by Charles Hale

Manhattan was the place to be Tuesday night, and many flocked to The Cell theatre where a standing room only crowd added to a festive evening of wonderful presentations. And the song “Manhattan” was the backdrop for my story, a young teen’s reminiscence of his grandfather’s riotous storytelling.

Keeping with the spirit of the season, Mark Butler brought in his musical team to perform songs from his holiday shows. Richard Butler sang “My Baby Likes Christmas” (from Secret Santa’s Juicy Jollies) and Jennifer Harrison followed with “Santa in the Sky,” (from Santa Forever!)  Carl Haan accompanied them on the baby grand. A smashing start to the evening.

Mary Gannon wrote and Martha Pinson directed a comedic one act play “The Grotesgues.”  We found ourselves in a recovery room with a grouchy Quasimodo and Frankenstein, who have just had plastic surgery.  The wonderful actors Derek Roche, Vince Bandille, Laura Summerhill, and John Moss skillfully performed Mary’s witty work.

The Grotesques was followed by Gwen Orel’s fine reading of her essay, “How I Learned to Drink Guinness in Prague,” artist and poet Vivian O’Shaughnessy‘s  reading of her poem “Him” and my story “Grandpa Charlie Tells the True Story of King Kong.”

Honor Molloy revived memories of her childhood when her big sister, Shivaun, would read a passage from Betty Smith’s New York classic “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.”  Honor’s performance was dazzling and a perfect choice for the holiday season.

Maura Mulligan followed with a reading from her forthcoming memoir, “Call of the Lark,” which is scheduled for publication in early 2012.  Maura read a passage describing how, as a young girl in Mayo, she worked as a shop assistant in the town of Kilkelly, serving at the bar on Fair & Market days. Maura’s readings are delightful and her book is highly anticipated. Not only can Maura write but she can sing and she was joined by Irish language students, LeeAnn Pemberton and Séamus Keaney (yes, Maura teaches Irish too) for two Christmas carols – “Tá Sé Beirthe” (He is Born) and “Oíche Chiún” (Silent Night).  All were in fine voice for these wonderful holiday tunes.

John Kearns a frequent contributor at the IAW&A Salons read “Transmigration of Soul,” a poem (excerpted from his novel-in-progress, “Worlds”) and recently named a finalist in the North American Review’s James Hearst Poetry Prize. The poem examines how African and Irish music blended together to create rock ‘n roll. Actors Gary Gregg and John Skocik followed with a performance of  a scene from John Kearns’s play In a Bucket of Blood about loyalty and betrayal among Hell’s Kitchen gangsters. A rousing performance by Gregg and Skocik.

Sarah Fearon, who is currently appearing at the Gotham Comedy Club, provided the evening’s laughs with her New York tales of the real estate market, restaurants, and yoga. Downward dog will never be the same.  

Seamus Scanlon read his 2011 prize winning  story “My Beautiful Brash Beastly Belfast” after a short introduction about his forthcoming play “Dancing at Lunacy”.  Seamus’s intense and powerful story was spellbinding.  The story is free at Gemini Magazine or $0.99 on Kindle  (which has extra background details).

Mark Butler’s troupe returned and closed out the evening with a beautiful holiday tune, “Christmas Is You” (from A Brooklyn Bargain Christmas). 

The next IAW&A salon will be at the Thalia Café at Symphony Space, at 95th and Broadway on Tuesday, January 3. For more information on IAW&A salons or joining the IAW&A contact Charles Hale at