Irish American Writers & Artists

July 27, 2013

John Patrick Shanley to Receive Eugene O’Neill Lifetime Achievement Award

Pulitzer Prize, Academy Award and Tony Award Winner to be feted on Oct. 21 at Irish American Writers & Artists annual event

Pulitzer, Oscar and Tony Award winner, the writer John Patrick Shanley will add the Eugene O’Neill Lifetime Achievement Award to his his list of honors at the Irish American Writers & Artists annual celebration on Oct. 21 in New York.

Renowned playwright, screenwriter and movie director John Patrick Shanley, winner of the artistic “trifecta” of a Pulitzer Prize, an Oscar and a Tony Award will add the Eugene O’Neill Lifetime Achievement Award to his list of honors at the Irish American Writers & Artists annual celebration this fall. Shanley will receive his Tiffany award on Monday, October 21, 2013 during a festive evening in the Manhattan Club in the Times Square district, just a few blocks north of where O’Neill was born on October 16, 1888.

The Eugene O’Neill Lifetime Achievement Award was established in 2009 to honor the accomplishments of a writer, actor, musician or other artist whose body of work best exemplifies the level of integrity established by O’Neill.


Few contemporary artists fit the criteria for the award as well as Shanley. He has written over 20 plays including Danny and the Deep Blue Sea and Savage in Limbo. For his play, Doubt, he received both a Tony and the Pulitzer Prize. As a screenwriter he received an Academy Award for best original screenplay for Moonstruck. The film version of Doubt, in which he directed Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams, was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Adapted Screenplay.

“This distinction comes at a time when I have noticed several Irish demons running amuck on my keyboard,” Shanley said, upon being notified that he will receive the award.  “I quite recently wrote a recollection about my family in Ireland entitled ‘Darkness of an Irish Morning’. It was published in the editorial section of The New York Times. In addition, my new play, Outside Mullingar  is set in County Westmeath, and will be presented by Manhattan Theatre Club on Broadway this winter. It will star an Irishman named Brian F. O’Byrne, who you may recall from his turn as Father Flynn in my play Doubt. I have always admired Eugene O’Neill, even while praying I would not wake up one day and be him.”

Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman in John Patrick Shanley’s “Doubt”

T.J. English, President of the Irish American Writers & Artists, Inc, said, “Writer and director John Patrick Shanley is the consummate contemporary artist; he gives us characters that are indelible and stories that illuminate and enrich the human experience. He’s been honored with almost every prestigious award that exists for an artist today, and rightfully so – in the theater and in the movie business, few can claim to have attained his level of accomplishment or, in the tradition of the great Eugene O’Neill, maintained such a high standard of quality and integrity.”

The previous Eugene O’Neill Lifetime Achievement Award honorees include Pulitzer Prize winning author William Kennedy; veteran actor and noted O’Neill interpreter Brian Dennehy; co-founders of New York’s Irish Repertory Theatre, Charlotte Moore and Ciarán O’Reilly, and legendary folk singer and activist Judy Collins.

The Eugene O’Neill Lifetime Achievement Award Celebration has a convivial, casual cocktail party atmosphere, with much conversation and mingling with guests both famous and infamous, an extensive array of appetizers and desserts, and an open bar. The evening at the Manhattan Club above Rosie O’Grady’s (800 7th Ave, New York, NY 10019) begins at 6 pm and continues until 10 pm.

For more information on the IAW&A and to purchase tickets for the Eugene O’Neill Lifetime Award Celebration, go to

July 25, 2013

“The McCourts of Limerick,” on stage, back home

Filed under: Essay,Events,Literature — by johnleemedia @ 7:29 pm
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As the curtain came up just after 8pm in the Lime Tree theatre, Malachy McCourt’s eyes were glued to the stage but his thoughts were in another time and place, with his brother Frank.

It would have been 3pm back home in New York.

Frank McCourt died a few minutes after 3pm on July 19 in Manhattan – exactly four years to the day and the minute that a musical of his life took to the stage in Limerick.
Here they were – at the opening night of an extravaganza about the miserable Irish childhood that made him famous. It was lucky that Frank loved irony, he intimated, because it seemed to find him at every hand’s turn.

