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

1-Thalia Cafe NYC - IAWA 4.2.13 018

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  ( 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.”


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:

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

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.

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.


April 14, 2013

Ashley Davis Returns to Joe’s Pub

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AD postcard

Please join IAW&A board member Ashley Davis on April 24th for a special evening at Joe’s Pub in NYC.

Irish harper, Cormac De Barra will be with her on this show, as well as a new young talented player from Texas to be introduced on the night of. She plans on doing her “greatest hits” from the her three albums, along with a few sneak peaks from the new album currently being recorded.

Use IAW&A discount code JPTIXA213 when ordering tickets at,com_shows/task,view/Itemid,40/id,6639

March 27, 2013

An Evening in Celebration of WILLIAM KENNEDY

An Evening in Celebration of our Inagural Eugene ONeill Lifetime Acheivement Award winner

in association with Irish American Writers & Artists and the Irish Arts Center


Thursday, April 11th | 7:30 pm

Admission: FREE |Reservations Essential

Master of Ceremonies

Peter Quinn 

Special Guests

Dan Barry         Aedin Moloney          Tara O’Grady           Mary Tierney

“Kennedy, master of the Irish-American lament in works like Billy Phelan’s Greatest Game and Ironweed,
proves here he can play with both hands and improvise on a theme without losing the beat.” 


Join us for an evening with William Kennedy, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, screenwriter and playwright, winner of the , celebrated with readings by Mary Tierney and Dan Barry from Kennedy’s works IronweedRoscoe and others, music by Tara O’Grady, and a conversation with William Kennedy moderated by Dan Barry.

Afterwards join us in the IAC Gallery for a reception and book signing.

William Kennedy, author, screenwriter and playwright, was born and raised in Albany, New York. Kennedy has brought his native city to literary life in Legs, Billy Phelan’s Greatest Game, and the Pulitzer Prize-winning Ironweed. He is the founding director of the New York State Writers Institute and, in 1993, was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He has received numerous literary awards, including the National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and IAW&A’s inaugural Eugene O’Neill Lifetime Achievement Award.

Thursday, April 11th | 7:30 pm

For more information, and to reserve tickets go to

or call 866.811.4111  

at Irish Arts Center
553 West 51st Street
New York, NY 10019

February 22, 2013

Another SRO Salon at The Cell!

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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  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  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  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

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.

Jack O'Connell

Jack O’Connell


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.”

Seamus Scanlon

Seamus Scanlon

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.

Marni Rice

Marni Rice

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

larry-stephanie mark-mike-farragher

See you next time!   (Salon at Bar Thalia, Tues., Mar. 5)

mark-rachel marni jack oconnell michelle-tom-mahon


B&W photos by Mark Butler, color by John Kearns

January 13, 2013

IAW&A Salons off to strong start in 2013!

Filed under: Events,Literature,Theater,Uncategorized — by johnleemedia @ 7:56 pm
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If the IAW&A’s first Salon of 2013, held at Bar Thalia on January 8th, is any indication, it is going to be a great year for the organization, which marks its 5th anniversary in March.

TJ English, President of the IAW&A, began the evening by speaking about the amazing breadth of talent showcased at the Salons, and how they will continue to evolve in the coming year.


Then Kevin Holohan, author of novel The Brother’s Lot, kicked off the performances by reading a short story that more than lives up to the bite of its title, “Team Players for the New Economy” a grotesque satire on solipsistic corporate culture and groupthink and aims to be a tonic for anyone who has ever had the misfortune to work anywhere larger than two people and a fax machine.  303552_10151337674368948_2057608548_n

Guenevere Donohue, playwright, actress, singer, and poet read two poems, one about the beach and one about her great-grandmother titled The Butter Witch. She then graced the room with a song.  Kathleen Donohoe read an essay about the day she realized she was a writer, two weeks after her eighth birthday, particularly fitting as she just finished her novel three months ago–on her birthday.

Next up was Mark Butler with a new story about the imagined life of promotional mascots working the sidewalks of Times Square called Mickey Mouse Is a Mexican.  It is an installment of what eventually will be a collection of short pieces entitled Talking to Yourself on the Streets of New York.


