by Karen Daly
Photos by Cat Dwyer
Tuesday’s salon at the Cell, led by first time host Marni Rice, had a full slate of presenters, an SRO house and a festive birthday celebration for Salon godfather and IAW&A Board member, Malachy McCourt.
Author and playwright, Seamus Scanlon, a regular Salon presenter, wrote via email, “Best one so far that I’ve been at!” And Seamus has been to one or two.
In their first performance at a salon, choreographer Darrah Carr and two of her dance company members, Caitlin McNeill and Mary Kate Sheehan, thrilled us with excerpts of a new piece that they are working on with guest choreographer Seán Curran. Set to music by Irish supergroup Kila, the innovative piece combines Irish step dance with references to social dance, tap and clogging. Darrah Carr Dance will premiere the piece during their upcoming 15th Anniversary Season at the Irish Arts Center from November 22-24th. Visit www.darrahcarrdance.com.
Darrah Carr, Caitlin McNeill, and Mary Kate Sheehan
Caitlin McNeill and Mary Kate Sheehan
Crime fiction writer Gary Cahill in his second salon reading presented short selections from two dark, almost cinematic tales. “On A Two-Way Street” told of a diamond deal on a Cape Cod beach gone very, very wrong, and “Ninety Miles, A Million Miles” of early 1960s New Jersey, childhood friendship and anti-Castro Cuban ex-pats longing to go home — by any means necessary. Gary plans to read from other work at the Bar Thalia salon on October 1.
TJ English read a piece describing the first day of the trial of mobster James “Whitey” Bulger, calling it “the most explosive organized crime trial ever to take place” in Boston. TJ spent the summer covering the trial for the Daily Beast website, where this piece first appeared. President of IAWA, and author of The Westies, Paddy Whacked, and The Savage City and Havana Nocturne, he is currently writing a book about Whitey Bulger, to be published next year.
Members have been sharing their works-in-progress, so regular salongoers have been able to observe their characters and stories as they develop. Among them: Tom Mahon who has been reading sections of his novel- in- progress about two brothers in an upstate New York family, titled American Mastery. Tonight he read chapter 5, in which the Fentons deal with their health and business issues…
Ray Lindie read a section of his novella Lone Hero, in which the protagonist, a returning Vietnam vet, spends the evening with the ex-girlfriend who dumped him while he was overseas. They’re riding around in her new Cadillac, fighting, yelling and screaming, just like the old days. They end up at their old favorite restaurant. In the next installment, we’ll find out that the place is also a watering hole for her current boyfriend…
Sheila Walsh has been sharing scenes from her comedic play, Surrender at Somerville about two lonely people who reunite decades after their 1960s love affair. On Tuesday, Sarah Fearon and Sheila read a poignant, funny scene between a mother and daughter. They are delighted to present new work in the salon’s safe and supportive atmosphere.
Sarah Fearon and Sheila Walsh
We also saw playwright Mark Donnelly give a terrific performance of the climactic monologue from his one-act play, “The Steamfitter’s Dream.” The monologue appeared in Best Men’s Monologues of 1998, published by Smith and Kraus.
Margaret McCarthy read a monologue from her play, The Sacrificial King: A Play for John Lennon, which alternates scenes from the lives of John Lennon and a young girl who is a Beatle fan and aspiring artist. Coming of age in a time of social and political turbulence, they each find family relationships and loyalty to friends competing with their artistic goal. In this monologue, Lennon questions his meteoric fame and its effect on his music and artistic path. For McCarthy, the play asks: What in our nature causes us to build up and then tear down our heroes?
We had several pieces of short fiction. Brendan Costello Jr. read a second installment of his short story “Circus Brunch at Zapruder’s,” about a struggling actor who works in a “theme” restaurant based around the Kennedy assassination. At the previous salon, Brendan introduced his character, an embittered clown handing out coupons on a New York street corner. Brendan will read the shocking conclusion at a future salon. He also notes that his was the third piece dealing with assassinated icons, establishing an unintentional theme for the first half of the evening.
John Kearns read excerpts from his story “Finding the Day” and dedicated it to the poet and former Saint Joseph’s Prep English teacher, Paul Grillo, who died recently. John first wrote the story in a journal for Mr. Grillo’s class. In this story, the teenage Artist takes a break from his routine to wander around Center City, Philadelphia, reflecting on the difference between himself and others. After a stop at a bookstore, The Artist realizes that he must contribute to the world, despite or because of his alienation from it, and he drops the only money he has, a dime, into a blind man’s cup.
Pat Fenton thrilled the audience with his short story, “The Ghosts of Coney Island,” in which Billy Coffey, trying to go home again, somehow walking back into the past at a boardwalk bar in Coney Island. The story has been published online and is included in Pat’s collection ⎯not yet published ⎯ of short stories about Brooklyn.
A couple of musicians named Donohue, who met at the IAW&A road salon in Philadelphia, opened the second half of the evening. Gabriel Donohue played piano and sang a clever original song called “Living Large.” Gabriel claims he wrote it as penance for all the melancholy Irish tunes that he often renders. Then in a magical accompaniment, Gabriel played an old Irish air on piano for Guenevere Donohue’s original piece, “The Evolution Song.” May these long lost cousins continue to collaborate.
Marni Rice has showcased her many talents as a singer, accordionist and composer at previous salons. This week she showed us two more, as evening’s host and as a writer. Marni presented a charming story about her poker-playing grandma, who initiated Marni and her sister into the game at very young ages.
Malachy McCourt was in top form on his birthday. He brought a very full night to a close by telling stories, making us laugh, singing “Dear Isle.” Best of all, he read a beautiful essay about his life and his many years of sobriety, expressing his joyous attitude of living “a day at a time.”
Malachy McCourt: Breith la shona duit, a chara!
What will we do for an encore? Find out at the next Irish American Writers and Artists Salon on Tuesday, October 1 at Bar Thalia!