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The McCourt legacy lives on, but here it was tinged with sadness that the creator wasn’t present to see the latest inspiration of his work, which keeps on giving after 17 years. “I do miss him and I missed him a lot last night,” said Malachy the next day.
On stage in conversation with his brother Alphie, Frank’s widow Ellen, and New York based theatre director George C. Heslin, for the first time, larger-than-life Malachy was short for words. He playfully dismissed his tears saying “my bladder is near my eye”.
“It’s not many people that would have the privilege of Frank McCourt as a brother and a friend. I’m immensely grateful for that. He was a great friend and always will be.”
Ellen, Alphie and Malachy were of course here to see Angela’s Ashes: A Musical, as were many fans from London and Florida. After receiving great praise in Derby, where it was staged last year by a local theatre company, this was its first showing in Limerick.
The Minister for Arts & Culture Jimmy Deenihan has hinted that it may return to Limerick next year as part of the City of Culture.
Alphie, who was bowled over by the performances and the standing ovation it received, had just one criticism – and that was with the title. “I think of it as ‘the’ musical, not a musical, because I don’t think there will be another one,” he said on the steps of the Frank McCourt museum on Hartstonge Street.
Mr Heslin urged people to see it on its closing night in Limerick on Saturday, “because the next place you’re going to see it is on Broadway or the West End.”
Nearby, Ellen planted a kiss on the bust of her late husband and wrapped her arms around him. Sitting in row F (ironically) an hour later she dabbed away the tears with the back of her hand, and put on a smile.
“The musical has brought Frank to life on stage. Let’s hope this is the beginning and not the end,” she said at the after party in South’s pub, where Frank famously had his first pint.
Bill Whelan, the Riverdance composer, was there; Denis Allen got out the guitar and sang Limerick You’re a Lady, and the cast of 22 in the musical took the mic and burst into song, much to the surprise of those nestled in corners, having a heretofore quiet pint.
“They say Limerick is a lady, but to me she was a right ‘oul whore for a time. Now she’s a glitzy, glamorous thing,” said Malachy.
Angela’s Ashes: A Musical proved to be what many people thought impossible, and more. It was funny, poignant, sad, with some spine tingling moments, and a sterling young cast who took this story to their hearts and made it their own. It reminded people of the epic story of survival it really is.
“Whether you believe in God or not, this was divinely inspired,” said Malachy of the book, adding that the musical is “outstanding”.
Many people remember Angela’s Ashes for the controversy it brought, but this brought home the real hardship and struggle the McCourts faced, as did many families in the Limerick of the 1930s.
The struggle was just not financial, it was very much emotional – with the death of three young children, Margaret, Oliver and Eugene – and the powerlessness of their mother Angela to stop them being taken from her, or to stop her husband taking to the drink.
“All the years of struggle and strife went into that great masterpiece,” said Labour councillor Tom Shortt, deputising as Mayor of Limerick on the night.
Asked about its enduring appeal, Malachy said: “America is addicted to happy endings”. In Limerick, it was beautifully bittersweet.

July 23, 2013

Maura Mulligan’s Readings in Ireland and NY

Filed under: Uncategorized — by scripts2013 @ 3:49 pm

IAW&A Member and frequent Salon presenter, Maura Mulligan, is doing a series of readings from her memoir, Call of the Lark, in Ireland this summer.

If you’re in Leitrim, Mayo (God help us), or Dublin, come out and support Maura!


Here is her schedule:

JULY 25: Drumshanbo Library, Co. Leitrim, Ireland: 5:00pm

JULY 31: Westport Library, County Mayo, Ireland: 6:30pm

AUGUST 2: Ted Lavell’s Pub (Achill Writers’ Workshop) Achill Island Co. Mayo. 7:00 pm

AUGUST 6: 7Towers at The Twisted Pepper, 54 Abbey St, Dublin. 1:15 pm

In September, Maura will be back in New York and reading in the Bronx:

SEPTEMBER 25: An Béal Bocht Cafe, 445 West 238 St. Riverdale, New York. 8:00 pm.

