On Friday, October 11th, IAW&A Secretary Tim O’Brien will have the opening of his career retrospective at:
84 Lyme Street
On Friday, October 11th, IAW&A Secretary Tim O’Brien will have the opening of his career retrospective at:
Attention Writers and Artists with works to sell! You can advertise your books and CDs or other artistic work in the IAW&A Eugene O’Neill Award Celebration program.
Promote your works. Let attendees know the kind of work our members are producing.
If you are a member and would like to place an ad:
1. Send camera-ready ads of 1/8 of a page (business card size) to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. Send $50 to:
Irish American Writers & Artists, Inc
511 Avenue of the Americas #304
New York, NY 10011
DEADLINE: October 1, 2013.
by Karen Daly
Photos by Cat Dwyer
Tuesday’s salon at the Cell, led by first time host Marni Rice, had a full slate of presenters, an SRO house and a festive birthday celebration for Salon godfather and IAW&A Board member, Malachy McCourt.
Author and playwright, Seamus Scanlon, a regular Salon presenter, wrote via email, “Best one so far that I’ve been at!” And Seamus has been to one or two.
In their first performance at a salon, choreographer Darrah Carr and two of her dance company members, Caitlin McNeill and Mary Kate Sheehan, thrilled us with excerpts of a new piece that they are working on with guest choreographer Seán Curran. Set to music by Irish supergroup Kila, the innovative piece combines Irish step dance with references to social dance, tap and clogging. Darrah Carr Dance will premiere the piece during their upcoming 15th Anniversary Season at the Irish Arts Center from November 22-24th. Visit www.darrahcarrdance.com.
Darrah Carr, Caitlin McNeill, and Mary Kate Sheehan
Caitlin McNeill and Mary Kate Sheehan
Crime fiction writer Gary Cahill in his second salon reading presented short selections from two dark, almost cinematic tales. “On A Two-Way Street” told of a diamond deal on a Cape Cod beach gone very, very wrong, and “Ninety Miles, A Million Miles” of early 1960s New Jersey, childhood friendship and anti-Castro Cuban ex-pats longing to go home — by any means necessary. Gary plans to read from other work at the Bar Thalia salon on October 1.
TJ English read a piece describing the first day of the trial of mobster James “Whitey” Bulger, calling it “the most explosive organized crime trial ever to take place” in Boston. TJ spent the summer covering the trial for the Daily Beast website, where this piece first appeared. President of IAWA, and author of The Westies, Paddy Whacked, and The Savage City and Havana Nocturne, he is currently writing a book about Whitey Bulger, to be published next year.
Members have been sharing their works-in-progress, so regular salongoers have been able to observe their characters and stories as they develop. Among them: Tom Mahon who has been reading sections of his novel- in- progress about two brothers in an upstate New York family, titled American Mastery. Tonight he read chapter 5, in which the Fentons deal with their health and business issues…
Ray Lindie read a section of his novella Lone Hero, in which the protagonist, a returning Vietnam vet, spends the evening with the ex-girlfriend who dumped him while he was overseas. They’re riding around in her new Cadillac, fighting, yelling and screaming, just like the old days. They end up at their old favorite restaurant. In the next installment, we’ll find out that the place is also a watering hole for her current boyfriend…
Sheila Walsh has been sharing scenes from her comedic play, Surrender at Somerville about two lonely people who reunite decades after their 1960s love affair. On Tuesday, Sarah Fearon and Sheila read a poignant, funny scene between a mother and daughter. They are delighted to present new work in the salon’s safe and supportive atmosphere.
Sarah Fearon and Sheila Walsh
We also saw playwright Mark Donnelly give a terrific performance of the climactic monologue from his one-act play, “The Steamfitter’s Dream.” The monologue appeared in Best Men’s Monologues of 1998, published by Smith and Kraus.
Margaret McCarthy read a monologue from her play, The Sacrificial King: A Play for John Lennon, which alternates scenes from the lives of John Lennon and a young girl who is a Beatle fan and aspiring artist. Coming of age in a time of social and political turbulence, they each find family relationships and loyalty to friends competing with their artistic goal. In this monologue, Lennon questions his meteoric fame and its effect on his music and artistic path. For McCarthy, the play asks: What in our nature causes us to build up and then tear down our heroes?
