By Karen Daly
Photos by Alexandra Jakstas

That’s no exaggeration. If you missed the IAW&A salon at the Cell on Tuesday, May 20, you missed an unforgettable program that featured scenes from three plays – by women playwrights. Gifted new presenters joined the line-up; several IAW&A members explored new genres and birthdays (John Kearns, Maura Mulligan) were celebrated.

What Tom Mahon calls “our village” is entertained by “our own” with story and song, drama, and comedy. Tonight “our own” included talent from stages in New York and Ireland, and from such fabled places as Hollywood and Jakarta, and of course, New Jersey. Tom notes that our Salon mix might not work without such a great audience. The overflow crowd was just that – laughing, cheering, sometimes tearing up.


Gary Cahill

Crime writer Gary Cahill led off the evening with an unusual choice that worked well at his recent reading for the Noir at the Bar series at the Shade in Greenwich Village — the climax and demise of the psychotic murderous protagonist from his crime fiction short story “Sirens.” In other words, he gave away the ending! The story is published free online (and in an e-book anthology) with Plan B Magazine at Gary also reads “Sirens” and other writers’ stories (Um Piexe GrandeSlice) with his friend, engineer Tom Richter (Doing God’s WorkMurderous Lies) for the Plan B podcast at  Gary is the father of the talented Ryan Winter Cahill, who closed the evening.


Mark William Butler

Mark William Butler was happy to spread the word and receive such an enthusiastic response to the new IAW&A newsletter – The Weekly Action Update, a/k/a “The Weekly.”  Be sure to get your news to Mark at

Mark, who is known as a playwright and creator of musical comedy, read a short story that he recently rediscovered. The rollicking “San Francisco Bar Brawl” made its debut after languishing in obscurity (and a dusty notebook) for more years than Mark would care to admit.


Marni Rice

Marni Rice is ever expanding her range as an artist. We’ve seen her perform as a singer, accordionist, composer, writer and Salon host. Tonight she sang two traditional sean-nós (“old style”) Irish songs from the Sarah Makem songbook: “My Bonny Boy” and the plaintive,  “The Lowlands of Holland.”

Sarah Makem, the influential traditional singer was wife, mother and grandmother of musicians (yes, those Makems). Read about her here:


John Kearns

John Kearns, IAW&A Salon producer and tonight’s host, read two poems: “A Memory of Its Own” about the body’s ability to recall things the mind may have forgotten and “Mornings” about how a couple’s conversation changes the morning commute from a dull routine to an experience enchanting and fun.


Sean Hickey

Writer/teacher Sean Hickey made his Salon debut in March and tonight he returned with three melancholy character sketches from his short fiction “Five Portraits of Future Cultists.” Each sketch explores the varied formative experiences and longings of a seemingly ordinary person, and leads up to an ominous glimpse at a fate that he or she will be unable to escape. A fine writer and welcome addition to the group.

Sean promoted the Bergen County Irish Festival, which will be held on June 28 at Overpeck County Park in Leonia, New Jersey.  Authors with books to sign and sell are especially encouraged to participate. For information, check the IAW&A “Weekly” or email Sean at

 mary pat cast

Sean, Mary Elizabeth Kelly, Maura Knowles, and Mary Pat Kelly

Distinguished author and filmmaker Mary Pat Kelly is now working on a musical version of her first novel, Special Intentions, which tells the story of her experiences as a nun during the 1960s. Tonight she presented two songs from the musical-in-progress.  In her introduction, Mary Pat commented on present attacks by the Vatican on women religious for being “feminists” too concerned with the poor and the environment. “I left. The women who stayed are doing great work under difficult conditions. I want to look at the idealism that motivated all of us,” she said. She cast two wonderful actresses Maura Knowles – and Mary Elizabeth Kelly to sing her roles, accompanied on piano by Sean, a musical student who arrived in New York from Jakarta only 10 months ago and is a wonderful talent. Mary Pat commented, “My niece Mary Elizabeth captured that idealism and Maura was fantastic as all the other characters.Thanks to Salon for the chance to launch this effort!”



Maura Mulligan and John Kearns enjoyed birthday cupcakes! 


