Irish American Writers & Artists

June 27, 2012

Dynamic IAWA General Membership Meeting

Irish American Writers and Artists held the annual meeting of its general membership at the Consulate General of Ireland in New York on Tuesday, June 5, 2012. Last year’s general membership meeting was a galvanizing event that energized the members and made the IAW&A a rapidly advancing organization. So there was a great deal of anticipation and excitement surrounding this year’s meeting.
President T.J. English opened the proceedings with a brief presentation on the group’s recent accomplishments, particularly the outstanding success of the IAW&A Salons at the Thalia Café and the Cell Theatre and the IAW&A’s outreach to diverse cultural organizations. Moreover, since last year, the Board of Directors has doubled in size. T.J. asked all of the Board members present to introduce themselves.
T.J. also announced that A Couple of Blaguards by Frank and Malachy McCourt will be published by Samuel French.
The IAW&A co-sponsored the New York-New Belfast event at Fordham’s Lincoln Center on Wednesday, June 13. This will honor the achievements of IAW&A Board of Advisors member, Pete Hamill.
 Malachy McCourt and former President Peter Quinn took to the podium in order to announce that Judy Collins will be this year’s selection for the Eugene O’Neill Lifetime Achievement Award. The first musician to win this prestigious award, Malachy recounted his phone call to Judy Collins to see if she would be amenable to accepting this honor. Ms. Collins was so thrilled that she cleared her calendar of all events in order to attend the ceremony on October 15th, the Monday closest to Eugene O’Neill’s birthday.
Charles Hale then gave a brief presentation about the Salons, elaborating about the supportive atmosphere they have provided for the presenting artists, and some of the collaborations that have resulted from them, including Hale’s documentary-styled video that features Larry Kirwan’s San Patricio Brigade.  Charles explained that there are plans to take the Salons on the road – to other venues on the Upper East Side, the Lower East Side, Brooklyn, and even other cities.
Larry Kirwan offered the prospect of an Irish American Writers and Artists digital magazine, which would showcase the works of members. The magazine will likely include not only poetry and prose but also artwork and music.
John Lee and Malachy McCourt laid out the initial plans for the Frank McCourt Scholarship, which will be given to a promising senior attending Frank McCourt High School who has demonstrated achievement in writing.
The members then divided themselves up into the committees that included: Membership; Events; Fundraising; Communications; Digital Magazine Development; and the Frank McCourt Scholarship. Former President Peter Quinn and John Kearns were volunteered for the fundraising committee. There were no other volunteers for that group.
General open discussion and Q &A between membership and Board and there was a hearty Irish welcome to Cherie Ann Turpin of Washington, DC, who traveled the furthest to join the festivities. The ritual closing song was led by Malachy McCourt, Lord Blaguard of Limerick-town.
Special thanks to the Consulate General of Ireland in New York, Consul General Noel Kilkenny and Deputy Consul Peter Ryan for hosting our meeting and for their support of our efforts and the efforts of so many Irish groups in the New York area.
Thanks to John Keans and Honor Molloy for filling this story and for Kath Callahan for supplying the photos.
This piece originally appeared in New York Irish Arts, a must-read  for all news artistic and Celtic in NYC and beyond.

June 26, 2012

Hudson Then . . . Again…(and a look at Eugene O’Neill’s Father!)

Filed under: Literature,Theater — by johnleemedia @ 5:40 pm
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by Maureen Wlodarczyk

Being an unrepentant history addict, I enjoy discovering and reading about people who lived decades ago as I find their lives and times more intriguing and resonant than the exploits of the likes of the Kardashians or Lindsay Lohan.  In that spirit, let me tell you the story of two Jersey City actresses who began their stage careers in the 1890s: Selene Johnson and Carrie Ewald. Each was the daughter of a successful local family and each would make a notable marriage, one of those tinged with suspicions about the groom’s character.

Selene Johnson was born in 1870 in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. (Most accounts give her birth year as 1876 but, using my genealogy research skills, I found her as a 6-month-old in the 1870 US census.) By 1880, the Johnson family was living on Sixth Street in Jersey City and Selene’s father Charles gave his occupation as a railroad “float master” (a person that supervises the movement of freight by barge between a ship and railroad).  The Johnson household of six included Selene’s two older siblings and an 18-year-old servant named Annie Hankinson.