We had several pieces of short fiction. Brendan Costello Jr. read a second installment of his short story “Circus Brunch at Zapruder’s,” about a struggling actor who works in a “theme” restaurant based around the Kennedy assassination. At the previous salon, Brendan introduced his character, an embittered clown handing out coupons on a New York street corner. Brendan will read the shocking conclusion at a future salon. He also notes that his was the third piece dealing with assassinated icons, establishing an unintentional theme for the first half of the evening.
John Kearns read excerpts from his story “Finding the Day” and dedicated it to the poet and former Saint Joseph’s Prep English teacher, Paul Grillo, who died recently. John first wrote the story in a journal for Mr. Grillo’s class. In this story, the teenage Artist takes a break from his routine to wander around Center City, Philadelphia, reflecting on the difference between himself and others. After a stop at a bookstore, The Artist realizes that he must contribute to the world, despite or because of his alienation from it, and he drops the only money he has, a dime, into a blind man’s cup.
Pat Fenton thrilled the audience with his short story, “The Ghosts of Coney Island,” in which Billy Coffey, trying to go home again, somehow walking back into the past at a boardwalk bar in Coney Island. The story has been published online and is included in Pat’s collection ⎯not yet published ⎯ of short stories about Brooklyn.
A couple of musicians named Donohue, who met at the IAW&A road salon in Philadelphia, opened the second half of the evening. Gabriel Donohue played piano and sang a clever original song called “Living Large.” Gabriel claims he wrote it as penance for all the melancholy Irish tunes that he often renders. Then in a magical accompaniment, Gabriel played an old Irish air on piano for Guenevere Donohue’s original piece, “The Evolution Song.” May these long lost cousins continue to collaborate.
Marni Rice has showcased her many talents as a singer, accordionist and composer at previous salons. This week she showed us two more, as evening’s host and as a writer. Marni presented a charming story about her poker-playing grandma, who initiated Marni and her sister into the game at very young ages.
Malachy McCourt was in top form on his birthday. He brought a very full night to a close by telling stories, making us laugh, singing “Dear Isle.” Best of all, he read a beautiful essay about his life and his many years of sobriety, expressing his joyous attitude of living “a day at a time.”
Malachy McCourt: Breith la shona duit, a chara!
What will we do for an encore? Find out at the next Irish American Writers and Artists Salon on Tuesday, October 1 at Bar Thalia!
LAST CALL for IAW&A NIGHT with “BRENDAN at the CHELSEA”
Tickets going fast for IAW&A Theater Night at Brendan at the Chelsea on Thurs., Sept. 19 at 8 PM
Please send ticket request ASAP to email@example.com (limit two tickets per member).
Special ticket price of $37.75 represents a 40% discount and eliminates “convenience fees” when ordering online or by phone.
We are close to our ticket allotment, but maybe be able to secure more seats if we hear from you NOW!
by John Kearns
“To America, my new-found land:” reads the quote from Brendan Behan on the plaque outside the Chelsea Hotel, “the man that hates you hates the human race.”
The humanity of Brendan Behan and his sympathy with his fellow humans form the heart of Brendan at the Chelsea, an engaging and moving drama written by Janet Behan, the famous author’s niece, and imported from the Lyric Theatre in Belfast. With a bravura performance by Adrian Dunbar in the title role, Brendan at the Chelsea offers a backstage view behind the stage-Irish persona Brendan Behan used to court attention and publicity. Directing himself and the ensemble cast in the play, Dunbar is lyrical, funny, soulful, and committed in the emotionally and physically demanding role of the famous/infamous “drinker with a writing problem” in the waning years of his short life: declaiming Behan’s words into a tape recorder because he could no longer hold a pen, struggling to drink cups of tea with trembling hands, coughing, enduring headaches and nausea, and throwing himself upon stage.
Adrian Dunbar as Brendan Behan
Though much of Behan’s behavior in the play is pitiful and unforgivably selfish, Dunbar portrays the loveable side of the man and shows us — through tender flashback scenes with his wife, Beatrice, and a moment of appreciation for the youth and beauty of the young dancer-caretaker, Lianne — why the people around him remain loyal and show great kindness to him.
