by Mary Lannon
Photos by Cat Dwyer
A story of a young woman who decidedly doesn’t want to be her mother as told by Philomena Connors and a song about a man who realizes much to his chagrin that he has become his father sung by John Byrne were just two highlights of a salon full of family-themed drama at the Thalia Tuesday night.
Before the salon began IAW&A board member, John Lee, announced an upcoming IAW&A theater night at Brendan at the Chelsea, an Off-Broadway play from Belfast’s Lyric Theatre about the legendary and notorious Dublin writer, Brendan Behan, and his waning days of his life spent at NYC’s famed artists’ hotel, The Chelsea. Adrian Dunbar will make his New York stage debut starring in the role of Behan. The play runs from Sept. 4 to Oct. 6, and the IAW&A will soon announce the details and discounted ticket prices of its planned mid-September Theater Night. Lee also reminded the Salon about the Eugene O’Neill Award Celebration on Oct. 21, which this year honors the writer, John Patrick Shanley, who has already won the trifecta of a Pulitzer Prize, an Oscar and a Tony Award.
Connors’ piece chronicled a young woman’s journey from 1970s rural Ireland to the water’s edge in Cuba. Water served as a theme for change and growth and linked the two islands’ histories of revolution. The main character, Sarah, recounted with a great deal of humor her own revolt against social expectations for women.
In contrast, Byrne’s narrator in his song “Old Man’s Disguise” processes the relationship with his Dad, and to his surprise recognizes that he has become his father. Byrne also sang “Various Verses” as a tribute to the people who used to come to his house in Dublin and sing. The pride each person took in his/her song inspired this piece. Both songs are on Byrne’s After the Wake album. Visit http://www.johnbyrneband.com/.
Byrne and Connors were not the only ones to take up the theme of family and its influences.
Her mother was a big focus in Maureen Hossbacher’s piece called “Tables.” Having planned to write about food, the muse moved her to write a backhanded, affectionate tribute to her mother, eliciting laughs from the audience and, no doubt, fond memories of many of their own childhood tables.
Jon Gordon told of the by turns heart-breaking and funny relationship between Gordon and his addicted and depressed mother in his memoir, For Sue. The self-published memoir, which also delves into the many tragedies that befell his mother, will soon be out through Chimbaruzu publishing. Gordon will also have two books for students of jazz improvisation on Colin Music out later this year.
Tom Mahon opened with a family-themed piece from his novel American Mastery. It tells of two brothers who experience setbacks but join talents and inadvertently create a prosperous and creative business. In the excerpt that he read from chapter two, the brothers meet the man who shows them the creativity and rewards of being an entrepreneur. Mahon enjoyed reading it, and it showed; it was very well received.
John Kearns also told of two brothers in an excerpt set in 1920s Philadelphia from his historical novel-in progress Worlds. Folks who were at the Cell in July heard the first part of the scene that Kearns continued Tuesday night. This time his character James Logan takes his brother, Rev. Sarsfield Logan S.J., on a tour of his luxurious new home on Philadelphia’s Main Line. After the tour, in the kitchen with his wife, Mariellen, James complains that his brother showed no excitement about anything in the well-appointed house except for an old walking stick that belonged to their father. When they rejoin Sarsfield in the living room, they suspect that he might have overheard their conversation…
Another part of the history of the Irish diaspora was the topic of Mary Pat Kelly’s talk on her adventures in research as she writes Of Irish Blood, a sequel to her historical novel Galway Bay based on her own family’s story. Of Irish Blood follows her great aunt to Paris in 1912 where in real life she was a buyer for Marshall Field but in fiction she meets and befriends Maud Gonne, Constance Markievicz and other women of the Irish Revolutionary movement.
Mary Pat Kelly
Mary Pat gamely competed with a car accident that took place outside the Thalia’s window — and won! Rumors are spreading that the driver was the grandniece of Countess Markievecz, once removed.
Jack DiMonte, Mary Lannon, & Karen Daly enjoying the break
Mark Donnelly recommends Kelly Kinsella’s play at the Cell Theatre
Other enchanting works did not pick up on family themes.
Kevin McPartland read an excerpt from his novel, Brownstone Dreams, newly published by Boann Books and Media. In the excerpt, teenager Bobby Dutton finds himself in the Brooklyn House of Detention after breaking a window in a Park Slope jewelry store. When he is suddenly bailed out, he is shocked to learn that the bail was paid by the father of his former neighborhood nemesis, Vincent Casseo.
Ed Farrell, following advice offered by Malachy McCourt, told rather than read from his historical novel employing magic realism, An Inconvenient Resurrection.
Sarah Fearon offered the audience a preview of her in-progress short film entitled Snazzy Peabody. Snazzy is an over-the-top broker and legend in her own mind. Sarah read and improvised on, among other themes, the concept of “ownership” to be featured in the upcoming shoot in Coney Island.
Mary Lannon did a smashing job of reading through the fender-bender that took everyone’s eyes out the Thalia’s windows. She read a scene about moving to a new school in the middle of the year from her finished novel (with its impossibly long title) Explanation of the Fundamentals of the Derivation of Dilapidated Brown Station Wagon Theory aka How I Became A Scientist and Discovered the Truth About Parallel Universes by Miranda J. McCleod. The novel recounts the life and times of a girl science geek who believes that at the age of 14 she got sucked through a faulty air-conditioner and landed in a parallel universe.
Last but hardly least, the lilting soprano of visitor from Ireland, Katie McGale’s singing “She Moved Through the Fair” ended another inspiring night at the Thaila.
The next salon is August 20th at the Cell. See you there!.