Irish American Writers & Artists

July 8, 2013

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

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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  (http://jongordon.artistshare.com) 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.”

Si

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: http://www.worldprayers.org/archive/prayers/celebrations/on_the_day_when_the_weight_deadens.html

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 http://www.tinybuddha.com/.

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. http://shortplaynyc.com/blog/

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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