts water glass and toasts one section of audience.

 

NARRATOR

Never forget.

 

Narrator toasts another section of audience.

 

NARRATOR

Never forget.

 

Narrator toasts final section of audience.

 

NARRATOR

Never forget.

 

Narrator drinks from water glass and faces audience.

 

NARRATOR

(BEAT)

There is a table.

 

Narrator lowers glass, collects props, and goes off.

 

THE END

# 30 #

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Comments»

1. Spear: Will perform THE EMPTY TABLE Thursday September 11 in Flemington, New Jersey « Lit Between the Ears - September 10, 2008
2. Friday September 19, 2008: National POW/MIA Recognition Day « Lit Between the Ears - September 18, 2008
3. Sounds of Gratitude: November 11 - Veterans Day « Lit Between the Ears - November 11, 2008
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