With a remarkable set that strikes a seedy and down-at-the-heels note, the drama takes place entirely in the Behan’s room at the Chelsea Hotel, the well known refuge of artists here in “the city where you are least likely to be bitten by a wild sheep.”
The audience is brought up to speed through the hungover Behan’s sparring with the charming and versatile Lianne (Samantha Pearl), opening morning mail that contains a picture of a son he has had with his mistress, Suzanne, and through a series of flashbacks played ably and energetically by Pauline Hutton as Beatrice Behan, and Richard Orr, Chris Robinson, and Pearl in multiple roles.
Samantha Pearl plays Lianne and other roles
During quick-paced scenes that portray Behan on his way to his appearance on the Tonight Show with Jack Paar, his throwing quips to a group of reporters, and an encounter Behan has with some ardent homosexual fans on Fire Island, Orr, Robinson, and Pearl are comical and convincing. There were moments in the first act in which the timing seemed a bit off but that can likely be attributed to jet lag and the performance’s being early in the run.
Richard Orr also plays Behan’s upstairs neighbor, George, whom Behan can hear composing music for children on his piano. The noise doesn’t bother Behan, he says. Rather he finds it soothing. There is a clear sympathy between the two neighbors and fellow artists. Orr does fine work capturing the character of the struggling musician who has found friendship with the less disciplined writer.
Behan (Dunbar) and Beatrice (Hutton) with adoring fans Robinson and Orr on Fire Island
Other than the scene with the reporters, we see very little of the Behan’s public shenanigans. In his room at the Chelsea and in the flashbacks, he is charming and witty, vulnerable, and open-minded about race and sexuality. And, he suffers greatly with his struggle with alcohol. The mood of the play is mostly serious and there are not as many laughs as you might expect two hours with Brendan Behan to produce.
Behan (Dunbar) and Beatrice (Hutton) share bon mots with New York reporters Robinson, Orr, and Pearl
In Brendan at the Chelsea, Janet Behan is forthright about her uncle’s demons. Some of these are familiar: his impoverished childhood, his past as an IRA volunteer who has spent time in British reformatories and jails, his alcoholism, and his conflicts with his fellow Dubliners who seem eager to see him taken down a peg. But one demon that is unfamiliar to most is Behan’s bisexuality.
Brendan at the Chelsea shows Behan dancing and receiving fellatio from a neighbor at the Chelsea (Robinson). He also dances the Madison with two men on Fire Island. His bisexuality is something that has hardly been emphasized in other portrayals of Behan’s life and perhaps helps explain why Behan was so attracted to the freedom of New York City and so reluctant to return to early ‘60s Ireland.
Whereas much of the first act is exposition, the second act of Brendan at the Chelsea contains the most moving and dramatic scenes of the play. The first is between Behan and his neighbor, George (Orr), who tries gently and subtly to convince Behan to seek help for his alcoholism. As Behan insists that he can beat the disease himself as he has for periods in the past, George tells him that he has met a doctor who says that alcohol addiction is not something that can be conquered with one’s willpower alone. George leaves the doctor’s number with Behan, though there seems to be little hope that the playwright will dial it.
The other is the scene in which Beatrice Behan (Hutton) arrives at the Chelsea Hotel fresh from Queen Elizabeth luxury liner. She realizes right away that, something and, more to the point, someone has come between herself and Brendan. When she finds out that her husband is in love with Suzanne and that the rumors of the child he has had with her are true, she scoffs at the idea of someone like Suzanne’s taking care of Brendan the way she has. She wonders if Suzanne will be around when Brendan has wet his pants and vomited on himself and if Suzanne will hold his head during Brendan’s seizures as Beatrice has. Despite the news, Beatrice says that she still loves him and will always be in love with him and, despite his wishes, she will honor her wedding vows and not divorce him. Hutton gives a stirring performance as a very determined woman, perhaps the strongest-willed person in the play.
Brendan at the Chelsea does not have a great deal of dramatic conflict and it seems that if more could have been made of the competition for Behan’s heart between Beatrice and Suzanne, there could have been a tauter drama.
And in the end, Beatrice Behan turns out to be right — Suzanne’s commitment to Brendan is not nearly as strong as he had thought — and Brendan sheepishly sends Lianne to fetch his wife.
