Kilkenny: Our final stop

Kilkenny Castle (1)
by Nikki Hoffpauir

We hit our final stop on the tour on Weds afternoon, arriving several hours late thanks to the numerous detours on the way from Ennis. We dropped bags quickly off at the Clubhouse Hotel and hurried up the street to the Watergate. My first impression when I saw the building was that I had been mistaken as to the name of the theater—could it really be The Stripy Men Theater? Nope, that was local pride with a banner hung across the building to cheer on the Kilkenny hurling team. We met Liam, who had arrived on time with the set, and Gerry, the facility manager, who had already hung our lights. Quick like bunnies, the boys got the truck unloaded and the set built and Team Fabulous sorted and ironed, while I ran back to the hotel to get the Keegan mini Mac that I’d stupidly left in my bag in the rush to get over.

StripeymenBrief technical segue: For the first time we were going to use some of the tech equipment I’d literally carted from America on my back and we hauled cross country. You see, up until now, Mike had let us use his light board, sound card, and mini Mac, so that he could ensure that we had everything we needed at every facility.

This was especially necessary once we determined that the theaters could give us two speakers in the back for the judge’s voice, which would have required 4 sound connections to the board rather than the two I had brought with me from Keegan. However, Mike was leaving us in Kilkenny after setup, so we were going to minimize what had to be left to be couriered back to him. At first it was only supposed to be the sound stuff, but since we couldn’t plug a midi into the Kilkenny light board, Mike’s light board stayed with me as well.

Decorated KilkennyNow back to the more interesting stuff for most of you. Lights were up, sound was working, and the set was erected, so it was time to go explore our last city. Wednesday night, we went over to The Pumphouse, the bar across the street where Mark’s brother Joe was holding court as the Mayor of Kilkenny, along with Shiney, a Keegan friend from Scotland. Most people were locked in and enjoyed many a pint there. Others came back and wasted the night away in the hotel bar. Thursday we had the cue to cue before show number 1, so while Mike and I focused lights, the cast either slept in or walked the city.

Castle at nightI know it has to be getting old, me raving about the beauty of these cities, but they really are something to be experienced and seen. The Kilkenny Castle is in the middle of town, practically across from our hotel, and at night, when it’s lit up and the lights reflect in the river below it, it may be one of the most beautiful sights I’ve seen. But more on the castle later. Our part of town was a bit like a triangle, thanks to a fork in the road on the way to and from the theater. You might go one way and see all the shops and restaurants and pubs on the way to the theater, and then, coming back, take the left fork to see the rest. It’s all very pedestrian friendly, lovely cobblestone roads, and buildings that have been there for centuries, all decked out with colorful flowerboxes and many waving banners of black and amber.

Booth viewThe show Thursday night was wonderful. A good, loud audience of about 150 folks, several of whom stopped me on the way to change the set at intermission to welcome us back to town. One very sweet gentlemen said he had been to every show that Keegan has brought and missed us these last few years, going on to tell us that this show was as good as all the rest. So wonderful to hear, especially at the end of the tour, when people are exhausted and missing home. It’s a nice reminder of exactly why we’re here and how much people enjoy the unique thing we bring. Brianna’s lovely mom came all the way from Oregon to see the show and was part of the crowd that night with her friend Beth, so Brianna went off for a visit, while I joined Rae and the men at Pumphouse before more of the same, including checking out other local pubs and late night food establishments. Mike was leaving us the next morning so we ended up back at the hotel bar again, sending him off in grand style.

Castle and groundsFriday, I met up with Maboud and James, and we toured the castle. They’ve done a massive restoration there over the last 100 years, and now have it set up in mid-eighteen century style. Most of the original pieces of furniture and art had been auctioned off, but the docents there were able to point out for us the pieces that remained, including the most magnificent marble table. The craftsmanship and detail work of all the furniture was spectacular. If you get a chance to go, make sure you get to the portrait gallery—it’s truly extraordinary both in the portraits hanging on the wall and the design and construction of the room. Huge vaulted ceilings, carvings in the ribs, parquet floors. Just gorgeous. Side note: the romantic in me now wants to live in a castle. If someone could get on that, I’d be grateful. The grounds outside are lovely as well and the lawn stretches out as far as the eye can see. Very like Central Park on a smaller scale. There’s a river walk that I did with Brianna on Saturday morning to walk off the amazing crepes we ate at Vio’s.

2014-09-14 00.23.28Friday night seemed to pass in a blur, as many of us considered it our last real night in Ireland since we had such an early get up on Sunday to get to the airport to go home. Again, we started at the Pumphouse and then went a few different places. Thony went dancing and represented well for the Americans in the club scene. Brianna and I sought out a wine bar and ended up getting a bottle of wine, which we drank sitting by the river in the shadow of the castle. Again, a girl could get used to this. Several others bellied up again at the hotel bar to close out the night.

Then suddenly it was our last day in Ireland. I spent most of it just wandering around—castle grounds, river walk, souvenir shopping. Then I met up with Maboud in the late afternoon to go to St. Canice’s Cathedral and the Round Tower. This 12th century tower has the best view of the city if you can make it up the steep ladder –like stairs.

Tower viewThe closing show was a nice way to end—perhaps not perfect, but with a good audience and solid performances. We didn’t have to strike the set since the Watergate wanted to keep it—yay for that. So we grabbed costumes, props, sound and lighting stuff and moved on to fun having. Thanks to Rae for the loan of the beautiful vintage dress…felt nice to look pretty for once and not look like the most underdressed girl in the pubs. Susan Rhea, next year, I’m definitely packing some dresses! Whiskey was had as well as pints at Pumphouse. And in a flash, the night was over and dawn was hitting, signaling an end to our time in Kilkenny.

Off to the airport for 11 of us as we left Mark, Colin and Kevin there to return things and cause a bit more trouble before leaving. We’re on the plane now as I type and it’s a long 8 hour flight, perfect time to reflect on the trip. If Susan will indulge me, I’ll post one more blog just wrapping things up. Every good story needs a finish and I’m just not quite ready to be done with this just yet, though it’ll be nice to be home.AFGM cast shot