By Karen Daly

Photos by Cat Dwyer

The IAWA Holiday Salon at The Cell lived up to its advance billing as a festive year-end party full of tremendous talent, an SRO crowd and seasonal cheer. Three dance performances, two short videos, mesmerizing acting, sweet Christmas tunes and a lot of laughter added up to an unforgettable night.

NYC actress Rebekah Madebach commanded the stage in “Flesh Wounds,” a comedic monologue written and directed by Dan Brown. As a “friend” of the bride at the wedding reception, she gives an unscheduled toast. The self-indulgent, and often inappropriate, speech becomes a journey towards spontaneous self-discovery for the uninvited speaker.


Rebekah Madebach

Next in playwright Jenifer Margaret Kelly’s darkly comic piece “Hailing Time,” the ever-amazing Rosina Fernhoff portrayed a Southern woman struggling against the vortex of suburban life, with its tightening gyre of missing socks, frozen smiles and unexpressed passion.

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Rosina Fernhoff

With lively music, song and dance, Maura Mulligan and company brought us a bit of the Celtic winter tradition known as “Wren Day.” The wren is considered a symbol of the old year in Celtic mythology and the holiday is still celebrated in some parts of Ireland, Wales and the Isle of Man. Fiddler Marie Reilly and whistle player Colm Butler joined singers Martin Daly on guitar and Pamela Jean Agaloos in presenting traditional Wren Day music together with Maura and her dancers Deirdre BatsonSiobhán McCourt, Silpa Sadhajun and Kim Tullach. If you’d like to join Maura’s weekly dance class, reach out to

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Maura Mulligan’s Wren Day 

Actor and comedy performer Sarah Fearon sent her alter ego “Snazzy Peabody.” A real estate legend in her own mind, Snazzy appears in a series of short films. Having already sold the Brooklyn Bridge, Snazzy is on to another NYC exclusive listing, this time she’s selling the Belvedere Castle in Central Park. Director and actress Shae D’Lyn introduced the segment and we’re only sorry that Sarah wasn’t able to be there to enjoy the laughs.


Sarah Fearon as Snazzy Peabody, left. Photo by Dan Brown. The real Sarah, upper right. Shae D’Lyn, lower right.

Bessie-award nominated Darrah Carr Dance returned to the Salon with the beginning stages of choreography for a new, full-length collaboration with musicians Dana Lyn and Kyle Sanna premiering at the Irish Arts Center in 2018. Inspired by Lyn and Sanna’s sophomore album The Great Arc, the work blends traditional Irish step and contemporary modern dance, in the company’s trademark style of ModERIN. Company members Michelle Esch, Jonathan MatthewsCaitlin McNeill, Laura Neese and Alexandra Williamson thrilled the crowd with their ensemble work, and a solo by company member and TONY award winner Trent Kowalik (the original Billy in Broadway’s Billy Elliot) thrilled again.

Darrah Carr Dance.  Soloist Trent Kowalik 

In what’s becoming an IAWA holiday tradition, Mark William Butler invited cast members from his terrific show in development Ugly Christmas Sweater: The Musical to perform original songs. This time, Richard Butler and Kristine Louis Reynal treated us to “Christmas Is You,” accompanied by Will Buck on piano. Mark will have an Ugly Christmas Sweater performance in late January. We’ll post the details, and be sure to check here

Will Buck on piano.  Richard Butler, left, Kristine Louis Reynal, Mark Butler

Dublin playwright Derek Murphy excels at creating plays about very bad relationships and he’s delighted that Maria Deasy and John Keating brought “A Leg For Christmas” hilariously to life. In a hospital waiting room in Ireland, the two argue about traffic, tea, marmalade, and the bathroom, until the macabre reason for their presence, and relationship to one another is finally revealed, amid much laughter.

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Maria Deasy, John Keating.  Photo by Dan Brown.

IAWA VP Mary Pat Kelly showed a trailer for Shirah of Bethlehem, an animated Christmas musical that she’s writing with world-class collaborators, best-selling children’s book illustrator Peter H. Reynolds, award-winning television producer Carole Hart (of Sesame Street and Free to Be You and Me) and producer Margaret Murray. As a child, Mary Pat loved Nativity stories that added fictional characters, such as Amahl and the Night Visitors and The Little Drummer Boy. There were talking animals, but where, Mary Pat wondered, were the girls? That was her inspiration for the adorable Shirah, who leads the shepherds to the manger. More at

Mary Pat Kelly, Shirah on screen

catseyepix-0827_preview larryLarry Kirwan announced that 2018 would be his last year as President of Irish American Writers & Artists, Inc. He thanked his fellow board members and IAWA members for their unwavering support – and we’ll have ample time to thank Larry for his leadership and inspiration. Saying that he had achieved most of his goals since taking the helm in June 2014, he noted that the organization was thriving. A believer in change and progress, Larry hopes that every member can aspire to join the board and become president. Larry is shown at right.

Later in the evening, Larry Kirwan performed a piece from his new solo show, “Ireland —A History in Song.” Larry went to Barbados to track down descendants of the Irish people whom Oliver Cromwell sent as slaves in 1649. One remarkable woman told him “They sent us here to kill us but we have thrived.” He integrated that conversation about the resilience of these descendants with Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” and Black 47’s “Fire of Freedom.”




Enjoying the break

In his first Salon performance, Niall O’Leary demonstrated a few of his many talents, with a charming version of Shay Healy’s “I Am Allergic to Christmas,” followed by what he’s famous for: a thrilling traditional Irish dance. An All-Ireland and World Champion dancer, he founded the Irish Dance School that bears his name.

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Niall O’Leary

Malachy McCourt brought the Salon to a perfect close with a few words, covering among other things, the power of words. He thanked John Kearns, Salon producer and hard-working host. By popular request,  he ended with his signature song, “Will Ye Go, Lassie, Go.” 

And we lassies and lads went to our after-party to continue the holiday cheer.

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Singing along with Malachy McCourt

To our presenters, volunteers, members, friends and fans and the team at the cell, thank you for supporting the Salon and Happy New Year! 


JAN. 4:  IAWA Salon at Bar Thalia, 7pm

JAN. 14:  Darrah Carr Dance’s next performance during Stam-pede at Symphony Space, 3pm

JAN. 15:  IAWA Civil Rights Salon in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as part of Origin Theatre’s 1st Irish Theatre Festival, The Cell. 7pm

JAN. 20:  Larry Kirwan’s Ireland – A History in Song, Noble Maritime Museum, Snug Harbor, Staten Island, 8 pm

JAN. 17 — 29:  Derek Murphy’s play Dyin’ For It, starring our own Maria Deasy and directed by John Keating. Origin Theatre’s 1st Irish Theatre Festival, The Cell.