The play ends the way it started with Behan recording one of his paeans to New York City, a place where he, like so many misfits from around the world, found a tolerant home.
There was a talkback after the September 6th show with 1stIrish Festival founder, George Heslin, and the playwright and cast. Janet Behan and the cast took questions from Heslin and then from the large audience who remained in the theatre after the show to discuss this production about a dyed-in-the-wool Dubliner in New York that was begun in London, was moved to the newly refurbished Lyric Theatre in Belfast, and was brought across the sea to the New York City Behan loved.
George Heslin with Janet Behan, Dunbar, Orr, Robinson, Hutton, and Pearl
Brendan at the Chelsea runs through October 6th at the Acorn Theatre at 410 W. 42nd Street. Visit: http://www.lyrictheatre.co.uk/brendanchelsea/.
Irish American Writers and Artists Inc. is having a special night at the show on September 19th. Members can purchase tickets at a 40% discount and enjoy the talkback and the company of their fellow members as we have a drink in honor of a man who had too many. If you are an IAW&A member, reserve your ticket at this email address firstname.lastname@example.org and send a check for $37.75 to:
Irish American Writers & Artists, Inc
511 Avenue of the Americas #304
New York, NY 10011
See you there!
by Karen Daly
Photos by Cat Dwyer
The Irish American Writers & Artists honored the memory of the great Seamus Heaney in the way we know best – by reading his poems at the Salon on Tuesday, September 3rd at Bar Thalia. Members, including Mark Butler, John Kearns, and Bernadette Cullen read a selection of his works throughout the evening.
Guenevere Donohue gave her tribute in song. Guen, with that lovely voice, sang “The Parting Glass.” She described the feeling perfectly, calling it a night of “…profound gratitude for the words and works Mr. Heaney has graced us with…”
In addition to Mr. Heaney’s poems, members read original poetry. We had a short film by a new member and we had several explorations of motherhood. Lest you think we were too solemn, there were plenty of laughs from amusing songs by Jack DiMonte and John Skocik, including John’s adorable new song about his baby; a tale of a real life mobster, and two funny women, Sheila Walsh reading a piece of her play about a divorced woman with an aging mother and Honor Molloy with piece from her autobiographical novel, Smarty Girl.
Jim Callaghan presented a humorous, sad story called “Lunch with Big Joe” about the day his publisher told him that he had to meet one of the most feared Mafia bosses in Italy and New York. Jim described how the Koch administration rewarded the mobster with a lucrative contract to run a homeless shelter at his motel. This story will be included in an introduction to a collection of Jim’s writings for New York City newspapers spanning 1978 to 2013.
Jim has been an investigative reporter and columnist for New York newspapers, including the New York Observer, Newsday, the Irish Echo, the Village Voice and the Wall Street Journal. He has also taught college writing and hosted a cable call-in show from 1990 to 2000 in Staten Island.
Vivian O`Shaughnessy read her brief “Funky Sonnet from Us” that has included in London`s Southbank Centre Poetry Library rare book collection. A poet and visual artist, Vivian’s Dada Art Activity book has been added to the collections of Louvre Education, Bibliotheque Nationale of France, MOMA, Morgan Library and New York Public Library. She will be a participant poet at Festival International de la Poesie a Paris 2013 on October 15-19. Vivian’s art has been displayed at the Cell Theater. See her work at www.vivianoshaughnessy.com.
John Kearns was grateful to have Honor Molloy join him at the mic for his “Poem for Mom.” Written for reading aloud at the W.B. Yeats Society series at the Irish Times bar on Capitol Hill, John’s poem features two voices: the narrator’s declaiming a Miltonian elegy for his deceased mother and in a fine counterpoint, the mother’s poking holes in the narrator’s seriousness and pretension.
John Kearns and Honor Molloy
Going from mom to little girl, Honor Molloy read a charming, hilarious outtake from her autobiographical novel Smarty Girl – Dublin Savage. In this passage, “the Fil-ums,” little Noleen O’Feeney nabs some extra work in a movie called Where’s Jack and stirs up trouble. Bestselling author Peter Quinn has praised Honor’s heroine as “…irreverent, sarcastic, resilient, engaging, entertaining, and wise beyond her years.” And those characteristics were on display tonight.