After graduating from No.2 school and beginning high school in Jersey City, Selene left public school to study music and pursue her theatrical interests. In 1893, she became a student at the Berkeley Lyceum School of Acting in New York, graduated in 1894 and soon joined the Frohman theatrical company performing in Hawaii, New Orleans, Seattle, Portland, British Columbia and even the Sandwich Islands. Her stage career blossomed over the ensuing years and, as the 19th century ended, she became the leading lady performing the role of Mercedes opposite the renowned Irish-born actor James O’Neill in his signature role as the Count of Monte Cristo. O’Neill, the father of Nobel and Pulitzer prize-winning playwright Eugene O’Neill, was synonymous with the legendary hero created by French writer Alexander Dumas, performing the role of the Count more than 5,000 times over two decades to the delight of audiences. O’Neill paid Selene the great compliment of saying she was one of the two most gifted leading ladies he had worked with in his “Count of Monte Cristo” productions. She also appeared with James O’Neill in 1904 in a stage production of Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Adventures of Gerard.”

In 1912, Selene married Irish actor F. Lumsden Hare who would be her leading man on and off the stage for many years. Hare, born in Ballingarry, County Tipperary, was the nephew of the Lord Chancellor of Ireland and a stage actor appearing in London and America. Selene and Lumsden appeared together in various productions and he became a well-known director and actor, appearing in over 140 films. The Hares lived a long life, residing first in New York and then in Los Angeles where each died in the 1960s.

Carrie Ewald was born in Jersey City in 1874 and lived with her family on York Street. Her father, William Ewald, was the prosperous co-owner of Ewald Brothers, a stationery store located on Newark Avenue. Carrie studied elocution at the Hasbrouck Institute in Jersey City and, like her parents, was an accomplished musician. She pursued theatrical training at the Empire Theatre Dramatic School in New York under the direction of noted English actor Nelson Wheatcroft. Like Selene Johnson, after her studies, she joined a Frohman acting company and toured nationally as part of their “Masqueraders” production.

In January 1897, newspapers reported that Carrie Ewald was to marry Count Julian Rado of Budapest, Hungary. The couple was said to have met at a masquerade ball in New York some months earlier when the Count had been captivated by Miss Ewald who was costumed as a water nymph. Along with the news of the engagement, the press identified Rado as a man who had been the subject of notoriety in his homeland and had fled to New York where he had been accused of being a swindler and fortune hunter courting the daughter of a wealthy local man. The following day, Ewald denied the two were engaged or had met at a ball as reported but confirmed that a Mr. Rado was calling on her. For his part, Rado insisted that he was an aspiring law student, never presented himself as nobility and threatened to “prosecute” the source of the story.

Six months after that sensation, Carrie Ewald and Julian Rado did marry in New York City,  newspapers reporting that her parents were “satisfied with their daughter’s choice of a husband.” Carrie apparently left her theatrical life behind when she married. That marriage ended in June 1909 when she passed away at the age of thirty-four. Her obituary described her as the “beloved wife of Julian C. W. Rado.” She was laid to rest at New York Bay Cemetery.

Selene Johnson and Carrie Ewald, supported by the resources and encouragement of their families, pursued their dreams of a stage career, first performing for enthusiastic Hudson County locals and then entertaining thousands on stages across the country. Judging by the many laudatory reviews of their performances that appeared in newspapers from coast-to-coast, each did herself proud.


Article originally published in River View Observer

Maureen Wlodarczyk is a fourth-generation-born Jersey City girl and the author of three books about life in Jersey City in the 1800s and early 1900s:  Past-Forward: A Three-Decade and Three-Thousand-Mile Journey Home, Young & Wicked: The Death of a Wayward Girl and Canary in a Cage: The Smith-Bennett Murder Case.  For info:



June 22, 2012

The Gift of Connection (VIDEO)

Filed under: Film,Literature,Television,Visual Arts — by johnleemedia @ 3:40 pm
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At Tuesday’s Salon at The Cell IAW&A member Charles Hale debuted his short film, The Gift of Connection, which details a family visit to Castleblayney, Ireland, the town from which his great grandfather emigrated. Not long after Hale and his family arrived in Castleblayney they discovered their ancestral home. His mother, however, discovered much more, a link, a connection between her father, her grandfather and Ireland.

