Guenevere Donohue began Tuesday night’s IAW&A salon at the Thalia Café with a dose of history and a shot of soul…Irish style. Singing the Sean Nos, “An Raibh Tú ag an gCarraig?” (Were you at the rock?) Guen spoke of the love songs use as a “code song” during the days when Ireland’s invaders suppressed the practice of religion. Guen followed her explanation with a stirring rendition of this powerful song. Great way to open the evening.
It’s the playoff season, which means Yankee baseball here in New York City (until tonight at least) and in keeping with the spirit of the season, Jim Rodgers read a baseball memoir about an underdog little league team of forty years ago, a squeeze play seemingly gone wrong, and a teammate trying to get over the loss of his mother. With the townspeople in the stands, the field illuminated by lights acquired from the dismantled Polo Grounds, and the bewitching hour of 1o PM approaching, the crowd and the players awaited the return of the ball as the errant bunt hung in the night sky and then began it’s fall to the diamond and an almost sure out. Only Jim, and those who attended the reading at the Thalia know the outcome of that rogue bunt. As Jim said, “Another reason to join us for our readings at the Salon!” True.
Tom Mahon read the second half of a short story that took place in Bayonne, NJ in the 50′s. The story’s about a kid, a wise guy, who loves imitating the old, Italian shoemaker for his pals—is imitation the greatest form of flattery?—and who soon finds himself working with the old man, delivering the shoes customers forget to pick up. When Tony is hit by a car and killed, the kid is devastated. He discovers he loved the old man, and he isn’t consoled knowing his friend is in heaven. A well-read, well-written story on the loss of life and innocence, and the pain of living as an adult.
Four salon “regulars” followed: IAW&A Treasurer John Kearns read a new episode from his novel in progress, Worlds, about four generations of the Logan family. In this episode, set in 1950′s Philadelphia, Janey Dougherty is having an affair with the head of the Logan Construction Company. When James disappears on a business trip without warning, Janey struggles with the loss and with the temptation to board a train to join him. Playwright/screenwriter Sheila Walsh, with the assistance of Kevin McPartland, read the beginning of Sheila’s screenplay, Gateway. In the early 1960′s, Nora Quinn drops out of college to live with her boyfriend Louie, a racetrack hustler. It’ll be enjoyable watching this story of first love, loss of innocence and loss of soul unfold. And what would be a salon be without the brilliant Honor Molloy, always a salon favorite. Honor read—that word doesn’t do Honor justice—or rather performed Backassed, a memoir of NYC in the early 80s.Bestselling author Jeanine Cummins followed Honor and read from her new novel, The Crooked Branch, which comes out in March. After she read a particularly vivid excerpt about childbirth, one man in the audience introduced himself to herthis way, “Hello, I was just pregnant with you.”
And then, from the throes of childbirth to the lighter side of life, beginning with Sarah Fearon riffing on a wide range of subjects. Putting a humorous spin on subjects from researching our roots, the economy, yoga, relationships, hoarding, real estate, and introducing the idea of the “Smart Clone,” Sarah had the crowd roaring. And if that weren’t enough, she was followed by “Malachy time.” Malachy McCourt that is. And picking up where Sarah left off, Malachy read a hilarious essay from a recently published anthology entitled Exit Laughing. Malachy sent everyone into the break laughing (no one exited, though) riffing on the funny side of death and plane flights with “Angela’s Ashes,” a reference to his beloved mother and his brother’s book of the same name. No shortage of material in this family.
Kathleen Vaughan closed out the readings sharing a chapter from her upcoming book The Fatal Call. Cancer was a transformational experience, Kate says. “I am grateful that I had the wake up call and grateful for all the awakening I have done because I had this illness. Anything is possible when you align with your spirit.” Bravo, Kate.t
Charles Hale and Malachy McCourt
And the evening ended on a high note, in fact, a number of beautiful high notes. Combining Billie Holiday’s gift for meticulous but effortlessly poetic phrasing with Anita O’Day’s swingin’ sassiness, June Christy’s cocktail coolness, Patsy Cline’s rural romanticism, and Sarah Vaughn’s sophisticated sultriness, New York jazz/blues singer Tara O’Grady is indeed a musical force of nature to reckon with. Sarah sang her rendition of Billie Holiday’s 1957 recording of “Stars Fell on Alabama,” a song she is currently translating into Irish, along with other jazz standards. Brilliant ending to a grand evening.
And this note from Philomena Forde. “Thanks for a great night of fun and fellowship. I felt good reading my piece as it brought back many happy memories, and contained a few historical bits and pieces also. The variety of comedy—Sara was great—playwriting, short stories, and of course Malachy’s wonderful presentation was just fantastic. That’s Limerick for ye!” And that about says it all.
The next salon will be at The Cell Theatre located at 338 W 23rd St, on Thursday, October 23 at 7PM. For more info on the salons contact Charles R. Hale at email@example.com