John Kearns, whose cousin Siobhan Regan from Mayo was in the audience  (Up Mayo!), read an excerpt from his novel-in-progress, Worlds, in which Paul Logan, a 30-something Irish-American, Gavin, a drunken Englishman, and Stephanie, their barmaid and driver, are traveling through the Financial District, trying to find their way uptown.    As they drive along John Street, Paul reminisces about the night he met Stephanie. Interspersed among the events and reminiscences is a parody of stock-market jargon, describing the relationship between Stephanie and the men competing for her attention.

Singer, actor, and humorist Rachel Bouton performed a short story she wrote entitled “My Doorman is a Homeless Dude Named Frank” and sang the song “Homeward Bound” by Marta Keen Thompson. Rachel was the only presenter to use the phrase “bed bug farts.”

After the break, Maura Mulligan, author of Call of the Lark read the poem BEANNACHT (blessing) from the late John O’ Donohue’s collection: Benedictus.  O’ Donohue is the author of the international bestsellers Anam Cara and Echos of Divine Beauty. Here is BEANNACHT:

Next Maureen Hossbacher took the mike to deliver two of her poems.  In counterpoint to Kevin Holahan’s hilarious opening story, the first poem, entitled “Okay” was a powerful expression of her frustration with the creeping influence of corporate amorality over the past few decades.  Maureen followed that with “Lesser Known Saints,”  a droll tribute to the ancestors, stand-ins for former sainted superstars such as Christopher and Philomena.

Jim Rodgers followed with an excerpt from his novel “Long Night’s End.” The protagonist, Johnny Gunn, angry and bitter over the tragic death of his friend Jimmy, proceeds to take on an entire Greek soccer team along with the referee during a weekend match. After being pummeled, evicted, and banned from the league, Johnny returns home to soak his wounds in a hot bath, hiding from the world and wondering why God has abandoned the good people of Sunnyside.     270243_10151337674618948_182677068_n

Richard Butler then beautifully performed two songs: “I Wish I Could Forget You” from the musical Passion, music & lyrics by Stephen Sondheim; and “As We Stumble Along” from the musical The Drowsy Chaperone, music & lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison.

Kathy Callahan told rather than read a story from personal professional experience that vividly brought into the room the lives of the often invisible and marginalized and reminded us that such lives are complex, multi-faceted and even in direst adversity, hopeful. The immediacy of the story was very affecting.

Jack DiMonte introduced the song he sang by explaining that it is a Peter, Paul and Mary song—but an unusual one for them, “Whatshername,” a comical take about a man trying to remember the name of a long-lost love.

Then Malachy McCourt took to the stage with a very prescient poem he wrote after President Obama’s election in 2008, about the difficulties he was going to face in the next four years. As ever, he brought the evening to a rousing close with a song, “Oh, Boy, What Joy We Had in Barefoot Days.”

Happy New Year from the IAW&A!  (NEXT IAW&A SALON  Tues, Jan. 22 at The Cell)


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December 23, 2012

Final Salon of 2012: An Evening of Music, Poetry, Drama, Prose, and Dance

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By John Kearns

Musicians & singer_WREN_DAY

On Tuesday, December 18th, at the Cell Theatre on Manhattan’s West 23rd Street, a standing-room-only crowd enjoyed the final Irish American Writers and Artists’ Salon of 2012, an evening full of music, poetry, drama, prose, and dance.

We started off the evening with a round of applause for Charles Hale, who has stepped down from MCing and organizing the Salons and from the IAW&A Board of Directors.  We appreciate all of the hard work Charles put into building and running the Salon and we wish him well on his new project, Artists Without Walls.

Michele Cetera read a poignant tribute about her friend, Ivor Panell, who died of complications of sickle cell anemia at age forty six.  She then performed a high energy dance with partner Ricardo Villa to help the audience visualize Ivor’s spirit, endurance, and spunk.  He never let his disease bring him down. Through dance, he was able to embrace life and see all the color and beauty around him.  The dance/story was entilted, “Ode to a Friend.”

Arnine Cumsky Weiss took to the stage next to read a chapter from her new novel, She Ain’t Heavy,about loyalty and friendship and second chances.  Her publisher, Academy Chicago, will launch the e-book within the next two weeks and the hard copy in February/March.  We look forward to the book’s publication. arnine_weiss

Sarah Fearon and Jack O’Connell performed a first reading from Act I, Scene I of John Ford Noonan’s Conversations with Chekhov.  Sarah and Jack wanted to pay tribute to John Ford Noonan, who is now sixty nine and in an assisted living facility.  This piece was just one slice from his humorous cannon of work.  Jack’s friend, Tom Nohilly, states that Mr. Noonan has heard about the readings Sarah and Jack are doing and is glad to hear about them.  Sarah and Jack will probably repeat the scene in near future.