June 21, 2012

Getting Jazzed at Salon at the Cell

Singer, songwriter and swing band leader Tara O’Grady recently joined the IAW&A and presented two entertaining videos. The first video was of the traditional song “Black Velvet Band” (above) from her debut album Black irish, a collection of traditional Irish songs arranged in a swing, jazz and blues style. The second video she made to convince Chevrolet to offer her a free ride across country, which they did, so she could chase her Irish immigrant granny’s spirit and honor Chevy’s 100th anniversary. A very entertaining debut by a very talented lady.

In celebration of Pride Week, Honor Molloy read Immigrant Cases, a piece from her novel, Smarty Girl: Dublin Savage. Sheela and Mahree, two theatrical denizens of Dublin, take Noleen O’Feeney to their flat for a tea party in which they read her tea leaves and cast a spell. Noleen is not a girl, she is a girsha (Irish for little girl) and she will travel all the worlds. Noleen does just that, picking up seven pebbles and taking seven trips round the world.

Stephanie Silber read another delightful passage from her novel, Other People’s Houses, a coming-of-ager set the late sixties, early seventies, which tells the story of a teenage girl growing up Irish Catholic on Long Island, who finds herself pregnant.  Shipped off for the duration of her pregnancy, Queenie is exposed to a far more rarified world than the one she is used to.  Last night’s reading finds her discovering an interest in painting, followed by an unexpected encounter with the privileged but troubled son of her affluent hosts. 

Sarah Fearon presented the second video episode of Snazzy Peabody in her hilarious non-reality based real estate world: Snazzy Sells the Brooklyn Bridge, which was filmed and edited by Elizabeth Donahue, a friend from Performing Arts High School NYC.  Before we rolled the tape Sarah also read from the beginning of a new series titled Doorman, an endless world of New York and cross cultural comedy.

And then came Billy Barrett reading from his book Highway Star. It turns out Billy has a brother who fought in the same backrooms and graced the same sticky, beer drenched stages back in the day. With the younger catapulted into the national spotlight, the brothers split. Like old ward bosses at cross purposes or rival gangsters theirs is a brutal and intimate portrayal of siblings seeking validation and acceptance.

Tom Phelan read a poignant chapter from his acclaimed novel The Canal Bridgethe story of two Irish stretcher-bearers in the Great War–and the lovers and families they leave behind in “Ballyrannel” in Ireland’s midlands. A quarter of a million young Irish men joined the British army and fought in the trenches in the First World War, and over 32,000 died. When Phelan was growing up on a farm in County Laois, he knew many war veterans–five-hundred men in his small town had served and at least fifty had died.  Yet due to the political landscape of the time, their sacrifice went unrecognized. With The Canal Bridge, Tom Phelan hopes to restore them to their honored place in the pantheon of Irish heroes.  
Brendan Conellan’s piece is the start of a dark, comedic novel called Fog, Hope and Other Delusions. The main character tries to move his life to New York from Ireland but can’t cope with the stress and the craziness so flees to San Francisco where nothing is as he had expected and he immediately is thrown into disarray. The piece is permeated by loneliness but also has elements of farce.

There were three short works last night: Mark Donnelly read another scene from his play Mother Jones. In last night’s scene, President Theodore Roosevelt consults with his niece Eleanor concerning the request from Mother Jones to meet with him and discuss child labor.  Tom Mahon presented a short story called When She Was Nine a story about a girls journey from childhood to professionalism. And Guenevere Donohue broke form as playwright-actress, and shared her poetry instead. Folks found, Mo Doire –My Oak,  a poem grounded in the ancient burial practice of her father’s Clann most compelling. 

Charles Hale presented a film called The Gift of Connection detailing a family visit to Castleblayney, Ireland, the town from which his great grandfather emigrated. Not long after Charles and his family arrived they discovered their ancestral home. His mother, however, discovered much more, a link, a connection between her father, her grandfather and Ireland. 

And closing out the evening, new member John Shea read a stirring passage from his novel Cut and Run in the Bronx, which will be released by Seven Towers Books in November.  
The Irish American Writers and Artists salons are normally held on the first and third Tuesdays of each month; however, the next salon will be held on Thursday, July 5th, 7PM, at the Thalia Cafe, Symphony Space at Broadway and 95th. For more information on the salon or joining the IAW&A contact Charles Hale at

June 15, 2012


Filed under: Events,Literature,Music,Social Activism,Theater — by johnleemedia @ 1:19 pm
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A Party to Celebrate Malachy McCourt

Please join us for a special party to celebrate the publication of A COUPLE OF BLAGAURDS, the brilliant and hilarious stage review written by Frank and MalachyMcCourt. First performed on stage in the early 1980s, the show is finally being published in book form by Samuel French Publishers.