July 18, 2013

Midsummer Salon at the Cell: Prose, Poetry, Drama, and Song on 7/16

Filed under: Uncategorized — by scripts2013 @ 9:52 pm

By Mary Lannon
Photos by Mark William Butler


A true tale of Dublin and a fictional tale of Philadelphia from our own salon leader, John Kearns, and a story of a dictator turned romance novelist from Brendan Costello Jr. were just two of the highlights from a wealth of talented artists at Tuesday night’s IAW&A Salon at The Cell.


John Kearns

Kearns started off the evening by giving us a brief outline of his recent Dublin travels that included a reading and a nationally televised radio interview (RTE) about his historical play on the Molly Maguires and his talk on the Mollies at the Sean O’Casey Theatre, sponsored by Seven Towers Agency and the East Wall History Group. He then read from a brand-new excerpt of his novel-in-progress, Worlds. In this excerpt, Sarsfield Logan, S.J., French teacher at Xavier High School, travels home to 1920s Philadelphia to visit his loquacious brother, Jimmy, who fills him in on the building boom taking place in his native city and how it is benefitting the Logan Construction Company. Father Logan is reminded of a quote from Montaigne, “Il n’est pas la faute mais plutôt l’abondance qui crée l’avidité.” “It is not paucity but abundance that creates greed.”

ImageBrendan Costello

In an amusing counterpoint to Kearns’s politically-inflected pieces, Costello read an excerpt from his story “It’s Always Morning in Sunny Santa Alba,” based on the literary career of Saddam Hussein (he had one — look it up!) and the absurd portrayals of tyrants by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The narrator, a self-proclaimed Generalissimo, reflects on his violent rise to power which now, at last, has given him the time to “get some serious writing done.”  He is haunted, however, by the suspicion that his romance novels may be of questionable literary merit.


Joe Davidson

Dark humor was also a part of a scene from Joe Davidson’s play, The Rekindling, performed by talented actors Mary Tierney and Ron Ryan. Tierney played the foul-mouthed drunken Nancy Morris who barely holds together her marriage to Ivy League professor, Barney Morris, embodied by Ryan. Blackmail and manipulation are Nancy Morris’s emotional weaponry as she alternately begs for her husband’s love and threatens to reveal a secret that might ruin him. The tug and pull between the characters in their dark negotiation and the great skill of the actors kept the audience enthralled. IAWA members should look for another excerpt probably this September.


Mary Tierney and Ron Ryan

Humor also featured in Mary Lannon’s reading from her finished novel (that she’s shopping around) with its impossibly long title, Explanation of the Fundamentals of the Derivation of Dilapidated Brown Station Wagon aka How I Became a Scientist and Discovered the Truth about Parallel Universes by Miranda J. McCleod. The novel tells the story of a girl who, after fighting with her father, believes that she got sucked through a faulty air-conditioner and landed in a parallel universe. In the excerpt Mary read, the girl science geek narrator struggles with her mother’s expectations about female sexuality.


Mary Lannon

Other readers kept the evening varied with a more serious tone. Ray Lindie read from his novella called, “Lone Hero.” It is the story of a returning Vietnam veteran who while overseas received a Dear John letter from his girlfriend. Lindie’s excerpt took listeners through the vet’s early childhood and subsequent abandonment through his return home and firm decision not to contact his ex and its reversal to, as the narrator says,” to insert himself, to confront, disrupt, and reclaim his territory.”


Ray Lindie

Mark Donnelly read three new poems — one reflecting on the death of a friend; one on the supposed romanticism of drinking and the writing life; and the third a chronicle of his cross-country trips over several decades. Donnelly has been writing poetry, plays, and short stories since his 20s. He has an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Brooklyn College and runs a playwriting workshop for older adults in Great Neck, Long Island.


Mark Donnelly

Mark William Butler wandered away from his own work and read two intense pieces from writers he admires. The first was an excerpt from a Brendan Behan short story called “The Execution.” It can be found in the collection After the Wake. The second was a poem, “The Well-Fed Doesn’t Understand the Hungry,” by our own John Kearns from his play Sons of Molly Maguire, which ran in NYC at the Midtown International Theatre Festival in 2007.


Mark William Butler

Well worth the wait, the lone singer of the evening, Jack DiMonte, took a moment to read the song lyrics to “I Can’t Wait To Get Off Work” by Tom Waits, as poetry before launching into song. DiMonte can frequently be heard at Bar Thalia’s Monday open mic nights from 8 to 11 p.m. His low baritone provided a warm ending to the air-conditioned cool of a once again lively IAW&A Salon on a very hot night.


