A standing room only crowded greeted first time presenter Sanem Ozdural at the IAW&A Salon on Tuesday night. Sanem, a New Yorker by way of New Orleans, England and Turkey opened the evening with her debut novel LiGa, a story of a bridge tournament in which the players are, literally, gambling with their lives. Set in the near future, a secretive organization, LiGa, has developed the technology to transfer the regenerative power of a body’s cell from one person to another. The tournament ends when one or more of the players reaches the point at which their cells no longer degenerate, thus conferring a form of immortality. In the reading we were introduced to the colorful cast of players, which included, among others, a formula one driver, a judge, and a Jesuit priest. Great beginning to a great evening.
Singer, songwriter Tara O’Grady read a piece from her memoir Transatlantic Butterflies and the November Moon. In a flashback, Tara transported the listeners to a night in Donegal, where she stood under a moon similar to the one her mother stood under the night before she migrated to America. Tara finished her presentation with a beautiful song, taken from the book’s title, “November Moon.” The lyrics were taken from a poem she wrote while gazing at the moon in Donegal. If you have an opportunity to hear this wonderful singer perform, you should. You can find the song on Tara’s second album Good Things Come to Those Who Wait
Three women presenting entirely different works followed Tara. First, Mary Tierney, with actor Ron Ryan, delivered a powerful performance of the first in a series of Haiku Plays, by Chris Force, which came out of her time at TimeBanksNYC (TBNYC). I’m looking forward to hearing and watching this first rate actor perform more of Force’s work in the near future. Another first time presenter, Mary Carter, who is a novelist, writing coach at The Manhattan Writers Den, and actress stepped up to the mic. Mary has written six novels and three novellas for Kensington Books, and is currently working on her seventh novel and fourth novella, both of which will be published in 2013. A very talented writer and reader, Mary read from her sixth novel, The Things I Do For You. And then Honor Molloy stepped up and presented “Backassed,” a small tale of humiliation, East Village, 1980s-style. This brief memoir tracks the end of a relationship, and the end of an era. Packed with emotion, Honor’s readings are always a tour de force and Tuesday night’s performance was no exception.
From generations of Mississippians, through Harvard, with a few detours through McSorley’s Old Ale House, poet and writer Gary Ryan dropped in and added his varied talents to the evening’s events. Gary’s writings are often about Mississippi and its environs, from the present day, and from the past. Gary began with a poem, a conversation with a girl in a driving rain, which was followed by a story about a Confederate soldier tasked with digging five graves. Excellent work.
The second half of the evening opened with a dynamic act. Marni Rice, Chanteuse-Accordionist & Theatre Artist, who has performed her show in Canada, France, Japan, Gabon and the Cameroon, presented an excerpt from her solo play “Tales from Paris/Contes de Paris,” an autobiographical story about an American woman who goes to Paris with $100, a handful of songs and an accordion to discover the city of lights. Combining song, story & character she spins the tale of being a street musician whose survival is dependent upon the assistance granted by the kindness of strangers. An exciting, passionate performance by a multi-talented artist. More about Marni and her music.
Stephanie Silber followed a tough act but was up to task deftly reading her well-crafted short story, “Houdini,” an oblique contemplation of gun violence as seen through the prism of a slice of American life: an aging woman, her silent, smoldering, live-at-home adult son, and their trip to the mall, which culminates in the escape of the son’s emotionally damaged dog, Houdini. What happens when the beast within every human heart finally slips its chains?
Niamh Hyland, who recently appeared at Lincoln Center’s OurLand Fest and sang Stephen Foster’s “Hard Times Come Again No More,” wowed the audience with a reprise of her performance. Singing a cappella, Niamh’s bravura performance was one of the evening’s many great highlights. I hope she comes back soon.
Brendan Connellan, whose readings are becoming an audience favorite, read from his dark Wall Street novel, Biggie Big Shot, which touched on the inconvenient feelings of we human beings, the acute need for speed when firing somebody before they go and break stuff and a digression on the merits of Bruce Springsteen as the axe was being sharpened. Fun and Games!
Kathleen Walder read a poem inspired by her earliest memory “Silent Screams.” A great healing and release process occurs when I am able to write about, and then share, painful, old experiences with others. At the end of the evening Kathleen commented, “This evening and the entire experience is tremendously freeing. It helps me open up my writing. I am so grateful that the IAWA salons exist.” We’re grateful she’s a part of our group.
And then, a big ending: Harpist, songwriter Russell Patrick Brown performed a work titled “Little Animals,” which was inspired by a cat he ran over, which now shall live on forever in his angelic song played with harp, accompanied by, as Russell calls it, “his dulcet vocal tones.” Russell is a well-known New York town bard, a few parts American, and shockingly, even a little Irish. Why shockingly? You’ll have to hear him. No tiptoeing through the tulips for Russell, a storyteller, harpist, pianist, singer, dancer, aerialist and most modest man. Great act.
Salons are normally held on the first and third Tuesdays of each month. The next salon will be at the Thalia Café, located at Broadway and 95thStreet, on September 4 at 7PM.
For more information on the Irish American Writers and Artists and their salon series contact Charles R. Hale firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos by Cathleen “Cat” Dwyer