by Mary Lannon
Photos by Cat Dwyer
Drama of the good variety featured in many of the enjoyable presentations at the Irish American Writers salon at the Cell on Tuesday January 19th.
Mark Byrne and Penny O’Brien
Kicking off the night and the drama, Dublin born playwright Derek Murphy presented the first scene from his new play, Dyin’ For It. It starred Mark Byrne and Penny O’Brien as estranged brother and sister dealing, rather inappropriately, with what should be some very sad news. Byrne trained with Wynn Handman in New York and at The Gaiety School and at the Samuel Beckett Centre in Dublin and has acted in New York, Dublin and Los Angelas.
Next up Thom Molyneaux did not perform a play excerpt but told how his mother wrote out in longhand four copies of her”biography” for her sons. Reading from a copy, he recounted his mother’s telling of her life on a farm in Kerry. In the story a young mother, (Thom”s grandmother) overwhelmed with farm chores and the caring of her first half dozen or so children (there would be 16 in all), has her life changed by an unannounced visitor.
Adding to the drama, Rosina Fernhoff performed a monologue from the solo play, The Conversion of Alice B. Toklas by Carol Polcovar. Alice examines her life and desire to become a Catholic at the age of 92. She has these conversations with herself and with her great love, Gertrude Stein. And in the course of these talks, reviewing her life with Gertrude Stein, she finds her own voice…herself.
John McDonagh performed a hilarious sketch from his one man play, Cabtivist, recounting all the machinations involved in sending Christmas greetings to families of IRA prisoners on a sign in Times Square during the height of the Troubles.
IAW&A board member Brendan Costello discussed the new online sign-up form to be used by IAW&A Salon presenters. He also asked for news and volunteers for the IAW&A Weekly newsletter.
After some technical drama involving microphones during which Adrianna Mateo told the audience about performing on the Stephen Colbert show, Mateo read her short short stories and performed her single, “August Sun.”
Just before the dramatic break (i.e. intermission), our dedicated host John Kearns read a brief excerpt from his novel in progress, Worlds: part of the overture to the novel’s section focused on Greed and Charity.
Adrianna, Rosina, Margaret McCarthy, and Kira Citron enjoy the break
IAW&A board member Kathleeen Walsh D’Arcy has a refreshment during the break
Derek Murphy and friends …
The first presenter of the second half, Joel Weinberg (J.L. Weinberg), made his first dramatic entrance to the IAWA salons, reading from his just-published novel, True Religion, a genre-bending fusion of paranormal horror, spiritual therapy, American history, and New Age enlightenment. An unexpected encounter with an otherworldly spirit at a holiday party in Pennsylvania’s Orenda Valley sends the main character, Seth Davis, a gay journalist from Manhattan, on a profound religious journey. Being able to introduce Joel was a special treat for John Kearns as Joel and John are friends and former coworkers.
William Lee Coakley
Another new member William Lee Coakley introduced himself with poems appropriate to the Selfie Age and then mocking ones on the barbarian English, thieves of our language, and on the ancient order of homophobes, followed by a memorial to the Irish-American poet Walter McElroy, defector to England during the McCarthy period among other thought-provoking and moving poems.
Next up Kathleen O’Sullivan presented her memoir Isham Street in the dramatic iMovie form with illustrations and voice-over narration. The chapter titled “The Church” illustrated the domination of the Catholic church in her Irish community, and her childhood quest to understand the concepts of God, Purgatory, Limbo, Heaven, and Hell.
Childlike theology …
Seamus Scanlon read another flash-fiction piece, “Across The Harlem River,” about Dominican gangsters stealing money from the badlands of Woodlawn. He is making a short film of another flash fiction piece he read previously at the IAW&A Salon, entitled, “The Resurrection Love Song.” He is looking for three Irish teens to star in it. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bernadette Cullen recommended the movie, Analisa, and then read a surreal prose piece, a poem responding to a painting by an Italian artist, and a third piece that was an epilogue to a much longer work that is in progress. Cullen is an adjunct instructor with the College of New Rochelle.
Closing out the night in his inimitable dramatic fashion, John Munnelly sang “Flower Shop in the Day (yeah, yeah, yeah),” a cynical take on gentrification, “Julius Caesar, a meditation on life filtered through historical biography, and a new song, “Is it Love that We’re Here For?” a meditation on meaning and reconciliation.
Look out for the new IAW&A Salon sign-up form! See you at the next salon on Wednesday February 3rd at 7 pm at Bar Thalia!