One rousing performance followed another at Tuesday night’s Irish American Writers and Artists’ Salon at The Cell. Billy Barrett, resplendent in his Ralph Kramden, Brooklyn Water Buffalo Lodge bowling shirt, blew into the joint with a Winston Churchill Davidoff cigar hanging from his mouth and opened the evening with the back end of the first chapter of Highway Star. “I like to slice and dice catch phrases and mix my metaphors,” Billy said, “Kind of like listening to Cardinal Spellman recite Springsteen.” Defined and memorable, thanks for the laughs, BB.
Stephanie Silber, (far right in photo) a first time presenter, read from her book Other People’s Houses, a coming of age story about a rebellious teenager, growing up Irish Catholic on Long Island in the late sixties and early seventies, who finds herself pregnant. Last night’s reading was a fragment from the protagonist’s point-of-view as an adult, which then picks up with the girl, Queenie, and her good pal-who-wants-to-be-much-more on an excursion to see the Allman Brothers at the Fillmore. It took Stephanie a few months to get up in front of the audience and the one thought I was left with was, “Given your talent, Lady, what were you waiting for?” Great start.
One of the highlights, among many, was listening to another first time presenter, Connie Roberts, winner of the 2010 Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Award. Connie opened her poetry reading with Seamus Heaney’s bog body poem “The Tollund Man.” Connie then followed with her own response, “Letterfrack Man.” As Heaney memorializes the saintly body of the Tollund Man, Roberts memorializes the neglected saintly body of Peter Tyrrell, an ex-inmate of an Irish industrial school who was felled by institutional abuse. Roberts finished with a number of poems from her(almost completed) poetry collection, Not the Delft School, a memoir in verse of her experiences growing up in an industrial school in Ireland. Listening to and watching Connie present is a delight. We hope she returns soon.
Actor Jack O’Connell was next up. Jack read from a work in progress, which was motivated by the upcoming (2013) fiftieth anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assasination. Jack is writing the story of a young, Long Island, Kennedy campaign worker who, three years later, is a member of The Old Guard, the elite US Army unit that was responsible for his President’s burial. Terrific story, neatly abetted by Jack’s great acting chops.
For the past few months we’ve been trying to get member and award winning actress, Aedin Moloney, to join us for a presentation. Once we were able to nail down a date, and learned that she would be performing “Molly Bloom’s Soliloquy, the famous extract from James Joyce’s Ulysses, we anxiously awaited her rendition, which is recognized as the best in New York. Aedin didn’t disappoint, in fact, her presentation was flat out thrilling. Slowly picking up the pace, the last two minutes were stirring and spellbinding. Aedin exceeded all expectations. And given what the expectations were, that’s high praise.
I followed Aedin– a daunting task–but I took the easy way out. Instead of reading a story I debuted a short film The Death of Baby Florence, a story about my maternal grandmother’s third child who died shortly after she was born. For religious reasons Florence wasn’t buried with her family. The video documents my search to find where Florence was buried and my journey to honor my grandparents’ pain. The film opens with the Stephen Foster song, “Slumber My Darling.”
TJ English, president of the Irish American Writers & Artists, read a passage from the New York Times bestseller The Savage City, just out in paperback. This was the perfect reading of a non-fiction work. Deftly set up with a powerful story, followed by a short reading, TJ reflected on a key moment in the rising racial consciousness of a young black militant in New York City.
Tom Mahon, a frequent performer, and a man of many talents, read the second half of the short story “Desperate” in which three wounded vets, all from different wars, are brought together by a man least likely to be a hero in the way he emerges. He not only saves two young people’s lives, but creates a new life and better ones for everyone by playing Cupid.
Playwright, Patricia Goldstone, followed up her successful reading at the Thalia Cafe with another reading from her playInterlock. Two accomplished actors, both of whom have appeared at salons, Vincent Bandille and John Moss, gave wonderful readings of an artist at the make-it-or-break-it age, driven and slightly maddened by ambition, but also a prankster and an outsider, not overly burdened by respect for the art establishment and his college buddy and rival, an Enron-type corporate lawyer. Another very fine performance.
Closing out the evening were Honor Molloy and guest actor, Caroline Winterson, performing a savagely funny scene from Honor’s playCrackskull Row. Caroline, appearing at a salon for the first time was outstanding as the daughter to Honor Molloy’s rendition of a mad old wan living in at the back of a kill-de-sack in Dublin 2.
Great evening. The next salon will be on May 1, at the Thalia Cafe, which is located at Symphony Space at the corner of Broadway and 95th Street. For more information on joining the Irish American Writers & Artists or learning about the salons, contact Charles R. Hale at firstname.lastname@example.org