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Hello From Northern Ireland!

October 19, 2012

liz orndorffThis month we’re hearing from guest blogger and playwright extraordinaire Liz Orndorff! She has yet to send any pictures, so I’ve put in a few, but the blog proper is the work of Liz. Enjoy!

I arrived last Friday morning with my friend Nancy Martindale after a seven-hour flight from Chicago to Dublin. I was selected in March to participate in an Artist Exchange with Danville’s Sister City of Carrickfergus in Northern Ireland. Carrick sent Janet Crymble to Danville and we were lucky enough to get to know her before we left. We’ll also get to spend time with here when she returns to Carrick October 30. Nancy and I will be here until November 8.

flight to ireland

 We have a lovely furnished apartment overlooking the marina, which is almost entirely sailboats. Within walking distance is the 12th-century Norman castle, a grocery store, movie theatre, and the Windrose, a superior waterside restaurant. If we can get up the courage to cross the street, we can walk into town where there are shops, a library (we’ve gotten cards and checked out books), the civic centre which houses the Bourough Council and our wonderful hostess Hilary Adair, St. Nicholas Church (800 years old), and more restaurants.

Carrickfergus-castle-outside-viewCarrickfergus Castle

 On Saturday, after a coffee with the Deputy-Mayor and some Council members, we were given a private tour by Ann, a re-enactor, of the castle, St. Nicholas’s, and the Andrew Jackson homestead. Before his parents emigrated to America, where he was born, Andrew Jackson’s parents and brothers lived in a farmhouse in Carrickfergus. It is treated here as a true historical site.  At least three other  US presidents trace their families to this area, and the people of NI are proud of that contribution to America. Later that afternoon we attended a Flute Band competition in Jubilee Hall and got caught in our first Irish downpour while walking home. What fun!

andrew jackson homesteadAndrew Jackson’s family homestead

 Sunday we attended Joymount Presbyterian Church where we brought greetings from the Danville Presbyterian Church. It was interesting to note that this very old church does only contemporary music and has video screens to show the words. But we found out that, just like at home, not everybody is on board with those changes! It was new to end the service with the minister saying, “God save the Queen.”, followed by singing the first verse of the National Anthem. Later that afternoon we attended rehearsals of the Whitelight Theatre Group’s Christmas show. We found out how blessed we are to have the incredible resources that we do at Pioneer Playhouse and West T. Hill Theatre. The Whitelight folks rehearse for three months to put on a pantomime, a popular kind of costumed comedy, but do not have the funding to do another show.

joymount churchThe interior of Joymount Church

Monday I began working with school classes at Carrickfergus Grammar School, which has 800 students aged 11 thru 18.  I talked to two classes about writing on the first day. They had never heard of Kentucky, so I taught them how to speak a foreign language and say “Hi, y’all.” When their teacher next came in the room, 60 voices shouted out, “Hi, y’all.” It was a hoot.Yesterday and today I met with some drama classes, with the goal of writing a 10-minute play by the end of next week. Nancy is recording these events on camera and we are enjoying polite, uniformed children with rosy cheeks!

220px-Carrickfergus Grammar Logo.svg
The Carrickfergus Grammar School logo

Tonight is a real treat: Playwright Don Gordon is giving a reading at a church in Carrickfergus and we’ll be picked up at 6:00 to go hear him. He has had plays produced in the US and in Belfast and won prizes for his playwriting. The Carrickfergus Borough Council has been so kind and generous to us. They have made available taxi service 24/7. Now I just call up and say “This is Liz,” and we are picked up within 5 minutes! Thank you, Hilary, for being our social secretary and guardian angel!

Tomorrow Fiona Surgenor, the Borough’s director of good relations, will take me to Meghaberry Prison in Belfast to meet with inmate writing classes. Then an art exhibition Friday night and a children’s show in Belfast on  Saturday night. We have met the loveliest people and are having a great time. Yes, you all should be jealous!whitehead