Maura Mulligan

Maura Mulligan, author of a memoir, Call of the Lark, (Greenpoint Press) and teacher of Irish language and dance, is now proud to call herself a playwright and “over the moon” with the audience’s warm reception to her first effort, Call of the Grave. On Samhain  (Halloween) in rural 1940’s Ireland, Maeve Kenny prepares for her husband’s wake with the traditional music and clay pipes. When the local priest announces that Pádraic Kenny must be the first burial in a new graveyard, daughter Breege is horrified. When the druidess, Cait Rúa, announces that the ancestors will expect to meet Pádraic in the old graveyard, Breege finds a shovel and takes matters into her own hands.

maura cast

Nancy Oda, Aine Murphy, Vera Wrenn, Jo Kinsella, and Jimmy Kerr

Maura’s cast featured Jo Kinsella who directed the scene and played Breege. Jo has many acting credits here and in Ireland and recently played Maggie in Dancing at Lughnasa at The Irish Rep. Jimmy Kerr, a native of Co. Antrim, studied creative writing in Edinburgh and acting in NYC. His work has been featured in the 1st Irish Theater Festival. Native Irish speaker Áine Murphy (Cáit Rúa) hails from the Corca Dhuibhne Gaeltacht in West Kerry and has appeared in many Irish language stage productions and on Radio Éireann and Radio na Gaeltachta. IAW&A member, Limerick born Vera Wrenn (Maeve) has acted and studied and performed Irish dance in Ireland and New York. Throughout the 1960s, Vera sang with her sister and brother in the Wrenn Trio. Our ownNancy Oda, who read stage directions, has participated in other New York playreadings and performance pieces. The Chicago native has experience acting and training actors and is a member of SAG/AFTRA and Actors’ Equity. Nancy is excited to do readings of new plays and is always looking for new projects.


Tom Mahon

Tom Mahon read from another powerful excerpt from his novel American Mastery.  On a business trip to Germany, the Fenton brothers Charlie and Raymond go to the Hofbrau House.

Afterwards, while walking on the cobbled streets of Munich, they’re attached by four thugs, just as they were on a previous trip to Japan. This time, Charlie saves them. Frightened at first that he could respond so automatically, he then relishes winning against such odds. Ray is knocked out. At the hospital, Charlie learns that he’s killed a man, and is now like the Germans he fears and detests after visiting Buchenwald death camp the previous day.


Jill Caryl Weiner

Author, journalist and first time presenter Jill Caryl Weiner read an essay called “Moving Forward” about transformations, memories and how you often need to forget parts of yourself to become someone new: a mom. Jill calls her piece as “the dark sister” to her new book When We Became Three: A Memory Book for the Modern Family – a charming and whimsical fresh spin on the memory book.


Jill wanted to help new parents ease their anxiety with a fun, optimistic way to record that time. In Jill’s book, parents record their firsts as well as baby’s (how they felt the first time they held baby; and baby’s first real word and parents first baby word) so that they don’t take themselves for granted – and so they’ll have an interesting — and adorable  — keepsake in the future.

Jill has two book signing/reading events coming up:

June 9th at 7pm, Barnes & Noble on 82nd & Broadway.

June 14th at 11am at the Upper West Side Apple Store.

Find Jill at or get on her mailing list at and find the book at

sheila sarah

Sheila Walsh and Sarah Fearon

Playwright Sheila Walsh has been sharing scenes from her play, Surrender at Somerville,a funny and touching look at what happens when sweethearts from the 1960’s reconnect. Sheila is working on the second draft and tonight she read the beginning of the new version with the comedian/performer Sarah Fearon. The scene, and the actors, provided great comedy. We’ll get to see more, as the work progresses, as Sheila enjoys presenting new work to the salon’s encouraging audience.


John Cappellitti

First time Salon presenter John Cappelletti read a poem (some have called it a long sonnet) called “Krapp” based on the play “Krapp’s Last Tape” by Samuel Beckett, directed in NYC by John’s mentor, the late Alan Schneider. Next he read a short piece (which he learned at the salon was  “flash fiction”) titled “The Dolls” which was based, unfortunately, on a true story of a schoolroom shooting. Born in Chicago to an Italian father and Irish mother (his grandfather came from Roscommon), John is proud to be an Irish citizen. He’s an actor, director, playwright and teacher and grandfather.


Ryan Cahill

Since the evening began with one Cahill, it was only fitting to end with another. Ryan Winter Cahill brought the night to an exquisite close by singing two very different tales of lost love. First was a traditional English ballad “When I Was in My Prime” followed by a rendition of the Sonny Bono-penned number “Bang, Bang – My Baby Shot Me Down.” (She is, after all, Gary’s daughter.)

Don’t miss the next salon, but remember that June Salon dates are changed:

Wednesday, June 4th at 7:00pm at the Bar Thalia

Tuesday, June 10th, at 7:00 pm at The Cell.