Jack DiMonte

The next salon is at Bar Thalia on August 6th. Don’t miss it!

July 11, 2013

Kathleen Frazier reads tonight!

Filed under: Uncategorized — by johnleemedia @ 11:31 am

Kathleen Frazier

Reads from her current project…


The Mysterious Makings and Recovery of a Sleepwalker

The Cornelia Street Café
29 Cornelia St. (west of 6th Ave, bet. West 4th and Bleecker)
Thursday, July 11th, 2013
$8 cash cover, includes a free drink
Reservations suggested (212) 989-9319

Somniloquies: The Mysterious Makings and Recovery of a Sleepwalker is a coming of age story in which Kathleen seeks to untangle her twenty years of chronic somnambulism: the origins at adolescence when her brother first attempted suicide (a sort of nighttime mirroring of his waking pain), her own near-death experiences while sleepwalking, and failed efforts to abate her malady with booze. It is a love story to her Irish American family of the 1960s – ‘70s, a longing to balm their wounds from generations of fretful nights.  Ultimately, it is a story of recovery, romance and redemption.  In 1990, at the age of thirty, Kathleen met her husband days after the terrible sleepwalking accident that brought her to her knees.  One night at a time, Mark showed her the link between comfort, trust and peaceful slumber.

Read Kathleen’s essay, “Creature of the Night”, published in Psychology Today

July 8, 2013

New talent, high spirits at IAW&A salon at Bar Thalia

Filed under: Uncategorized — by johnleemedia @ 6:00 pm
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By Karen Daly

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That smart comedy duo of Sarah Fearon and Mark Butler hosted the Irish American Writers & Artists salon on Tuesday, July 2, 2013 with great charm. Hot weather, holidays, vacations…nothing seems to prevent a robust turnout at the Bar Thalia. Moreover, nothing stops the creativity and fun from flowing or stops new members from adding their talents to the mix.

The versatile Tom Mahon read the first chapter of a novel with the working title American Mastery. Set in territory that Tom knows well, rural upstate New York, it’s about two brothers who couldn’t be less alike, but who join forces to create a business that provides them and their families an independent, creative and rewarding life together. Tom began (and stopped) writing this novel years ago and recently picked up where he had left off.

Jon Gordon

Jon Gordon  ( read from his recently released memoir, For Sue – A Memoir, which has been  called “…an American Angela’s Ashes…” (Guillermo Echanique, publisher Chimbarazu Press Brooklyn, NY). The best-selling, award-winning author, Peter Straub says:  “… the exceptional alto player Jon Gordon has written an emotionally honest, in fact painfully open-hearted account of himself as the loving son of an all but entirely inadequate alcoholic, drug-mesmerized mother who forced him to become more her parent than child. This is a book to cherish.”


First time presenter Sile Houlihan Fee said she’d been “sitting, just watching salons long enough” and it was time to present. She told the story of Chicago May, based on a Nuala O’Faolain book. At 15, May fled Co. Longford, Ireland, travelled alone to America in the late 1890’s and pursued a lifestyle that Sile says “ would make a sailor blush.” In O’Faolain’s foreword, she talks about how she learned of May’s existence and her fascinating, though criminal, life. Sile met the late author at a reading at Lolita’s Pub downtown. Sile tried to tell May’s story with Nuala’s enthusiasm and she surely did. A New Yorker with Co. Limerick born parents, Sile grew up in a “thatched cottage” in Woodside. She has been studying the Irish language for four years. She won a Fulbright/Irish government grant to study Irish in the Galway Gaeltacht, the first such grant for Americans studying the language. She is also the mother of two sons and proud seanmháthair of three.

Brendan Costello Jr. read, “De-Fused,” a short piece inspired by Franz Kafka’s “An Imperial Message.” He started by reading the Kafka passage, a parable of hopelessness and entropy, followed by his own darkly comic response, about the 2010 attempt to bomb Times Square. His piece managed to combine road rage, fireworks, and antidepressants, in what he called a tribute to “the 4th of July, the most Kafkaesque of American holidays.”  We called it brilliant!

