The Kernel

This weekend the group journeyed to Belfast to meet with Hanna Slattne, the literary manager at Tinderbox Theater Co.  Tinderbox is dedicated to showcasing the work of new, Northern Irish writers; she told us that during the Troubles and the rest of Irelands tumultuous history, the space and opportunity wasn’t available for many writers’ voices to be heard.  Tinderbox is making an effort to make up for lost time, in a sense.   Image  Ms Slattne hosted us as the beautiful Municipal Arts Center (MAC), which was a triumph in synthesis between architectual design and practicality that meets the needs of those using the building.  Natural light and convertability were some of the highlights of their rehearsal spaces.

After the tour Ms Slattne worshopped with us, and showed us an interesting and effective way to find the meaning, theme, and message of our plays: the kernel.

What she had us do is think about the synopses on the back of DVDs; they don’t usually give a fulll summary of the plot and instead convey the tone and feel of the film.  I had an idea of the story- a constable finding out that a new recruit lied about being Cathlic in order to get a job- but this way of thinking really helped me think not only about plot structure but how I wanted the audience to feel about my play.  After a few attempts I discovered that my kernel had yet to pop.  I didn’t know if it was a comedy or a drama.  I didn’t know if I fully understood how an Irish audience would respond to the story I had in mind.  I had so much trouble describing my play and I took this to mean that there was not yet much to describe at all, though I also think that describing my own creative work is difficult as I also have difficulty describing myself.  The kernel is my doing after all.  As I write I must consider where I am as a person and try to mold myself into someone who is able to tell this story.

I left the MAC feeling a little overwhelmed (and hungry).  After a filling dinner at a noodle bar with Sean, Courtney, Jow, Victoria, and Rachel, the six of us found ourselves more prone to meandering toward the direction that we felt might be where Victoria St was instead of finding the path we used before.  This was our first visit to a real metropolis (barring our brief stay at the Dublin airport).  I don’t mind having no idea where I am as long as I’m with people I know and like very much.  And it fit my mood at the time.  Eventuallly we saw signs that had the word “Victoria” on them, which we followed into a pedestrian zone called Victoria Square.  We were walking on a city street when voila, we were suddenly in a shopping mall.


We spent quite some time here and got our shop on.  Eventually we did find our way back to Victoria street and to our hostel, Arney’s Backpackers, where we met Coco, an employee there from Austria who was the sweetest person ever and could apparently drink like nobody’s business.  She didn’t come out to the pub with us that evening, but we heard rumors…

The six of us went to Filthy McNasty’s a short walk down the street.  It was positively hopping, and I was hoping for the organic opportunity to speak with some locals.  Cue Sean, who got the attention of a pair of buddies nearby.  Michael and Jason were apparently intrigued by our Americanness and struck up conversation.  They asked us what our plans were (making farting noises when we mentioned Belfast Castle and imploring that we see Carrickfergus instead) and telling u a little about the personalities of the citizens of Belfast.  Finally Rachel asked what they did, and they reluctantly told they were cops.

I couldn’t believe my luck.  It was like the stars aligned to provide me with two specimens of the subjects of my play.  I was able to ask them about the Patten Reform and what their lives on the force were like, and they were so helpful.  I’m terribly grateful to them for just being at the pub the same night we were, let alone speaking with me ind entertaining an impromptu interview.  They asked somewhat jokingly that we name our characters after them, but I’m only too happy to oblige.  They’ll find fame in the States.

After such a serendipitous meeting I’m feeling much better about the direction of my play and my ability to write it.  After going to Giants Causeway the next morning, Sean and I came back to Armagh to get a head start on our work.  But I know I’m looking forward to going back to Belfast.