“Excellent. So moving and so much fun. A true variety show!”
by Karen Daly
Photos by Cat Dwyer
The IAW&A December Salon at The Cell has become a don’t-miss event on the Holiday Calendar. Salongoers know they’ll find an array of talented artists bringing their gifts of music, language and dance, genuine good cheer and a unique setting in the Chelsea performance space. This year, the high-energy SRO crowd got all that, plus some Christmas treats. Santa made an appearance in black sequins; we sampled Wren Day, right here in NYC; environmentally conscious elves, award winning songs, jazz riffs, laughs and a tour de force by Honor Molloy were on the program.
We congratulate John Kearns on his two-year anniversary as Salon producer and thank him for his excellent, generous work. (He’s probably blushing by now.)
First time IAW&A presenter Gordon Gilbert Jr. braved the leadoff spot with poignant monologues about loss and growing old. They included “Heaven” in which a woman enjoys life after the death of the husband who had abused her verbally for over sixty years and “I Do Not Fear the Dark” in which an elderly jazz musician has just learned he has Alzheimer’s. Gordon read his lyrics to a song about facing the holidays alone, “Waking Slow.” Currently at work on two novels and poetry, Gordon performs regularly at spoken word events. In February, he will resume hosting monthly events celebrating Beat Generation writers at the Cornelia Street Cafe.
To learn more, contact him at email@example.com Gordon’s comment about the night – “What a wonderful evening! What wonderful people!”
A merry combo, comic performer Sarah Fearon teamed up with world-class jazz musician Jon Gordon to present “The Real Holiday Letter.” A spoof on the classic year-in-summary Holiday bragging letter, Sarah’s version shows what the letter would really say if it were truthful. Jon Gordon’s twisty saxophone accompanied Sarah with “We Wish you a Merry Christmas,” “Jingle Bells” and other Christmas standards. Jon finished the set with famous tune “Christmas Time is Here.”
Playwright John Cappelletti brought two professional actors, Barry Sacker and Maura Knowles to play elves in his vaudeville “What’s Bode?” Concerned with the polar caps melting at an unprecedented rate, (thus causing the oceans to rise dangerously and eventually end civilization as we know it) Santa’s tiny helpers think they can save the world. They plan to prevent jolly St. Nick from making his annual journey and shut down Christmas. The elves hope to teach us to respect Mother Nature, the environment and her people and animals. Christmas stockings will only have dirty lumps of coal, along with crude, shale and nuclear waste. John says the situation is nothing to laugh about, yet the audience couldn’t help laughing at his clever dialogue.
Salon producer and tonight’s host-with-the-most John Kearns chose a Christmas themed excerpt from his novel-in- progress, Worlds. In Center City Philadelphia in the early 70s, Janey Logan takes her children to meet their father, James, and to see the Christmas light show and Santa Claus at John Wanamaker’s department store. During the show, which depicts many of the famous Christmas stories like the Nutcracker, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and Frosty the Snowman, the children, Kitty and Paul, alternatively bicker and look out for each another.
Honor Molloy’s gift to us was her reading of “Sixpence the Stars”–a story from her novel Smarty Girl – Dublin Savage. http://www.smartygirlthebook.com Often referred to in our wee community as The Little Oranges, this jaunty trip winds its way through Dublintown on Christmas Eve, 1966. There’s the nativity tale as told by a fruit dealer on Moore Street–Dublin’s open-air market. Molloy takes the audience back through time, when mechanicalized toys and Cheeky Charlies were hawked with wild cries and even wilder abandon. Watch Honor perform it here and share her gift with friends: www.youtube.com/watch?v=w1y1jAmgRCE t
Singer songwriter Michael Sheahan charmed us with his award winning Christmas songs from his three-time award winning Christmas Book, CD and Dance DVD “Mr. Holidays Presents The Roof Top Hop.” If you need a gift for a youngster, purchase by calling 1-800-2476553 or www.bookmasters.com/marktplc/03080.htm Michael also performed songs from his latest Christmas CD “Some Things Never Change,” available here:
Before the break, IAW&A President Larry Kirwan greeted the crowd and described the origins of the IAW&A and the growth of the Salons. Larry encouraged the audience to introduce new people to the group. Where else can you find such community and experience an evening like tonight that’s free? We do take voluntary contributions to cover expenses at The Cell.
A uniquely talented artist, a vocalist, accordionist and writer, Marni Rice, gave a thrilling rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” Marni sang a lively original song called “The Market” and an Edith Piaf song, “Fais-moi Valser” (Let Me Waltz) Find Marni at www.dejouxmusique.com
Padraig Murphy read a thrilling excerpt from his novel Placebo, a story about loss and recovery that gave us a peek into the backwater places in the Caribbean rarely seen by tourists. We come face to face with the remote, startlingly simplistic birth of a force 4 hurricane. We see Padraig’s protagonist pass unaware into harm’s way, leading to major consequences. You can find the book on Amazon and find Pat on FB at Padraig Murphy Writer.
An IAW&A Co-Director, Kathleen Donohoe read from her essay about growing up in Brooklyn and becoming a writer, long before ‘Brooklyn’ and ‘writer’ were synonyms. We’re excited to see Kathleen’s novel The Ashes of Fiery Weather, the story of six generations of women in a family of firefighters, that will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Marcia Loughran presented three poems– a new one, “Bargaining with God at the Price Chopper,” and a couple on one of her favorite themes, Marriage: What Nobody Told You. Marcia says she was honored to be at the Cell and enjoyed her fellow readers, dancers, singers and performers immensely. And we’re honored to share her work.
Dressed in bright ribbons and traditional disguise, Maura Mulligan and her dance students Bill Duggan, Deirdre Batson, Ryan Cahill, Hara Reiser and Vera Wrennrecreated the traditional Irish and Welsh celebration Wren Day. On Wren Day, December 26, young people in colorful costumes went from house to house performing. In old times, a wren was sacrificed but over the last 100 years, the holiday has been celebrated with music, song and dance and no murder victim. Maura and company expertly danced “Peeler and the Goat” and “The Galway Reel” and Maura performed a sean nós (old style) dance known as “The Brush Dance.” Ryan Cahill and Vera Wrenn told the story through their lovely singing of “The Wren Song.”
The talented fiddler, Marie Reilly who recently released a second CD, “The Road to Glannagh,” accompanied the group. Maura’s memoir, Call of the Lark is available from http://www.greenpointpress.org Her spring session of weekly dance classes begins Friday, February 6. More at: http://www.mauramulligan.com
Another ensemble, Mark William Butler and his band of merrymakers closed out the festivities with three of his original Christmas songs and one naughty bit of comedy business. With ace accompanist Tyler Knauf on the ivories, Elizabeth Inghram started things off with a beautifully mournful rendition of “The Christmas I Remember” from Mark’s show Christmas Anonymous. Richard Butler then shimmied down the chimney, donning a dress and flashing his gams as an angry, cross-dressing, not-so-secret Santa, and then bringing the house down with the rousing neo-burlesque number, “Look At Me.” Then Mark joined Elizabeth, Richard and Tyler, wrapping up the party with the uplifting holiday anthem, “Christmas Is You,” also from Christmas Anonymous.
How ‘bout a Christmas shout-out to Mark? He’s another tireless IAW&A contributor; he helps stage manage the Salons, and edits the popular IAW&A Weekly. (firstname.lastname@example.org).
As you can see from the pictures, the merriment continued at the Salon afterparty at the Half King restaurant. No posts about the party, though. What happens at the Half King, stays at the Half King.
Merry Christmas from IAW&A!
See you January 6 at the Bar Thalia.