We will commemorate the occasion with conversation, drink and perhaps a few songs by the good man himself, Malachy McCourt.

Don’t miss what is sure to be a fun and rollicking occasion!!

WHEN: Monday, June 18, 2012 from 6-8pm
WHERE: Kennedy’s Pub, 327 W. 57th St., Manhattan
ADMISSION: $20 (includes open bar — beer and wine — and hors d’oeuvres)
This event is open to IAW&A members and guests.

June 14, 2012


Filed under: Uncategorized — by johnleemedia @ 2:30 pm
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The IAW&A’s salon series is celebrating its first anniversary this month. The salon gives IAW&A members an opportunity to present their work, be it a novel, a story, a song, a scene from a play or a work of art, in a relaxed and convivial atmosphere.

The salons are held at 7pm, usually on the first Tuesday of the month at the Thalia Café, located in Symphony Space on Broadway and 95th Street, and on the third Tuesday of the month at The Cell, located at 338 W. 23rd Street.

Upcoming salons:

Tuesday June 19: The Cell
Thursday July 5: Thalia Cafe (changed for holiday)
Tuesday July 17: The Cell

June 6, 2012

Judy Collins to Receive 2012 Eugene O’Neill Lifetime Achievement Award

Singer, Activist, Author, Sixties Icon and Irish American to be Honored in NYC on Oct. 15

Irish American Writers & Artists, Inc., (IAW&A) a non-profit organization dedicated to the celebration of Irish American achievement in the arts, announced today that the recipient of the prestigious Eugene O’Neill Lifetime Achievement Award for 2012 is legendary singer, activist, author, and Sixties icon Judy Collins.

“Few American artists have sustained a career in popular music that is as exceptional and iconic as Judy Collins,” said IAW&A co-founder and president T.J. English. “Beginning in the early 1960s, with her role in the emergence of the folk music phenomenon, and through the rock ‘n roll explosion and cultural upheavals of the late-60s and early-70s, Judy’s pristine voice and beautiful songs gave clarity and hope to an entire generation. She has maintained that same level of artistry ever since.”

With a career that has spanned five decades, Collins recorded and performed music with the greatest singers of her era, everyone from Bob Dylan and Joan Baez to Joni Mitchell and, more recently, Irish tenor Ronan Tynan. Along with performing her own songs, she has brought her inimitable style to classics by the Beatles, Leonard Cohen and Dylan. Some of her best-known renditions, including “Both Sides Now,” “Amazing Grace” and “Send in the Clowns,” have been Top 40 hits. She has recorded 38 albums and won numerous music awards, including two Grammys. She is also an author of five books – three memoirs, a self-help book, and a novel. In 1975, she was nominated for an Academy Award for her co-direction of a feature-length documentary about her classical piano instructor.

Upon being informed of her selection for the award, Collins said, “I am thrilled and honored to be given this wonderful award named after the great Eugene O’Neill. I have always believed that, in my heart, I am first and foremost a storyteller descended from a long line of Irish storytellers and balladeers. It is a great tribute to be mentioned alongside O’Neill; I will gladly be there to accept the award.”

Malachy McCourt, actor, author, IAW&A co-director, and a personal friend of Collins’ since the late-1960s, said, “Judy sings like an angel but has the strength of an iron worker. Her career has been like a beacon of light, even though – as befalls us all over a full life – she has known tragedy and despair.”

In her recent memoir, Sweet Judy Blue Eyes, Collins writes of her struggles to overcome alcoholism – a family trait – and the suicide of her only son, which she refers to as her “darkest hour.”

The Eugene O’Neill Lifetime Achievement Award was established in 2009 to honor the accomplishments of a writer, actor, musician, or cultural institution that has sustained a body of work that best exemplifies the level of integrity maintained by O’Neill. The inaugural recipient was Pulitzer-prize winning author William Kennedy. The other recipients have been actor Brian Dennehy and the co-founders of New York’s Irish Repertory Theatre, Charlotte Moore and Ciarán O’Reilly.

The award, created by Tiffany & Co., will be presented Mon., Oct.15, 2012 at a reception and ceremony to be held at the Manhattan Club above Rosie O’Grady’s in Times Square, just a few blocks from where Eugene O’Neill was born. Ticketing information will be available soon at the IAW&A website.

For more information on the IAW&A, visit the organization’s website at or Facebook page for updates and information.

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