By Mark William Butler
It was “standing room only” and you could feel the energy in the air as an eclectic and electric lineup of presenters and performers ignited the stage at the IAW&A Salon at The Cell Theatre on Tuesday night. Spirits were high as the full house was treated to an exciting evening of fiction, memoir, poetry, theater, music and film, hosted by John Kearns. And away we go…
Michele Cetera opened the night with a compelling monologue on relationships, “She Can Still Hear the Music.” Michele’s character Macy Grant, whom Salon goers have met before, reveals “It feels bad, simple as that”, on her impending breakup. Macy knows she needs to let go, but even more, doesn’t want to feel hurt. She mourns for the love that once was and what could have been. Michele, a dancer as well as writer and performer, beautifully evokes the summer night, the song, the romance. In the end, Macy realizes she can still hear the music even without him, and letting go is necessary to heal a broken heart.
Ann McCoy read from MEANING Magazine…a short piece about her childhood growing up in the shadow of the bomb testing in the Nevada desert. She teaches at Yale in the School of Drama, and is a visual artist and theater designer. She has two pieces in the current Brooklyn Rail for February and March.
Mark Butler brought a little bit of Christmas to February by presenting one of his seasonal songs, “He’s Real,” which was performed beautifully by the lovely and talented Rachel MacRae Bouton. The tune is from his musical A Bargain Basement Christmas, which was selected for The Players Theatre Short Play and Musical Festival in 2011 and was expanded into a full length play last year.
TJ English read a piece about the death of George Whitmore Jr., an iconic victim of racial injustice in 1960’s NYC. The piece originally appeared as on op-ed article in the New York Times.
Maura Kelly spoke about the March 4th IAW&A and Women in Film & TV joint event: Focus on Ireland and the Women Who Call the Shots at NYU. With March being Women’s History Month and also Irish American Heritage month, it is a perfect time to shine a spotlight on Ireland and women who create stories for multiple screens worldwide. Maura explained that is the past 5 years Ireland has played host to a number of very successful international TV dramas – from Games of Thrones, The Tudors, The Borgias to the new Vikings on the History Channel – and women are making it happen. At the same time, Irish and Irish American talent continue to create compelling projects for screens worldwide. The esteemed panel of women will discuss how they do it and the role Ireland plays. To register, go to the EVENT section at http://www.nywift.org. The special member rate is $15.00.
Chris Bradley’s first presentation for the IAW&A was an essay that illustrated his desire to find “his voice.” Chris’s reading was a celebration of finding his way to the Salon — a room filled with a symphony of voices — and connecting with one of his literary idols, Malachy McCourt, “The Maestro,” who gave the directive “Your voice will find you.” “Thank you, Malachy.”
Mike Farragher read Off Kilter, a ribald take of his very first experience wearing a kilt. It’s a passage from his brand new book; This is Your Brain on Shamrocks 2: 50 Shades o’ Green, available on www.thisisyourbrainonshamrocks.com. Mike will also be joining fellow IAW&A author Honor Molloy for an evening of rocking and reading with Brendan O’Shea and the Lost Tribes of Donegal on Tuesday, March 5 at the Irish Repertory Theater (131 W. 22nd St. at www.irishrep.org). He also runs the New Jersey chapter of The Salon, which is held in Morristown. Anyone who is interested in presenting or performing there can contact him through email@example.com.
Stephanie Silber showed an excerpt from a film, The Story So Far, which combined interviews with Larry Kirwan and band members from Black 47 along with those of devoted fans of the band; performance footage; and clips from the band’s televised appearances. Many of the interviews were gathered during a riotous and unforgettable Black 47 tour of Ireland accompanied by three busloads of fans. The film evolved out of a happy and ongoing collaboration between the band and Home Team Productions, helmed by Stephanie and her partner, the filmmaker and editor, Vic Zimet.
John Kearns was thrilled to have two short pieces performed by the accomplished actor, Jack O’Connell. The first was a monologue called, “The Surf Fisherman/Poet” about an angler’s casting his line into the sea as a poet casts into the unknown for inspiration. The second was a poem called, “The First Little Fish of the Morning,” about a small fish caught under the roughest, unlikeliest conditions.
Seamus Scanlon read “On Her Birthday,” the last story from his collection, As Close As You’ll Ever Be. “On Her Birthday” was shortlisted for a Hennessy Award in 2009. The Library Journal starred review said “This collection is an ode to human truth found in violent desperation. Highly recommended.”
Marni Rice performed 3 of her original songs (voice & accordion). While living in Paris she performed mostly old French songs on the streets and in cabarets. However, when she moved to NYC, she started composing her own songs inspired by poetry and music heard in Irish Bars.
Pat Fenton read from his play on Beat Generation writer Jack Kerouac, which is called Jack’s Last Call, Say Goodbye to Kerouac. It was a scene from Kerouac’s last night in Northport Long Island as he gets ready to leave the east forever, and move with his mother to St Petersburg Florida. On this last night at the end of a small farewell party, his old On the Road days come back to him as he reflects back on his young years driving across America with his buddy Neal Cassady. The play has been released as a public radio drama available on CD, and has been nominated for an Audio Award.
Tom Mahon read one entry called, “Emmett Garrity” from a larger work, The Wide Valley. Emmett is the youngest son of Dan Garrity who had to flee Ireland with his wife and two small children. After a difficult start in the New World, he prospers and stakes his children to farms to set them up. His youngest has imagination and confidence the others don’t and go on to become a lawyer, then a politician, but when he fail at winning the governorship, he caves and moves to Paris and becomes a dandy in an enclave of exiles all hiding from something. Emmett becomes the best of the false, pretentious lot and lives a life of illusion.
Singer/songwriter Tara O’Grady and musician Russell Brown treated us to a familiar song performed in a new style. Tara will be recording her new album A Celt in the Cotton Club in a few short weeks, and performed one of the tracks, “Too Ra Loo Ra – An Irish Lullaby,” as a blues, with Russell on piano. Initially the piece was supposed to be performed with Russell on harp, but the improv on piano was a delightful surprise, to both the audience and Tara.
Salon regular Guen Donohue then commandeered the spirit of our absent “Maestro” — Malachy McCourt — by regaling the audience with an unscripted wild childhood tale fully loaded with wit and imagery involving her Grandma Bridget, her brother, and a suspicious looking plant that was growing in their new upstate yard. Having produced waves of bellylaughs from the audience, Guen happily confessed that this was her debut as a “raconteur,” and did a wonderful job in closing the evening’s festivities by leading the crowd in singing a rousing rendition of “Here’s a Health.”
And finally, one for the road… “Speak your mind, even though your voice shakes.”
― Maggie Kuhn
See you next time! (Salon at Bar Thalia, Tues., Mar. 5)
B&W photos by Mark Butler, color by John Kearns