By Karen Daly
Photos by Cat Dwyer
Mary Pat Kelly
The first hour of the IAW&A February Salon at The Cell featured the launch of IAW&A President and storyteller extraordinaire Mary Pat Kelly’s new novel Irish Above All, the final book in a trilogy that tells the Irish American story through fictionalizing Mary Pat’s family history. Advised years ago by Frank McCourt to tell the stories and let people “buy the damn book,” Mary Pat, together with our treasured singer, Mary Deady, did just that.
In the first book, Galway Bay, Mary Pat’s great-great grandmother Honora saved the family during The Great Starvation. In Of Irish Blood, a character based on her great aunt Nora visits Paris in the early 20th century, meeting literary greats and Irish nationalist figures. In Irish Above All, Nora plays a role in the rise of her cousin Ed Kelly in becoming a powerful mayor of Chicago (1933-1947). Mary Deady, accompanied by the excellent pianist Aya Kato illuminated the stories with songs ranging from “Has Anybody Here Seen Kelly?” to “The Spinning Wheel,” a 19th century song that was popularized in the 1950s by singer Delia Murphy, who appears in the book. More at marypatkelly.com
“Brigid,” a short play written and directed by memoirist and dance teacher Maura Mulligan to capture the essence of the two Brigids, fascinated salongoers. One Brigid is the pre-Christian goddess, a herald of spring; the other is a beloved saint honored in Ireland on February 1st. As the goddess, Nancy Oda enters with a lighted candle, a symbol of renewal and promise, which she passes to the saint, Dolores Nolan who welcomes their mutual ties. In the final moment, they beautifully portray, Nancy in dance, Dolores in song, the combining of Celtic myth with Christianity.
Jamie Lee Kearns
Dan Brown presented another of the night’s dramatic moments in his new original monologue titled “The Garfield Horizons.” New York actress Jamie Lee Kearns convincingly relives her character’s campaign to be homecoming queen in Garfield High School’s Class of 2003. Seeking recognition and attention from her hometown peers, she commits an evil act that haunts her heart and conscience throughout her life.
Though new to the Salon, Andrea Barnes, also known as Red, is an accomplished actor and street poet, who told her story “The Rabbit Debacle” with great style. On a wine trip through Southern Italy, trying to conceal the fact that she was an actor, she found redemption on Ischia, where they appreciate actors and enjoy a beautiful, simple life. Andrea is working on a new piece called “Talisman” documenting “how a Red Tail Hawk came to stay with her for two days a month after her dog Strummer passed away at seventeen.” We hope she’ll present it at a future Salon.
Natalie Rogers’ brought the fun with her new poem, “What’s In A Wall,” a parody of the President’s obsession with building his wall. Natalie last lines read:
“So how can you deny my vision
High enough to see from prison
So cozy with my family
Next door in cells
One, two and three.”
Sarah Maria Lafferty
Salon producer and host John Kearns was thrilled to have luminous County Mayo actress Sarah Maria Lafferty perform a monologue of his new play, Boann and the Well of Wisdom, about the Irish goddess of poetic inspiration who created the River Boyne. Boann appreciates the praise she receives for her singing and expresses frustration at her inability to write her own music. Wondering if something is locked up inside her, and if it’s related to how her father and others have ordered her around and how she has readily obeyed, she realizes that she’s “…been told but never asked or listened to…”
Closing the program with his usual charm was John Munnelly, singer/songwriter/hot sauce maker. His song “Now the Sun is Here” captures the moment when he came to New York, adjusting to a new climate, getting a sunburn and losing the old life. John debuted a new song with “Conscience,” as he often does, welcoming feedback, and getting the audience to sing along. Speaking of feedback, if you’ve sampled John’s other creation, Hattwood Hot Sauce, please take a minute and add to its great word-of-mouth on Google and search for Hattwood Hot Sauce. John appreciates your support and promises to keep the songs and the sauces coming!