We count on Jack DiMonte to surprise us with his vast knowledge of songs. Tonight, he sang “Robert Frost,” a humorous musing written by the great jazz bass player Jay Leonhart. A writer how imagines great his own life would be if he had the options he believes that America’s most famous poet had at his beck and call, especially a wealthy female patron to ease his way in life. A sugar Mama?
Dublin writer and director Helen O’Reilly screened her short movie, “Finding Oscar,” about a day in the life of 5-year-old, Keelin. The little girl desperately wants to find her lost rabbit but has to abandon her search to attend a party at the local yacht club with her family. What starts out as a fun day for everyone quickly unravels into something entirely different that will be etched in Keelin’s memory forever.
Tom Mahon read the fourth chapter from his novel in progress 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. In this chapter, Charlie Fenton wakes to learn that his father is experiencing chest pains and is at the doctor. Charlie and his mother rush there to learn that he too has heart disease. The one manufacturer left in their town wants them to go to Asia, but Charlie has never flown before because he’s petrified of flying and dying in a fireball or feeding the sharks with his remains.
Tom has shared his progress on this novel, which he began (and stopped) writing years ago and returned to this past summer.
Another salon member who has been sharing her work-in-progress, Sheila Walsh read another monologue from her new comedic play, Surrender in Somerville. It is a funny and touching look at how a love affair in the 1960s reunites two lonely people decades later. Sheila was delighted to hear the magic words for a writer…”What happens next?”
Jon Gordon read from his recently released memoir, For Sue – A Memoir, which has been described as “…an American Angela’s Ashes…” (Guillermo Echanique, publisher Chimbarazu Press, Brooklyn, NY). Jon has read sections before, from his story of his childhood growing up alone with an alcoholic single mother. Originally self-published, For Sue will be distributed by Chimbaruzu press this fall and has been scheduled for a second printing. (http://jongordon.artistshare.com)
Brendan Costello Jr. read the opening scene of his short story “Circus Brunch at Zapruder’s.” The narrator is an embittered clown handing out drink and waffle coupons on a New York street corner, casting a cold, grease-painted eye on life passing by. He’ll read another section of the story at a future salon.
There were also some announcements of some notable dates coming up.
Sunday, September 15
Mark Butler invited the audience to join him on a road trip to South Jersey on Sunday, September 15 for a matinee performance of the classic Sondheim musical Assassins. Richard Butler, a Salon regular and Mark’s brother, will play Charles Guiteau, the man who killed President James Garfield. Please contact John Kearns at IAsalon@hotmail.com if you are interested.
Thursday, September 19
Join us for Brendan at the Chelsea on Thursday, September 19 at 8 PM.
Legendary Dublin writer Brendan Behan returns to his adopted home of New York in, a warm and funny drama from Belfast’s LyricTheatre, staring Adrian Dunbar in his New York stage debut. IAW&A will have a Q&A session with cast members after the show. Tickets are available for $37.75, 40% off the regular price (limit two tickets per member) by emailing your request to BrendanChelseaNYC@gmail.com.
To pay, send a check to Irish American Writers & Artists, Inc 511 Avenue of the Americas #304, or give a check to John Kearns at the 9/17 Salon at the Cell.
Sunday, October 20
Table 4 Writers Foundation is awarding four $2,500 grants to writers, in the tradition of the late Elaine Kaufman who nurtured writers at her famous Upper East Side restaurant. You can find all the rules and download an application at www.table4.org/grants/ Deadline is October 20.
Regular Salon presenter Mary Tierney is appearing in a musical version of Tom Jones at the Theater for the New City.
John Paul Skocik returned to play a few songs to close out the evening. The first, called “Madeira,” has its roots by a mariachi music and the lyrics tell the story of a man searching for something new and though exhilarating, only finding trouble. The second and third songs were brand new and inspired by John’s latest role as a new parent. “There’s No Time” is swampy blues riff based on a conversation with his wife regarding the lack of time to do just about anything now they are both preoccupied by their new son. “Toes In the Air” was written specifically for their little boy, Jack, and is essentially just a happy-go-lucky song about Jack’s preference of footwear, or rather lack thereof.
Join us on at our next IAW&A Salon on Tuesday, September 17 at 7 pm at the Cell Theater. Musician and writer Marni Rice is scheduled to host!