by Karen Daly
Photos by Alexandra Jakstas
What do you call a night that featured poems, plays, a world-renowned fiddle player, a percussionist/clown, fiction, memoir, an Irish ballerina, a sly Sinatra tribute, and the massive charm of Malachy McCourt?
Just say it was the Irish American Writers & Artists Salon at the Cell on Tuesday, February 18.
Mary Tierney, Ron Ryan
First up, Ray Lindie presented short scenes from his play, Pearl’s Paradise, set in a famous bar/restaurant/writers’ hangout in NYC. These scenes introduce the principal characters, Pearl and Neil, partners in the business and the bartender, Michael. The play is seen from Michael’s perspective. The roles were expertly played by the pros: Mary Tierney, Michael Burrell, Ron Ryan, respectively. The author, Ray, who took the part of Fredo, once worked at Elaine’s, the former famous bar/restaurant/writers’ hangout in NYC.
Gary Cahill returned to the salon after a short absence with a reading from his newly published short story. A spooky, noir crime tale, “Sirens” is about misguided love, sex, death and madness at the south Jersey Shore. You can enjoy the shocking story for free at http://www.plan-b-magazine.com/sirens-by-gary-cahill/. Soon there will be a free audio posting at the Plan B site. Please post a comment at the end of the story on Plan B. You can reach Gary at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the first of the night’s three poetry offerings, translator and artist Vivian O’Shaughnessy read a charming poem “Colors,” which she translated from the French. “Colors” is from the collection Woman, I Am (Je La Femme, Enfin), 70 poems about women by French/Italian academician Giovanni Dotoli. Vivian will be presenting the poem at the poetry fair, Saint Sulpice Marché de la Poésie in Paris in June 2014. Vivian is often at the salons at The Cell with her sketchpad. You can see her art at vivianoshaughnessy.com.
Salon producer and host (and novelist, playwright, poet) John Kearns read two short poems, “Mindsong” about remembering and forgetting and “No Longer a Summertime Self” about internal growth and maturity. Find a selection of John’s poems at http://kearnscafe.com/Poets_Pub/Poet.htm.
Tom Mahon has been serializing his novel, American Mastery. In tonight’s piece, the Fenton brothers are in Japan looking for a manufacturer for their mentor’s products. Just when they’re about to sign contracts, they get the news that their father has had a heart attack back home. Like his father, Charlie Fenton has elevated blood pressure, so he’s thrown by the news. Charlie is beginning to see the importance of good health. Told by Tom, with his usual panache.
Maura Mulligan served as harbinger of spring with two offerings. First was a spirited passage from her memoir, Call of the Lark that vividly described the procedure of dibbling the spuds. As a child in her native County Mayo, Maura participated in this springtime family farm work. (We noticed she was signing copies of her book at the intermission).
Next Maura introduced the poem, “Anois Teacht an Earraigh” by Antoine Raftery, a wandering 19th century bard from Cill Aodáin, a village near her own birthplace. She read an English translation of this poem by Michael Coady titled, “The Blind Poet’s Vision of Spring” and followed with an enchanting recitation of the original Irish version.
Visiting for the St. Pat’s for all Parade, and literally a one-man band, Brian Fleming, entertainer and drummer, wowed us with a unique performance that showcased his musical and comedic skills, as well as his colorful briefs in an extract from one-man show, Have Yis No Homes To Go To. Brian, who formed the Afro-Irish music group De Jimbe, demonstrated some of the clown skills he learned so he could participate in the charity Clowns without Borders (www.cwbireland.com)
Enjoying the break
Two charismatic representatives of the Monica Loughman Ballet Company, Ireland’s classical ballet company, Fraser Brown and the ballerina, Monica Loughman, described their efforts to get national arts funding for their program, and to stage a ballet based on the Children of Lir legend, the precursor to Swan Lake. You really need to see their website to appreciate Monica’s unique accomplishments. Monicaloughmanballet.ie.
Writer and storyteller Pat Fenton, told a great tale about tracking down Jack Kerouac’s hangouts in Ozone Park, especially the library where he researched and mapped out the route for the journey that became the classic On the Road. Pat read a scene from his film script Jack’s Last Call that imagined Kerouac consulting the librarian.
A radio version of Pat’s a stage play about Kerouac’s last night in Northport, Long Island was produced on CD by Sue Media Productions, and later nominated for the prestigious Audie Awards.
World-class fiddle player Tony DeMarco thrilled the audience a few songs. First was a slow air called “The Blackbird” that he played for Kathleen Walsh D’Arcy, co-chair of the St. Pat’s for All Parade who invited Tony to the IAW&A Salon. Tony also played some reels. More about Tony and his music at co-www.tonydemarcomusic.net.
Playwright Mike Swift made his salon debut in February at the Thalia and returned Tuesday with a second reading from his one man play, First Born, about five generations of men in an Irish-American family over a hundred year period. Tonight he read the monologues of Todd Donahoe, whose father moved the family from New York City to New Jersey. Todd lost his father when he was six so he was raised predominantly by a single mother. Mike describes Todd as “Turnpike Trash” and self- aware, with a mean streak of loyalty. Todd’s story takes place in 1994. Salon goers look forward to hearing more of the Donahoes.
Following Mike, Karen Daly read a piece about one hundred years of another Irish-American family. The subject here was Karen’s family, and it dealt with four generations of women. “Finding Nora” describes how she discovered details about her great grandmother, Nora Hogan O’Connor, whose history was hidden by the family. Karen found the location of Nora’s grave in Calvary Cemetery, which she plans to visit in the spring.
In his salon debut, Sean Carlson, read his Irish Times essay, “The Reach of a Single Village,” a reflection on the significance of emigration through the experience of Moyvane, Co. Kerry (near the literary hub of Listowel). Sean has been completing his first book, a nonfictional narrative of love and loss through a family story from Ireland to London and the Bronx. A former manager of global communications and public affairs at Google, Sean was named by the Irish Echo as one of its Top 40 Under 40 in 2012. After such a warm reception, Sean looks forward to taking the stage again at future salons. Here is a link to his essay: http://www.irishtimes.com/blogs/generationemigration/2013/04/25/the-reach-of-a-single-village/.
Our friend from Washington, DC, David Coles loves New York, and tonight he read an essay exploring the mix of constancy and relentless change that often greets him on his return to the city. In this case, he laments the remaking of St. Vincent’s Hospital in Greenwich Village into luxury condos, a further unraveling of the city as he knew it in the 1970’s. It seemed like many salongoers shared Dave’s point of view.
Ever surprising and educating the audience with his song choices, Jack Di Monte sang “The Singer” a tribute to Frank Sinatra written by Vincent Falcone and Joseph Cocuzzo, two musicians who spent many years in Sinatra’s band. The song manages to celebrate the crooner’s impact with perfect clarity without ever mentioning his name, a feat that any writer should envy!
Applauding the Boffo Night
As a perfect ending to an incredible night, raconteur, wit, singer Malachy McCourt shared his latest adventures, and sent us off with the song, “Carrickfergus.”
See you at Bar Thalia on March 4th at 7 pm!