People, Places and Preparation (for Halloweeeen!)

Trip Start Oct 15, 2013
Trip End Jan 09, 2014

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What I did
Linen Hall Library Belfast
Read my review - 4/5 stars
Belfast City Hall

Flag of United Kingdom  , Northern Ireland,
Thursday, October 31, 2013

If I'm not mistaken, it’s been about a week since I’ve updated. What a jerk! With a combination of questionable WiFi, unending travel and nights filled with performances, things have been pretty crazy. I’m glad I get to sit down on this bus en route to Derry~Londonderry for Halloween festivities!

This week, while hectic, has been easier as we adjust to the touring lifestyle. On performance days, Megan and I arrive at the theatre by 10am (God willing) to set up, and we are usually there until after 10pm. We have breaks in between and our schedule is fairly flexible. I’ve noticed theatre is theatre anywhere you go; we still have tech, focusing the lights, sound checks, cue to cues… it’s nice to know that this field where I’ve worked all my young adult life is flexible across borders.

We had a chance to hang out after the show as a company, which was really special. I really enjoyed our time with our Project Coordinator, Emma Stuart. She is a restless spirit like I am, having worked in several different jobs over the past decade. She is also a songwriter, a singer and a generally lovely human being. We like to tease her because she is always checking in to make sure we are well-fed. She, along with one of our cast mates, have become like our Theatre of Witness moms, which has been really important. I’ve been missing my family and friends a lot over the past few days, moreso than I thought I would. I’m not someone who gets homesick as much as peoplesick; I don’t crave Mechanicsburg, PA or Berea, OH but I do crave the people there.

Yesterday, Megan and I had the chance to explore Belfast a little more thoroughly. We went to City Hall, where there was a brief exhibit on The Disappeared, a group of about a dozen people who were abducted and later found (or in some cases, not). The poster advertised the series of events as one of the darkest chapters in the Troubles, which I found to be a little shocking. With Bloody Sunday, hundreds of IRA bombings and the danger of a Civil War under de Valera, it seems this could hardly be the "darkest chapter" of the Troubles. Generally, people are open to admit the Troubles are happening, but it’s quite difficult to extract details. I suppose every country has their secrets, from the American genocide of Native Americans to Germany’s denial of the Holocaust, but the byproducts of the Troubles are so clear here. I wonder if that’s the point of reconciliation: confronting, rather than ignoring the issues that create conflict and disturb peace.

Our cast consists of six individuals: three from Northern Ireland, two refugees from Zimbabwe and one asylum seeker from Somalia. Ryan, a volunteer coordinator, is based in Belfast, along with Terese and Margaret, both of whom are activists. I am always blown away by the support they have from their community. Margaret in particular seems to have half of Belfast at her beck and call, as everyone is always asking for her! Terese is shy but has served as an inspiration to me and an insight into quiet courage. Ryan has taken us in, always showing us around his city and ready with a joke and a drink. I’ve enjoyed getting to know them, and they’ve given us a strong impression of what it means to live in Northern Ireland.

The two refugees from Zimbabwe, Loyd and Emerson have become very good friends of ours. They are goodhearted guys, often Facebooking or texting us just to check in. They tell their story with courage, something I greatly admire. Both of them are seeking refugee status in the UK, but have not been accepted. For these two and our Somalian cast member seeking asylum, we have petitions that will be sent to the Parliament in hopes that they can gain the proper status to have citizenship here or return to their country. One of them in particular has been denied for seven years from a fingerprint confusion upon first arrival. Their tenacity and their spirit is inspirational. Everson and I share a love of music and singing, which has helped us become closer. Loyd is a constant jokester, which jives with me really well.

The assistants on this show are equally as inspirational and incredible. Last night was Alessia’s last night, as she is flying through Spain, Italy and eventually to California to teach workshops in theatre of the oppressed. A native of Spain (even though she is Italian), she now travels the world with her partner, not really based anywhere. Her life and her unconventional approach to theatre has been very eye-opening for me. It’s nice to know that there are successful alternative lifestyles out there! Last night I had a chance to talk to the other assistant, Gowry, for the first time. She is an academic from India but is presently based in Birmingham, England. We talked a lot about what I’m going to do during my 11 days in London (which I’ll probably solidify the day before) and she gave me lots of great travel tips. They have been just as influential in this whole process.

Teya, our Artistic Director, has been a brilliant support system for us. Her quiet strength and authority is truly mesmerizing as she leads the cast through opening exercises. She is very committed to ensuring that we are getting exactly what we want out of this internship. She gave me the opportunity to redesign certain parts of the Theatre of Witness website and we’ve also gotten to speak with community organizations as we promote the show. These sorts of direct interactions with the culture teach so much more than a mere trip to tourist traps. Although we are definitely foreigners, we have been welcomed into the community. I can only hope South Africa will be such a positive experience.

Over the past few days, we’ve also had the chance to get closer with Maev, our stage manager. A native of Donegal, I love talking with someone who really knows this country. She has also lived in New York City and has a lot to contribute about the differences between the two locales. I have noticed differences in things I never expected and similarities that I NEVER expected. Contrary to what we were told, there isn’t a huge difference in how people dress. Everyone wears jeans over here, but you will rarely see people in sweatpants. Maybe it’s a pride thing, but the Northern Irish do like to dress up, which suits me just fine.

Tonight is Halloween and our first chance to go out with almost everyone as a class. I’m pretty excited to be a Smurf, which for some reason feels very fitting. Derry is the place to be for Halloween, so here’s hoping we don’t get trampled to death in the mass of people. Tomorrow, we will have another show in Derry which all of our classmates will get to see. They finally get the chances to see what we’ve been talking about for weeks, which is exciting for Megan and I. Saturday, we set off for Dublin, and who knows what’s in store there. I continue to spend this time enjoying and reflecting, trying to determine where my puzzle piece fits in this giant puzzle of creation, along with what puzzle pieces will be nearby.

Life is great here in Northern Ireland :) Can’t wait to post about Halloween and Dublin!!
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