Word of the Day: Heritage
When I first went to Northern Ireland three years ago, I remember sitting in the airplane as it descended out of the clouds and I saw for the first time, (in this lifetime!) these incredible green fields. It really is emerald—or “40 shades of green.” As the taxi drove towards Belfast past little stone farmhouses and fields of cows and sheep I really thought, “I’m home,” which is funny because I’m not Irish. I’m Welsh (except for a few drops of French or German, depending on what year in history it is in Alsace-Lorraine.) But I AM Celtic. Marty and the girls are very Irish and Scottish. So, we were definitely home last week in the land of the Celts.
The first day of our arrival was a rest time. We needed it to all get adjusted to the time change. It was raining, so we just relaxed, baby-proofed the hotel room, watched TV and ordered room service.
Lyra and Ripley getting a lay of hotel room land … and the full-length mirror.
The next day, our babysitter, Lisa, arrived right on time. We actually thought she was an hour late, until we realized we’d changed our clocks one hour too many. Instead, we had plenty of time to eat breakfast. Lisa ended up being a “kid wrangler” for film and TV in Belfast rather than someone else’s babysitter. She had worked with the Sesame Tree producers so she was able to even walk us with the babies to their offices so we didn’t get lost. The plan was for them to come everyday for lunch and a visit, then enjoy walking around Belfast. Unfortunately, it rained EVERY DAY we were in Ireland, so instead, the babies saw a lot of stores. No wonder it is so green here.
That first morning of the workshop was spent getting reacquainted. I knew three of the four writers from last season. There was a new script editor, Laura and a new main producer, Fiona. The original line producer, Leon, is still involved with the show. These women are powerhouses and are going to make this second season of Sesame Tree fabulous.
The writers, puppeteers and producers (minus the executive producer, Colin, who was on another shoot) sat together in a circle to discuss everything about last season that worked and didn’t work. It was the first time they had actually done this as a team so everyone was very happy. This is not a reflection on the production—often writers are finished and no longer staff before the puppeteers are hired back for production.
The babies showed up for lunch and we all ate together and visited. In the afternoon, the writers and I started intense breakdowns of the first four scripts of the new season and the puppeteers began working with Marty on technique. At the end of the day, we walked back to the hotel, relieved Lisa, ordered room service, and crashed hard.
It was like this for the next three days: intense work, babies visiting, walking home, room service and bed. It was fantastic. This team is so funny and smart. I only have to point them in a direction once in awhile for story structure or humor. It’s also helpful I have a large knowledge of the Sesame library and can suggest classic Muppet bits to fit into the topic of their shows. We went through all 20 of their stories for this season, plus eight outlines. On the final day, we gathered as a group again and did a table read of the second drafts of the first four shows. The puppeteers were in great form and the scripts read beautifully. There were lots of laughs and few notes. Colin, the exec, was clearly pleased.
I was going to go up to the hotel room to relieve Lisa while Marty went out with the team for some pints at the Robinsons (!) bar across the street. However, Robinsons was packed with the Friday evening crowd so instead they all came to the first floor hotel lounge, which has a nice big open area and floor rug. So, the babies came down with me and we could all spend some final time together while the babies crawled around us.
Lyra and Ripley with the Irish puppeteers and their workshop puppets. The real puppets are being fixed for the new season.
Ripley reaches out for Lisa and Hilda the Irish Hare.
We were planning the next day to go to the Neolithic ruins at New Grange. However, the weather once again looked nasty and Fiona suggested we go with her and her son to see Carrickfergus Castle, which was much closer to Belfast. Marty jumped at this idea since, after a pint or two in the “old country,” he’s been known to sing a Carrickfergus song in Telly’s voice. It worked out super because we could push the girls through most of it and carry them the rest of the way up into the castle “Keep.” There were two large rugs on the top floor, which were the “boards” for an oversized chess game and ladders and serpents game. The girls got to crawl around their first chess set, as well as visit with locals dressed in medieval garb playing music and telling stories.
The Robinsons at Carrickfergus Castle along with John McGuire (Fiona’s son).
Afterwards, we went to Fiona’s for some tea and pasta, and then headed home to pack for an early plane home.
Our Celtic eyes were tired, but it was a grand trip.