Honor Molloy closed out the first half of the evening with a funny and touching performance of “Sixpence the Stars” — a retelling of the Nativity story from the perspective of a Moore Street Market dealer at Christmastime in Dublin, circa 1966.  The story is an excerpt from Honor’s novel, Smarty Girl: Dublin Savage.

Just before the break, IAW&A Vice President and Black ’47 bandleader, Larry Kirwan spoke about the IAW&As new need to pay for the use of the Cell Theatre for its Salons.  The Cell had generously donated the space for over a year but now needs to charge us.  Larry passed a hat so that Salon attendees could help defray the cost.  Larry also wished Charles Hale well and encouraged everyone to support Artists Without Walls.

After the break, in his first Salon presentation, City College Creative Writing teacher and WBAI Radio producer, Brendan Costello read a short story set in the Jazz Age, entitled, “Mrs. Duncan (There Ain’t No Sweet Man).”  “A meditation on grief and mercy,” as Brendan described it, the story is based on an apocryphal anecdote about the 1920s jazz musician, Bix Biederbecke.

Tom Mahon read a piece from his series of prose/poems that take place in upstate New York’s Mohawk Valley.  In the story, set in the late 40s-early 50s, Mark Jenkins buys 700 acres and then goes to Scotland for a particular breed of sheep.  He returns with the sheep and a beautiful and intelligent wife, Mary.  Mark’s and Mary’s lives soar together until disaster strikes, and Mary shows her true mettle.  From there, they go on to live happy, prosperous lives, as all five of their children did, by leaving the land to become professionals.

Maura Mulligan, author of the uplifting memoir, Call of the Lark, gave a brief history about the origins of Wren Day, which occurs each year on December 26th.  In her Mayo village of Aghamore, colorful visitors, dressed in ribbons, straw, and masks would travel from house to house, entertaining neighbors with music, song, and dance.


Then Maura invited fiddler, Marie Reilly, and singer, Jack DeMonti, to join dancers from her céilí dance class on stage.  Jack sang “The Wren Song” made popular by the Clancy Brothers in the 60’s. Marie, whose CD, The Anvil, was released this year, played for Stephanie Lutz and Michelle Cetera who joined Maura in a lively jig.  Stephanie also played the bodhrán.  This Wren Day presentation was a colorful treat for Christmas!


Next, two accomplished actors, Annabel Hagg [] and Jake Green [], performed scenes from Martha Pinson’s original screenplay, Body Count 1968.  The work reflects the struggle of a young woman swept into the social, political, and sexual revolutions of the late 60s and a charming, brilliant, radical young man who is doing his best to sweep her into his arms.

Seamus Scanlon read from his crime fiction collection, As Close as You’ll Ever Be [Link:], which Peter Quinn has described as, “A masterpiece. Wildly disturbing and penetratingly truthful.”  The book is also available at the Mysterious Bookshop and The Center for Fiction. Seamus’s story captured the innocence and dark humor of childhood as well as the brutality of violence.

Singer/Songwriter Tara O’Grady debuted an original song that she wrote on the plane returning from Butte, Montana’s “An Ri Ra Irish Music Festival.” “That’s What the Miners Would Say: A Song for Butte” is about a day in 1917 when 163 miners died in a fire.  Based on notes they scribbled in the dark to their families as the smoke took away their last breaths, Tara imagined the mostly Irish-born miners in their final moments.

She ended the evening on a lighter note, performing a holiday classic, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” from the new album, Together for Christmas- A Contemporary Celtic Christmas Collection which also features other IAWA members Larry Kirwan and Ashley Davis.

Tara got audience members to snap their fingers to help her keep jazzy time as she sang, “Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas … shewbeedoobee!”…

Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas, indeed!

