Irish American Writers & Artists

June 25, 2017

6.20.17 IAW&A SALON: A STELLAR NIGHT OF DRAMA AND SURPRISES AT THE CELL

Filed under: Uncategorized — by kdaly321 @ 6:08 pm

By Maureen Hossbacher

Photos by Cat Dwyer

DSC_0729.jpgSalon stars line up at the night’s end

It has been a privilege and pleasure to watch the development of Derek Murphy’s play, Dyin’ For It, at our Salons. It has also been great fun, as evidenced by the torrent of laughter at The Cell on Tuesday night. The scene was brilliantly played by Maria Deasy and Aoife Williamson as mother and daughter trying their best to grieve for the man of the house who is taking his sweet time dying in the best bedroom upstairs. According to Derek, the play is finished, and we look forward to seeing a full production.

DSC_0668.jpgMaria Deasy,  left, Aoife Williamson with Derek Murphy

Plenty of drama and surprises transpired, as the Salon welcomed several new presenters as well as regulars, all of whom electrified a delighted audience. First-timer Katharine McNair started things off with a trilogy of brief scenes from her comedy, The Traveling Irish, set in pre- and post-Katrina New Orleans, in which actors Sophia Romma and Jason Okanlawan conveyed the fraught romantic relationship between coworkers at a college. A poet and emerging playwright and screenwriter, McNair currently teaches at Fordham University. Her poetry and children’s literature have been published online and in print.

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Jason Okanlawan and Sophia Romma

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Next was the riveting debut performance of Leilani McInerney, (pictured at right) who chose our Salon to kickstart her return to the stage after an interlude of child rearing and teaching. Her original monologue, in the character of a slightly unhinged lady with pyromaniacal tendencies, was a gem. (When she lit that match I don’t mind telling you I was a little uneasy). The former Leilani Johnson has performed in regional theatre, in the Fantastiks in NYC and the Amato Opera Company in Brooklyn. As her first name suggests, she was born in Hawaii, which as far as we know Donald Trump has not contested.

Yet another newcomer to the Salon, Sheryl Simler, then took the stage to perform a monologue from her original work, Inside the Blessing Jar — as the character Simca, who has left behind the life of a Hasidic housewife to pursue her artistic dreams. For a finale, Sheryl charmed us with a little ditty she wrote about “John, handsome in his hat.”

DSC_0625   Sheryl Simler

John Kearns (hatless) read an excerpt from near the end of his novel in progress, Worlds. As Laura and the Englishman Gavin drop off Paul Logan in Times Square, Paul is surprised to learn that Laura’s father is from Northern Ireland and that her last name is Maze, like the famous prison. When Paul gets out of the car, he is shocked to hear that Laura is headed back downtown, where they had started hours before, so that Gavin can catch the Staten Island Ferry.  “Sorry, Paul,” the barmaid says, “if you only had an accent…” John recently returned from Ireland where he didn’t pick up an accent but where his play, Sons of Molly Maguire, had a successful run in Dublin.

DSC_0637  John Kearns

As MC for the evening, Kearns segued by introducing Mark Bulik, a senior editor at The New York Times, who read from the first chapter of his book, The Sons of Molly Maguire: The Irish Roots of America’s First Labor War.   Bulik’s book explores the origins of the violent secret society that fought on behalf of Ireland’s starving peasantry during the Great Famine, then re-emerged in the Pennsylvania coal fields to battle the all-powerful mining companies, giving America its first taste of class warfare. Dublin Review of Books hailed the history as a “milestone.”

Mark Bulik, left and with Geraldine McCleary, visiting from Co. Monaghan

Monologist, playwright and poet Gordon Gilbert, a frequent presenter, shared three poems that turned our summertime fancies to thoughts of love in the Big Apple, a metropolis where many a potential couple, alas, have ended up “parallel lines that never met.” That sad fate was not Gordon’s, however, a well known denizen of the West Village, where he has lived and loved, and where he shares his life with Mary Jane, the audience member to whom the final poem was dedicated on her birthday.

Gordon Gilbert, left, Tom Mahon

Another regular, Tom Mahon, with his usual verve, delivered an excerpt from his short story, “Going After Bigfoot”. Two brothers-in-law pursue Warren Nelson, alias Bigfoot, a 300 lb. muscle-bound vet with four tours in Iraq. Nelson has stolen $25 K from his father-in-law and there is a reward for his capture. The narrator, who has never held a gun, is skeptical of his brother-in-law’s schemes, though the brother-in-law is confident because he can’t think beyond what he wants. To be continued . . .

