This past Tuesday evening the  Irish American Writers & Artists brought their Salon to The Cell, a very special theatre located on West 23rd Street in Manhattan.  “A Twenty First Century Salon,” The Cell is the ideal place to “mine the mind,” pierce the heart, and awaken the soul….” The evening’s first presenter, Honor Molly, did exactly that with her very personal story “If It Wasn’t For The Letters.” Honor tells the story of  discovering and reading letters her mother had written over forty years ago, which led to her family’s successful emigration from Ireland to the United States.  If you didn’t have a catch in your throat or a tear in your eye, you weren’t paying attention. A wonderfully crafted, powerful story.

The next presenter was Brandy Mitchell, who read, or rather performed, as Beatrice Mahon in John Kearns’ “A Tragic Story by Beatrice Mahon O.P.”  Brandy beautifully captured the the subtlety of Beatrice’s disappointment upon meeting an old friend and seeing the kind of adult her friend had become.

Mark Donnelly provided the evening’s poetry with his poems of love and loss, as well as poems from his childhood. I particularly enjoyed “Outside of Heaney’s Bar.” And as it turns out that was the perfect segue to my story, “A Porn Star for Lunch,” a story of an afternoon spent with the Princess of Porn at McSorley’s Old Ale House.

Brendan Connellan, who spent years working on Wall Street is now writing tales loosely based on his experiences.  Brendan read a story from a novel in progress about tension at bonus time on Wall Street, and the slippery slope that is dealing with the boss’s wife, the mandatory ingratiation, and the horror of the year-end holiday party.  Great story that rang true. 

Mark Butler closed out the first half of the evening’s session with a sketch called, It.” Read by Mark and Honor Molloy, this snappy and witty sketch originally appeared in Mark’s comedy revue Instant Happy at the Planet Connections Theatre Festivity.  Mark’s second work, Pedestrian,” a harrowing and amusing story of crossing NYC streets and dodging cabs, was given a riotous performance by his brother, Richard Butler.  “Pedestrian” was staged originally in Mark’s sketch comedy show Rubbervision.

Novelist Kathleen Rockwell Lawrence, whose work I enjoyed when I heard her read at Glucksman Ireland House last fall, read from Becoming Irish, her memoir-in-progress which addresses how her infant grandfather’s 1882 eviction from his Limerick cottage (British Land Wars) affects her and her many siblings to this day.  The more she read the funnier it got. I anxiously await the finished product. 

Kathleen Donohoe took us back to 1918 with a story called, “Influenza, Mother of God.”  The story tells of the 1918 influenza epidemic, which took the lives of millions of people around the globe.  Kathleen read a gripping tale of how thirteen nuns and girls at a Catholic boarding school in upstate New York succumbed to this dreaded disease.  Nearly one-hundred years later,  a group of townspeople still ponder the exact fate of the last girl lost.

Michelle Wood, combined her facile way with words and a delightful reading style, closing out the evening with an excerpt from a novel in progress, Ire,  a story loosely inspired by Edna O’Brien and her ex-husband, Ernest Gebler.

The Irish American Writers and Artists’ upcoming Salons will be on December 6th at the Thalia Cafe, Symphony Space on 95th Street, just off Broadway, and at The Cell on Dec 20th. The Cell is located at 338 W. 23rd Street. For more information on the Salon or joining the IAW&A contact, Charles Hale