— John Kearns

photos by Kathy Callahan


November 15, 2012

After Sandy-related Postponement, “Irish Lark” Returns to Laurie Beechman Theatre

Filed under: Uncategorized — by johnleemedia @ 10:52 pm
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Singer Mary Deady returns to the West Bank Cafe on Wed., Nov. 28 at 7 pm to take her audience on another musical journey from Ireland to New York through the American Songbook  – songs by Burton Lane, Cole Porter, Alan Jay Lerner, Sondheim, and more.   Her last appearance there drew rave reviews; we recap one of them below.

Mary Deady’s American Songbook at the West Bank Cafe

By Cahir O’Doherty, Posted in on Wednesday, August 15, 2012 at 07:39 AM

Mary Deady

Some singers are so good you can literally hear how much a song means to them as they perform it. It doesn’t happen very often, but it did last week at the West Bank Cafe on 42nd Street as Irish singer Mary Deady unveiled her latest musical journey at the Broadway hotspot.

A familiar face on the Irish scene in the city, it felt as though we were being collectively re-introduced to her since she is perhaps best known for singing Irish music. For many, including myself, this was our first introduction to her as a singer of the American songbook.

Aided by the utterly flawless musicianship of pianist and musical director Jeff Cubeta, Deady’s show From Ireland to America: A Musical Journey In Song was a marvel from the opening number.

It was Deady’s good fortune to be born in Co. Kerry, holy ground for generations of world-class singers and musicians. There she learned to play the harp, and later she left for Dublin for classically trained singing lessons that would eventually take her far from home on the musical journey that was her own life.

Deady chose songs that conveyed the immigrant love (and sometimes secret pining for) the homeland, and this she did as well as I have ever had the good fortune to hear. But the show has wider ambitions than merely relying on all too easy sentiment. Deady has a compelling tale to tell, and that is part of what takes this performance to the next level.

What I did not anticipate was being so moved by the deep connections between her life and the music that she took ownership of, each time from the first note…

To read the rest of this post, please go HERE

Mary Deady
The Irish Lark

From Ireland to America: A Musical Journey in Song
traces Mary’s origins from a small village in County Kerry,
to traveling the world,
finding in time a home in New York City.
Although Mary is known for singing Irish music,
she has yearned to sing from the American Songbook
– from Porter to Sondheim –
where the heart and soul of this journey unfolds.
Mary is accompanied by Jeff Cubeta, Musical Director.
West Bank Cafe, The Laurie Beechman Theatre,
407 West 42nd
Street & 9th
Nov. 28th at 7:00 pm
$15 cover
$15 food/beverage minimum
Call 212-695-6909 to reserve


SRO for IAW&A Salon at the Thalia!

