As Terry “The Toad” Fields says in the final scene of the film American Grafitti, “Jesus what a night!” That’s what folks were saying about the Irish American Writers and Artists’ Salon at the Cell on Tuesday night. And speaking of American Grafitti, just as George Lucas included Del Shannon’s “Runaway” in a scene in which Toad is tooling around in his friend’s ’58 Chevy, Pat Fenton deftly incorporates Shannon’s song into his play Stoopdreamer and Other Windsor Terrace Stories.
And what a treat is was to have actor Jack O’Connell, who has appeared in a recurring part as the character Stanich in the TV series Blue Bloods, read from Fenton’sStoopdreamer.
Stoopdreamer revisits a lost part of Irish working-class Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn, and some of the characters who lived in it before Robert Moses drove the Prospect Expressway through the very heart of it in 1953, and divided it forever. A terrific reading by O’Connell of Fenton’s slice of Brooklyn life.
Pat Hanrahan began the evening reading from his novel in progress. The story is set in a small Irish town early this century. The main characters are an elderly man living in a nursing home who came home after years in England, a local man, whose wife threw him out around the time his mother died and a young woman who runs a family business and was affected directly by 9/11. Listening to Pat you had the feeling this was going to be a special evening.
Singer/songwriter Ashley Davis, a cofounder of the IAW&A, accompanied by two musicians, harpist Cormac De Barra and violinist Megan Hurt, beautifully performed two songs, “Wild Mountainside” and “These Winter Days” from her latest album Songs of the Celtic Winter. The warm sound of Hurt’s fiddle beautifully rounded out Ashley’s tunes.
Kathleen Frazier read from Silkie Girl, historical fiction inspired by her grandmother and the countless Irish girls who ventured to America to work as domestic servants. Through their efforts they sponsored countless others to join them on these shores.
Kathleen announced that her personal essay on sleepwalking will appear in the memoir section of the March/April issue of Psychology Today. Her coverage of the 2011 Norman Mailer Gala, “A Gala Raises the Question: Are You an Activist?” will appear in the spring issue (March) of the quarterly magazine, Avalon.
Maura Mulligan, a salon regular, whose memoir Call of the Lark will be published on May 10th, read a humorous passage of her early dancing days in Mayo. In a solo competition at her first feis, held in the middle of a field, her shoe went flying into the air and landed on the judge’s desk. He disqualified her. A beady -eyed man, the locals called him “the ferret.” Because it was customary to bow to the judge, her mother reminded her with a wag of her finger: “Now, don’t you forget to bow to the ferret.” An exquisite reading from a very talented writer.
Mark Donnelly followed with a stirring reading of the opening scene of his new play, Mother Jones, the Irish immigrant who played an important role as a union organizer in the American Labor Movement during the early decades of the 20th Century. John Kearns announced that his play, In the Wilderness, a story of a South Bronx high school will be part of the Planet Connections Theatre Festivity in June (six dates TBA). John also read a poem called, “Valentine Avenue. And Kevin Holohan, author of the highly acclaimed novel, The Brothers’ Lot, read a short story which captures a mother’s unconditional love for a grown-up, messed-up child that the rest of the world and even she may not entirely like.
Mary Lou Quinlan performed a scene from her play The God Box, currently in workshop in NYC. The play is part of a multi-media project linked to her upcoming book, also called The God Box. Mary Lu lovingly shared her mother’s gift of faith, love and letting go. The God Box will be released on April 17, 2012.
Novelist Gavin Corbett followed Kevin with a selection of poems that touched on a variety of topics including the recent deaths of Steve Jobs and Whitney Houston, late-evening cricket, and the divine qualities of French bulldogs. Using techniques such as non-rhymes and non-sequiturs, Gavin had us all staring at our feet in bewilderment, when we weren’t rolling on the floor with laughter. One of the funniest readings I’ve heard in years.
Billy Barrett kept it cranking with an edgy reading from his memoir in progress, ‘Highway Star. “They honeymooned in New York, took in Lenny Bruce and affected a blue-note cool that flew through the roofs of their B-52’s into nights full of gazing the stars. Jack Jones and Bobby Darin poured out of the hi-fi like Perfect Manhattans being dumped on the slats of Toots Shor’s. What a gas! The whole world was looking in…. “ Riveting writing, great presentation.
Great, great night!
The next salon will be at the Thalia Café, located at Symphony Space, on 95th and Broadway. The salons begin at 7PM. For more information about the salons and joining the Irish American Writers and Artists, contact Charles Hale @ firstname.lastname@example.org