Maura Mulligan read a poem “Beannacht” (blessing) from the late John O’ Donohue’s book To Bless the Space Between Us. Widely praised for his gift of drawing on Celtic spiritual traditions to create words of inspiration and wisdom for today, his work offers readers comfort and encouragement on their journeys through life.  Maura has a personal connection to O’ Donohue. The Irish teacher, poet and philosopher was a college classmate of her brother John Mulligan and she cherishes her signed copies of his books. Here’s the link to the poem:

In July, Maura will be reading from her memoir, Call of the Lark in Drumshanbo, Co. Leitrim, Westport, Co. Mayo and Achill Island. She has a residency at the Tyrone Guthrie Center in Co. Monaghan for three weeks in August. In between all the writing and reading, of course, she’ll be dancing.

The many talented Guenevere Donohue, self-described raconteur-in-training, as well as playwright, director, singer, told a charming story from her childhood, and followed with the song “Love is Teasing.”

Karen Daly is a fan of the Irish born writer Maeve Brennan, who wrote for the New Yorker magazine in the 1950’s and 60’s. Tonight she read Brennan’s Talk of the Town feature set on the miserably hot Sunday of July 3, 1966, when there was “nothing to breathe except heavy displeasure.” Brennan was in a midtown restaurant observing the few customers who happened by — a family, two showgirls  (“Their dresses did all the work.”) and a man from  seemed to be from out-of town. Karen chose this piece because of its timing, but  mainly because Brennan’s powerful description and completeness of expression.  Karen is now tweeting about NYC history, Irish American and Irish events, and books and looking for followers at Kdaly321 on Twitter.

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New member Daniel MacGowan, a physician, wowed the group with his rendition of  the folk song “Sam Hall,” an old favorite of his. It’s about an unrepentant criminal sentenced to hang. Dan looks forward to hearing and telling more tales at the Salon. We can’t wait to hear what else he has in store.

In her salon debut Jen Callan read her first published piece “ Who Do You Think You Are and Is it Limiting You?” Jen shared her yearlong experiment of challenging everything she believed to be true about herself. She discovered that she was much more amazing than she once believed. Although this was her first experience on a mic, she harnessed the energy flowing inside to deliver a heartfelt presentation. She is slowly learning to call herself a writer. She is honored to share her work in a group of such talented artists who shine so brightly. Jen will continue to be a lover of the light. You can find her story at

Michele Cetera celebrated the anniversary of her first IAW&A reading one year ago by revisiting the moving story she read that night. Hectic Day is about the life of an oncology nurse, who is pulled in five different directions at once. Nursing can be rewarding and yet exhausting, some days you just want to give it all up. The nurse in the story is having a hectic day:  a patient nearly faints in the hallway, another demands test results and a young patient gets a diagnosis of less than a year to live. Needing a few minutes for herself, the nurse finds a quiet office where she discovers the chart of a previous patient. She reflects on how nurse, patient and patient’s husband dealt with Mattie’s, breast cancer, which she called an “inconvenience.” And  she realizes that in our busy lives and minor  inconveniences, we often lose site of the gift of everyday.

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Mark William Butler presented a comedic sketch called “ Greater Than/Less Than” which is about the tumultuous domestic lives of mathematical symbols. The dynamic acting duo of  Gwen Eyster and  Richard Butler  brought the piece hilariously to life. Mark himself made a cameo appearance as a numeral. The sketch is part of Mark’s comedy revue “Instant Happy!” which played at the Planet Connections Theatre Festivity in 2009.

Congratulations to Mark for another short comedy. Mark’s “The Laundry War,” also directed by Richard Butler just won a Best Play award at The Players Theatre Short Play and Musical Festival, here in NYC. Link to the festival blog, which includes an interview with the author.

Richard Butler quickly switched from math to history as he celebrated Independence Day and brought the house down with a stirring rendition of the song “Is Anybody There?” from the musical 1776, with music and lyrics by Sherman Edwards.

The evening ended with the traditional talk by Malachy McCourt. Tonight he read a piece about his views on what religion has wrought.  “I’m an atheist, thank God.” And  he led us in a stirring version of  “Johnny, We Hardly Knew Ye.”

Next salon will be Tuesday, July 16, 7 pm at the Cell Theatre.

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