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by Charles R. Hale
One of the outgrowths and benefits of  the Irish American Writers & Artists’ salons has been an increasing number of collaborative efforts among its members.  Before a jam-packed, standing-room-only crowd at the Thalia Cafe, four members–two writers and two singers–provided perfect examples of this trend. 
Sarah Fearon
Inspired by a New York Times story about the Brooklyn apartment where she grew up, Karen Daly presented an evocative tribute to her grandmother, which brought tears to the eyes of at least one man in the room.  In “Mama’s Window,” she pictured her grandmother keeping watch on her from a building on Lincoln Place, and showed how the little girl would come to resemble her grandmother in so many ways.
Knowing the barest facts about the O’Connor family of Rector Street, New York, Karen wonders how their daughter became a woman of such dignity and fierce resolve. Like many Irish family stories, theirs had sadness and secrets and great love.
Karen movingly described her grandparents’ marriage and her grandmother’s desolation at her husband’s death. The emotion was perfectly expressed when singer Jack Di Monte surprised the room with a beautiful rendition of Irving Berlin’s “When I Lost You.” This seamless collaboration resulted from a chat at the prior salon. This was Jack’s first performance at a salon, but we learned that he sings at the Thalia on Monday nights.  We look forward to hearing more of Jack’s great voice, and more about Karen’s family.
We’ve heard Maura Mulligan read passages from her engaging memoir, Call of the Lark. Maura showed her true roots as a storyteller when she stood and recounted the night she left her home in County Mayo for America She movingly evoked the Ireland of her childhood in images of the turf fire, the boxty and butter-making. 
Maura Mulligan
When the neighbors come to bid farewell, they take turns churning the butter, a custom said to bring good luck to all in her thatched cottage.  Maura wonders  “Would that include me as well since I was to leave the following morning”?  Through the kitchen window young Maura sees “the rising of the full May moon as it climbs over the hill near the Well Field, where the fairy bush stands alone.”
Member Kathy Callahan said, “While listening to Maura tell her story I became so totally immersed in the rhythm of her voice and visual imagery that I lost track of time and place.”
John Kearns read two poems based on poetic passages in his novel-in-progress, Worlds. The first, “From the Brooklyn Bridge,” is a meditation upon immigration and on similarities between the Brooklyn Bridge and other sites in the New World to sacred sites in the ancient Celtic world.  In the second, “Seamus Logan’s Passage to the New World,” Seamus is in steerage between the Old World and the New World, telling a story of his wanderings through Mayo and Connemara and his other worldly vision of an abandoned village’s coming to life and being destroyed by the Great Hunger. 
Sarah Fearon work-shopped some new comedy material. Some of her ideas included, dealing with the beginning of the end of the world, and getting old.  Sarah also riffed on thinking outside the box before we wind up inside the box, the theory on identifying if you’re economically one of the 99% or 1%, and a new discovery revealed from Jesus’ shroud which seems to be examined far too often, which suggests that God was originally from New York. And my favorite, Sarah wondered why doctors ask us “What are we doing here today?” From the crowd’s response a good percentage of Sarah’s material is worth developing.
Guenevere Donohue
“This is for you all, an artist’s voice, but really a writer’s voice.” Playwright, actress and singer, Guenevere Donohue gave the Writers & Artists a vocal gift, a soulful sweet song, an original composition of melody to Charles Bukowski’s poem, “Bluebird.”  Guen’s open-hearted, tender take on the infamous Charles B was a great way to end the first half of the evening.
Jim Rodgers read an excerpt from his novel, Long Night’s End. His protagonist, Johnny Gunn, stands at his friend Jimmy’s wake at Lynch’s funeral parlor and the reader is brought into Johnny’s private thoughts– thoughts filled with sadness, bitterness, and rage at his friend’s tragic death. At the same time, we witness the characters of the story being weaved into the scene, highlighting the incomprehensible loss to Jimmy’s wife, Sunnyside, and his fellow New York City firemen. A strong and visceral end to Jimmy’s battle with the demons who had haunted him since that sunny day. 
Our thoughts went to the victims of hurricane Sandy when Maureen Hossbacher read a poignant excerpt from her novel-in-progress, The Grand March.  The excerpt, set in Rockaway Beach of the 1950’s, at the end of summer, after a hurricane,   introduced us to Nance Moran,  a young girl wrangling with the dissonance between sexuality and Catholicism. No doubt many in the captivated audience could relate to similar childhood awakenings and dilemmas. 
Malachy McCourt
Popular salon presenter, Tom Mahon, read a section of a children’s short story about a horse and a boy in upstate NY. The boy is out riding and discovers two hunters in his family’s woods, and boldly but cleverly gets them to leave. While raising his son, Tom discovered the shortage of good stories for boys that does not exist for girls. Tom mentioned that he’d like to work on remedying that shortage. 
Malachy McCourt closed the evening with a personal essay that dealt with the damage death does to familial relations and how death arouses sub-conscious anger toward the deceased. “We have no recourse or ability to settle matters when some one buggers off and dies leaving stuff undone,” Malachy said.  Fittingly, Malachy ended the evening with a song ” Isn’t it Grand Boys to be Bloody Well Dead”  After the applause and cheers subsided, Malachy called out “Great night !” And it was. 
For more about the Irish American Artists and Writers contact Charles R. Hale at