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Rosina Fernoff

Demonstrating what happens when exquisite acting meets exquisite writing, veteran actress Rosina Fernhoff brought the house down with her tour de force rendering of playwright Jenifer Margaret Kelly’s monologue, “Antibodies”, a stand-alone piece from a larger collaborative work entitled The Body. Kelly’s play, My Brooklyn, was a finalist for the Eugene O’Neill Conference this summer. Fernhoff, an Obie winner, performs frequently at the “Actors Chapel Presents” readings of plays at St. Malachy’s Church on West 49th Street.

DSC_0725.jpgAnalisa Chamberlain, accompanied by John Kearns

The Salon was brought to a lovely close by actress/singer Analisa Chamberlin’s rendition of “Where Have All the Flowers Gone”, accompanied on guitar by John Kearns. The coda of a perfect evening, it left us wanting more, more, more.

The next IAW&A Salon will be at Bar Thalia, at 95th Street & Broadway, on Thursday, July 6, at 7:00 p.m.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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June 8, 2017

6.1.17 IN THE COMPANY OF ACCLAIMED AUTHOR MARY GORDON — IAW&A and AIHS sponsor talk and reception

Filed under: Uncategorized — by kdaly321 @ 7:24 pm

By Karen Daly

Photos by Christopher Booth

DSC_0087.JPGMary Gordon

IAW&A’s first joint program with the American Irish Historical Society featured the renowned novelist Mary Gordon in conversation with Mary Pat Kelly, on the release of Gordon’s novel, There Your Heart Lies, just published by Pantheon. Described as “historically [and] emotionally satisfying,” the story deals with an American woman’s experiences during the Spanish Civil War and its influence on her granddaughter’s life.

AIHS’ genial chairman Brian McCabe welcomed the audience to its elegant 120-year-old headquarters on Fifth Avenue. He offered guests a special keepsake: a 1995 issue of the Society’s former journal, The Recorder, that contained an original Mary Gordon story about her Irish-born grandmother.

 

DSC_0075.jpgBrian McCabe welcomes the group to AIHS

 

As Lauren Bufferd notes in BookPage, “Mary Gordon has been writing compelling books about faith, love and family for four decades.” And many of us who have admired her work for decades turned out to meet her.

Introducing her friend and fellow novelist, IAW&A vice-president Mary Pat Kelly observed that Gordon’s first book Final Payments in 1978 was the first to give voice to “our experience,” meaning the inner lives of Irish Catholic raised women. Many of the women in the audience seemed to concur.

In a distinguished career since publishing Final Payments, Mary Gordon has produced several important, critically praised novels including The Company of Women and Pearl. Among her nonfiction works are the memoirs Circling My Mother and The Shadow Man and an award-winning biography of Joan of Arc. A professor of literature at Barnard, she’s been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, an O. Henry Award, an Academy Award for Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and The Story Prize.

DSC_0085 (2).JPGMary Pat Kelly, left.  Mary Gordon

In a wide-ranging conversation, she talked about why she chose to write about the Spanish Civil War of the late 1930’s. The book has contemporary setting, with the character, at the end of her life, revealing the full story of hardships she endured during her time in Spain. Mary Gordon said she was “brought up in conservative Irish Catholic 1950’s New York in a family who believed that Franco had saved the world for the Catholic Church.” When she went to Columbia in the late 60’s, she found a very different interpretation, “that Franco had blood on his hands.” Gordon wanted to present “the unglamorous side of war” instead of the glorification seen in such writers as Hemingway and Orwell.

Writers in the audience were full of questions about Gordon’s research and writing process. For this novel, she undertook deep research and read widely to supply the history and to look for unexpected details. As an example, she discovered a little known fact that NY fur trade workers supplied fur coats to women participants in the Spanish Civil War. Remarkably, an audience member had grown up hearing the story through her own family.

As far as process, Gordon writes with a fountain pen and notebook, finding satisfaction in the motion and rhythmicality of writing. And yes, she writes every day, saying the “business of writing is being there; it’s not what you produce.” Gordon tells her Barnard students, “An imperfect something is better than a perfect nothing.”

Gordon was eloquent in reply to a question was about the role of shame in Catholicism, admitting its power and that in her experience, shame was often a default setting.

Mary Pat Kelly reminded us of Gordon’s wonderful storytelling ability and the book’s emphasis on women’s lives. One reviewer says,

“There Your Heart Lies depicts pleasure in the loving bonds between generations and in acts of generosity and selflessness between friends…”

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We’re grateful to Mary Gordon for her generous conversation this night, and for her esteemed body of work. You may want to go and read them all. You can find the new book at Amazon or indie bound.org

Special thanks to the night’s organizers:

Brian McCabe and Sophie Colgan at AIHS

IAW&A’s Kathleen Walsh D’Arcy and Mary Pat Kelly

 

 

 

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