By Maureen Hossbacher
Writer/performer and IAW&A Board member, Sarah Fearon, led off our second virtual salon by sharing, from her window, a few moments of her Upper West Side block’s 7 p.m. demonstration of gratitude to NYC’s COVID-19 heroes. Then she shared her work-in-progress, aptly titled “Waiting to Clap: Is it 7 O’Clock Yet?” — a reflection on the nightly cacophony that is part tribute, part keening, and totally New York, where the applause is enriched by singing, ringing bells, hitting gongs, honking bus and car horns and all manner of creative expression.
Next, Omar Haddad performed Louis Armstrong’s classic “What a Wonderful World” on solo guitar, and his original “Free Fall,” an uplifting song with a message of open-mindedness, oneness and peace. Omar has recently been working with a non-profit that promotes international arts and culture through UNESCO. He is currently recording an album of songs with bass player Bakithi Kumalo and Grammy/Emmy winning producer, Cynthia Daniels.
Actress Suzanne Smith was working on the character Molly Bloom from James Joyce’s Ulysses in Wynn Handman’s acting class before he recently passed away. With Bloomsday just around the corner (June 19), she dedicated to her coach’s memory her sensitive and moving performance of Molly Bloom’s famous reverie. Best known for her web series Saige Winters: My Psychic Life, Suzanne has a role in Woody Allen’s upcoming new film, A Rainy Day in New York. You can visit her online at her website.
Joining the salon from St. Louis, MO, former IAW&A Board member Eamonn Wall, read three poems from his new book project, Barrack Street — a meditation of growing up in Co. Wexford in the 1950s and 1960s as well as a backward look to Ireland from the middle of the U.S. His book on Irish America, published last year, From Oven Lane to Sun Prairie: In Search of Irish America is available from Syracuse University Press. It includes essays on Eavan Boland, Jean Valentine, Georgia O’Keeffe, Rory Gallagher, Derek Mahon, and others.
Maria Deasy, actor, producer and President of IAW&A, performed her original monologue, “You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman In A Pandemic,” an exploration of distraction, loss and the boundless power of nature.
After an intermission to stretch, chat, and perhaps refill a glass, frequent presenter and longtime member, John Munnelly, accompanying himself on guitar, favored us with his cover of “Moon River,” followed by his original song “Ay Caramba.” A limited edition of his new album Expanding Universe “XU” is available on his website, as is his delicious Hattwood Hot Sauce.
Brendan Costello, the very able and enabling host of the evening, and technical assistant, Dan Brown, then set the Zoom stage for playwright David Gilna’s one-act story, My Bedsit Window, depicting the struggles an artist contends with in the world of theatre. The piece was beautifully acted by Alan Kelly, Michael Mellamphy and Sarah Ryan. Kelly played actor William Blake with Mellamphy and Ryan embodying a variety of characters, from the voices in Blake’s head, to a daunting spiritual guru, to the denizens of the Swords neighborhood of Dublin where Blake grew up.
Another theatre piece followed: the Dying Rebel, introduced by North Carolina playwright Dennis Corcoran, based on the story of Irish Republican Michael Joseph O’Rahilly and his wife Nancy Brown, and commissioned as part of the 1916 commemorations in Ireland. Actors Emma Potts, (live from her car in a Home Depot parking lot) and Michael Parker (from his bedroom) played the couple who meet on a sidewalk in Derry after a long separation. Decades after they fought side-by-side as young Bogside patriots, they reveal a deep and, until now, secret affection for each other . Author Corcoran’s intent is to expand the piece to a fuller exploration of the impact of armed struggle on the personal lives of those involved.
While the isolation of social distancing has been difficult for us all in various ways, poet Bernadette Cullen says, “It has also given me the time to be quiet, time to read, time to write.” The result is the three lovely poems she contributed to our virtual salon, entitled “when stars learned how to write,” “when fish were birds, and birds were dust” and “a meditation on moonlight’s short reach.” The latter was inspired by an emotional encounter with Andrew Wyeth’s “Christina’s World” which Cullen says is still a work in progress.
Our salon came to a rollicking close with a few tales from Malachy McCourt, recalling some wild times with his friend, the late, great Richard Harris. Their outrageous practical jokes involved calling the police on each other and, literally, being caught with their pants down (naked) — in McCourt’s case, as an alleged “intruder” in Harris’ pool, and, in Harris’ case, tricked by McCourt into unwittingly appearing in the buff before a gaggle of autograph hunters McCourt had let into Harris’ hotel room as he emerged from his shower. A legendary storyteller and founder of Irish American Writers & Artists, Inc., our Malachy can always be counted on for a good laugh.