October 26, 2012

“Fireworks” at Salon at the Cell

“The whole night was like fireworks,” playwright Janet Noble said of Tuesday night’s IAW&A’s Salon at The Cell.  The perfect blend of presentations and talents made for an electric evening. There were two singers, three one-person acts that included music, two films, a scene from a play and four writers reading their works. It would be hard to pick the evening’s highlight but Janet’s play,  Hello, Mr. Chops, was certainly a candidate.  The one act play was given an hilarious reading by, as Janet calls them, “two gorgeous actors,” Mary Tierney and Jack O’Connell. It was brilliant and as Janet added, “Completely unrehearsed.” Bravo!
Mary Tierney and Jack O’Connell
Singer/songwriter Tara O’Grady opened the evening performing a melancholic tune called, “An Cuileann Sul Glas” (The Green Eyed Girl). Tara was recently introduced to her ninety-five year old cousin, Packie Moore, the author of thousands of tunes and stories, and her lyrics tell the story of his secret…marrying a Protestant girl in England. Eventually Packie was faced with a harsh dilemma: Which funeral does he attend when his wife and his father die on the same day?  “This but begins the woe, a modern Irish Romeo. Deny thy father, oh he could not.” The songwriting skills are obviously in the blood.
Charles R. Hale presented a film created by Lucy Mathews Heegaard and Charles called Judy Collins: A Life in Music and Video, which  which was debuted at the Eugene O’Neill Lifetime Achievement Award event last week. I told of my “creative process,” how I likened my work to a four movement classical symphony and how the “movement” of the images in the last section of the video called “Peace” were inspired by the fourth movement of Beethoven’s Third Symphony., Charles noted that mentioning Beethoven and him in the same breath might be a stretch, so, as he said, “Go ahead, sue me.” 
Guenevere Donohue
Guen Donohue once again combined her acting, singing and writing talents in a performance from her stage piece, Killer is my Name. Beginning with a haunting Irish funeral dirge known as keening, she then stood on a table and improvised her father’s time spent walking the beams while building the WTC.  As she balanced “on the beam” she told of her father’s lost friends who “took the fall” as well as those who inhaled the asbestos, pronouncing that the buildings had taken lives before it had even been built. Her finale was an original song, “Revered,” yet another haunting vocal performance, weaving together the grandness and melancholy of the WTC experience in the Sean Nos tradition. Poignant, beautiful, cathartic.
Brendan Connellan jumped up and told a fast paced tale of unhealthy addiction, frantic flirtation, tottering self regard, Burgerking bags of cash  and sorry and abrupt endings, taken from his Wall Street dark comic novel-in-progress, Trading Ninja
Cathy Maguire
First time presenter, Cathy Maguire, brought her guitar and sang two beautiful tunes. One, “Portrait” is also the title tune of her recently released CD and tells the story of the songwriter looking at a very old and worn wedding photo and wondering how their lives turned out. It was a great treat hearing this talented singer who was warmly received by salon crowd. 
Kevin R.McPartland began the second half of the evening reading a short passage from his soon to be released novel Brownstone Dreams. Kevin describes the protagonist Bobby Dutton’s sad reflections at his grandfather’ s wake. Kevin also announced a slight delay in the release of his book by Boann Books & Media due to a glitch in the book jacket design and a final edit. Kevin is now anticipating a launch in the early spring.
Seamus Scanlon read from his highly regarded new collection As Close As You’ll Ever Be.  There wasn’t a dry eye in the house! The book is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Mysterious Bookshop, Centre for Fiction, City College Bookstore and direct from Seamus (
Malachy McCourt rounded out this dynamic evening with a few fine words and a stirring rendition of “Go, Lassie Go.” A perfect ending to the perfect event.
For more on the Irish American Writers and Artists or their salons, contact Charles R.  Salons are normally the first and third Tuesday of each month; however, the next salon will be on the second Tuesday of the month, Nov. 13, 7PM at the Thalia Cafe at 95th and Broadway. 
Photos by Cathleen “Cat” Dwyer

October 19, 2012

Judy Collins’s O’Neill Award Celebration Reunites Folk Legends and Inspires Artists

by John Kearns

“I have always believed that, in my heart, I am first and foremost a storyteller descended from a long line of Irish storytellers and balladeers.”   Judy Collins

Eugene O’Neill Award, crafted by Tiffany & Co.

On Monday, October 15, 2012, in the middle of the one of the year’s great celebrations, the The Irish American Writers & Artists Eugene O’Neill Lifetime Achievement Awards Celebration, 93-year-old folksinger, songwriter, and fighter for civil rights, peace, and the environment, Pete Seeger, stood strumming his enduring banjo before a hushed audience of over 200.

“If the world is still around in another 100 years,” he declared, “it will be because of the arts.”


