by Charles Hale
Todd Pate began the Irish American Writers & Artists’ Salon at The Cell reading an excerpt from his “non-fiction novel” in progress, Most of America, documenting a two-month Greyhound bus trip through the United States last year, and the people he met along the way. (More excerpts will be published June 1st at The Straddler.)
Todd spoke of his Texas upbringing near the Mexican border and it was the perfect segue to a collaborative work produced by Larry Kirwan and me. Larry’s band, Black 47, recorded the tune “San Patricio Brigade,” which Larry wrote, and I created the short film using video clips of Black 47, old photos and art work. “San Patricio Brigade” is the story of Irish American immigrants who, upon arrival in America, joined the army, were sent to fight in the Mexican-American war, deserted, fought for the Mexicans and were eventually hanged.
John Kearns presented a scene from his play In The Wilderness which opens at the Bleecker Street Theatre on May 31st. The cast included — Octavia Chavez-Richmond, Stephen Jangro, Marilyn Mineo, Edward Raube-Wilson, Hannah Timmons, Cristina Torres, and Nirayl Wilcox* (* Appearing courtesy of Actors Equity Association. Equity approved showcase.) In the scene, set in a South Bronx high school, Paul Logan sends Carmen Marquez, the student-poetess for whom he has the highest hopes, to the guidance counselor’s office for skipping school. The tables are turned on Paul as Irish guidance counselor, Kate Farrell, warns Paul against getting too emotionally involved with Carmen. I’m looking forward to the play’s opening on May 31 at the Bleecker Street Theatre, 45 Bleecker Street.
Guenevere Donohoe began her presentation by sharing the good news that she’s been cast as Queen Margaret in a production of Henry VI part III, which will open in NYC this summer. Great news for this very talented actress. Guen followed her announcement with a stirring performance from her play, Killer is My Name, a story about the mystery that was her father and growing up in the Bronx.
Kathleen Donohoe, recent winner of the Crossroads’ Irish-American writing contest, read an essay “The Wealth of the World” about her paternal grandparents, which was published in the April/May issue of Irish America magazine. Kathleen submitted the story over two years ago, thought it was passed over, and was pleased to learn that the person in charge “Photo Album” feature of the magazine found it in a folder of old submissions, liked it and published it.
I was moved by the last paragraph in Kathleen’s article:
“When I look at this picture, so ordinary before you know, I think about how for each piece of a family story that you’ve heard, there is another and another still that will remain strong in a dry throat, a poem in a closed book. And I think as well of this Irish proverb:
A tune is more lasting than the song of birds,
And a word is more lasting than the wealth of the world.”
Jim Rodgers returned to read an excerpt from his Sunnyside novel, Long Night’s End. This time he chose an excerpt a bit lighter than the last. Reading from an early chapter in the novel, Johnny Gunn comes face to face on the elevated 7 train with the voluptuous Molly Farrell, a woman he has avoided since their steamy affair resulted in Johnny losing his faith, his soul, and a whole lot more. The mixture of fear and desire Johnny feels on the 7 train is only relieved by Molly’s departure at the Lexington Avenue stop. I suspect we have not seen the last of Molly Farrell.
Tom Mahon read a personal essay, “The Church & Its Flock,” which arose from the outrage he feels from familial betrayal and hypocrisy. Tom wrote of how he assumed that he knew his family, believing they cared for each other and would never do anything to hurt the other, but he learned he was badly mistaken. He believes his heathen ancestors would be appalled at his family’s materialistic values and longs for the “Chieftian of their Pagan tribe” to put an end to the behavior since, as Tom writes, “The destruction of a family is the destruction of the tribe.” Another fine story from a versatile and talented writer.
David Coles read a passage from his unpublished book, In the Midnight Choir, following the conversation between a bartender and 3 of the bar’s regulars as they wend through the hours of an empty Sunday night, the haggard aftermath of a long hard weekend in Greenwich Village in the 1970’s. Superb writing and a book that I’m sure will land a publisher very quickly.
Stephanie Silber closed out the evening with a wonderful reading from her novel The Dark Side of Time, a psychological thriller with elements of horror and the supernatural. The novel’s protagonists have relocated from Brooklyn with their toddler daughter to a fixer-upper cottage in the suburbs with a dark past. Dreams, visions and things that go bump in the night ensue immediately, and the sinister triad of recently arrived lay residents in the vacant convent next door ratchet up the dread.
The novel’s themes include an examination of our troubled times and who and what we worship, as well as what parts of ourselves we’d sell out to get what we think we need.
The IAW&A salons take place on the first and third Tuesdays of each month at the Thalia Cafe, located at 95th and Broadway and The Cell theatre located at 338 W. 23rd Street, respectively. For more information on the salons or joining the Irish American Artists and Writers contact me, Charles R. Hale at email@example.com