By Karen Daly

Photos by John A. Brennan

The first August IAW&A Salon began with the sweet summery tone of Annalisa Chamberlin and after poets, actors and fiction writers, ended with Guenevere Donohue performing a poem and song that gave one salon goer “chills.” Three first time presenters appeared on the program, and we’re thrilled to have Malachy McCourt (and family) back at Bar Thalia after a short absence.

DSC08914Annalisa Chamberlin, accompanied on acoustic guitar by host and Salon producer John Kearns, performed two songs from their set at the Live and Local event at the Rockaways last weekend. They were the American songbook classic, “Lullaby of Birdland” and Stephen Sondheim’s “The Girls of Summer.”

Annalisa, at left, will appear at the Cry Havoc Company’s (she is a proud resident artist) workshop of five original 10-minute plays this weekend on Governors Island’s Nolan Park, Building 11. Hop on the ferry for an entertaining afternoon on Saturday, August 12 at 12:00 noon and 3:00 pm and Sunday, August 13 at 1:30 pm.  Details at

Obie award winning actor Rosina Fernhoff mesmerized the audience with a short monologue from South African playwright Athol Fugard’s The Road to Mecca. Based on the story of artist Helen Martins, the play explores the passion to create regardless of the struggle, in this instance, apartheid. Rosina notes that Martins’ sculpture gardens can still be seen in the Karoo area of South Africa. Rosina performed “A Letter to the President” from Tony Kushner’s first play, A Bright Room Called Day, written in the Bush era, and appropriate in Trump era.

Rosina Fernhoff, Tom Mahon

In Tom Mahon’s evocative story “Rose Marie Kelly,” an 11-year old boy discovers a small cemetery on his family’s farm and finds a tombstone of a girl who died in 1897 at age 12. Startled by how young she was, he prays to her and her ghost appears. The ghost promises to grant his wishes, if he visits on her birthday every year. And he does for twenty-five years, receiving all he needs and most of what he wants.
Reading for the first time at the IAW&A Salon (and for the first time anywhere!),Caroline McEvoy shared a short story exploring the relationship between a young Irish immigrant working as a waitress in Manhattan and her recently deceased relative, who also had lived in America as a young woman during the 1950’s. Originally from Bangor in Northern Ireland, Caroline, a graduate of University College Dublin and Queen’s University Belfast, has been working at HBO in New York since January. She has been writing fiction for years. More of her stories at

Caroline McEvoy, left, Sarah Fearon

Comedy performer, writer and IAW&A Board member Sarah Fearon is taking up the ukulele, which she played and sang for the first time at the Salon. Her choices were “Moon River” by Henry Mancini, lyrics by Johnny Mercer and the Irish folk ballad “The Fields of Athenry” to which the audience sang along. The fearless Sarah notes that the warm Salon audiences encourage members to try something new or “go out on a ledge.”


Arianne Hutch

Arianne Hutch, an actor from Ireland, now living here and working in theater production, also appreciated the encouraging atmosphere. Making her salon debut with a piece from her one-woman-show-in-progress, High Heels Are Not My Friend, Arianne says that the group’s positive feedback gave her a confidence boost and she’ll be back with more.

2017-08-04 00.17.18.jpg

Malachy McCourt, center, surrounded by the night’s presenters 

Malachy McCourt is one man you can’t keep down. After a brief absence from the salon, he came roaring back in great form with some jokes (Hear the one about the dyslexic atheist?), comments about the indignities of aging and his trademark smile and a song. Speaking for all of us, John Brennan called him a “joy and inspiration.”


DSC08932Three poets presented work in their distinct voices. John A. Brennan’s“The Smith” pictures the nightmare a blacksmith endures in the pursuit of his creations. “Early Morning” recalls time on the shores of Lough Ross, near his native village of Crossmaglen, where Turloch O’Neill met in secret with his loyal followers. Rev. Anoek vanPraag, a Salon first timer, an accomplished and multi-lingual poet, read in Italian and English, about the beauty of a small Italian town and the cruelty of what happens behind closed doors. Her other poem, in French and English, spoke of the desire to let go of the past hurts and become Love. Bernadette Cullen shared a work-in progress evoking the gorgeous colors of “Cezanne’s Palette.”                                          John Brennan, at right,  photo by Guen Donohue.


Anoek van Praag, left, Bernadette Cullen 


In Guenevere Donohue’s closing piece about immigrants, she read a heart-breaking excerpt of Kenyan-born, Somali poet Warsan Shire’s “Home.”

It includes

No one would put their children in a boat

unless the water

was safer than the land.

Guen rendered The Pouges’ song “Thousands Are Sailing” in a plaintive style with Irish keening. John Kearns accompanied her on the guitar, just as  he had started the night.                                                Guenevere Donohue          

See you next time, Tuesday, August 15, 7 pm at The Cell.