And the large crowd in attendance at the Eugene O’Neill Lifetime Achievement Award at the Manhattan Club above Rosie O’Grady’s on a rainy Monday night was testament to the truth of Seeger’s declaration.  The crowd, representing all genres of the arts, had gathered to celebrate Judy Collins’s lifetime of artistic achievement and to show its commitment to further such achievement.  The spirit of inspiration, encouragement, generosity, and cross-pollination was abundant in the friendly atmosphere of the Manhattan Club.  Indeed, Judy Collins’s long-time friend on the folk music scene, Tom Paxton, was on hand to honor her, as was Pete Seeger.  Even the City of New York showed its support for the arts: City Council Speaker Christine Quinn issued a special proclamation in honor of the event.


In keeping with the musical theme of the evening, Black ’47 bandleader, author, and playwright, Larry Kirwan, acted as Master of Ceremonies.  Larry got the ceremony started by introducing IAW&A President, T.J. English.

TJ English


T.J. who has taken over the presidency from Peter Quinn, apologized for not being as eloquent as his speech-writer predecessor.


“While Peter was writing about ‘a shining city on a hill’ for Mario Cuomo, I was saying, ‘Get the fuck out of my cab.’”


Past President Peter Quinn & Current President TJ English

TJ updated the audience on some of the progress made by the IAW&A over the past year, in particular the burgeoning success of the semimonthly Salons at the Café Thalia and the Cell Theatre.  These evenings have become so popular that IAW&A is preparing a third monthly gathering of artists to share their work with one another.


T.J. also talked about the mission of the IAW&A and of the Eugene O’Neill Lifetime Achievement Award.  The Eugene O’Neill Lifetime Achievement Award was established in 2009 to honor the accomplishments of a writer, actor, musician, or cultural institution that has sustained a body of work that best exemplifies the level of integrity maintained by O’Neill.  O’Neill Awards have been presented to Pulitzer-prize winning author William Kennedy, actor Brian Dennehy, and Charlotte Moore and Ciarán O’Reilly of New York’s Irish Repertory Theatre.  Judy Collins is the first musician to receive the award.


However, the IAW&A president added, there is another purpose of the award that might not be found in its official description.  By recognizing an individual such as Judy Collins who, with her 38 albums and five books, has spent a lifetime as an artist, the Eugene O’Neill Lifetime Achievement Award can inspire others to forge a career in the arts, a career for which “there are no entry-level positions and there is no blueprint.”


Larry Kirwan next introduced Tom Moran, Chief Executive Officer and President of Mutual of America Life Insurance.  Tom began by saying, like T.J., he had been a New York City cab driver.  But, unlike T.J., before chasing customers out of the cab, “I always made sure to get the tip.”


Tom Moran

Tom Moran said that he has no talent himself but he does have the ability to listen — not only with his ears but with his heart.  Listening with both ears and heart, Moran explained, was necessary to appreciate the beautiful voice and the soulful emotion in the music of Judy Collins.  He also praised Judy Collins’s work for Concern Worldwide, the Irish charity of which he is chairman.


Introducing IAW&A Co-Director Charles Hale, Larry Kirwan attributed much of the success of the Salons to the welcoming atmosphere created by Charles whom, Larry recognized for being particularly good at encouraging first-time presenters.  Charles introduced and showed the original short film he created with Lucy Matthews Heegaard about the life and music of Judy Collins, “Walls: We Are Not Forgotten.” Watch the video.


The film, featuring the Judy Collins’s voiceover taken from Charles’s interview with the folksinging legend, takes us through Collins’s life from childhood to the present, focusing on her mother and father, her son, her music, and her work for peace.  The soundtrack on the film features the soaring song “Walls: We Are Not Forgotten” composed and sung by Collins with lyrics from a poem by her husband, Korean-War-Memorial designer, Louis Nelson.


“Everyone at their heart is in some ways Irish, I’m convinced,” Collins says in the film, “because there’s a piece of all of us that has this deeply wounded place that needs to be healed by music.  The Irish do that all the time.”


Before bringing Peter Seeger to the stage, Larry Kirwan told the story of how he first met the indomitable folksinger in the ’70s, when Seeger was beginning his campaign to clean up the polluted Hudson River.  Larry recalled playing some concerts near Seeger’s hometown, which did not always have the most receptive audiences.  As a young man newly arrived from Ireland, Larry marveled at Seeger’s determination to change things and his confidence that his effort would succeed.  Seeger’s career, Larry stated, reminds him of the words of Bobby Sands, “Everyone … has their own particular part to play. No part is too great or too small; no one is too old or too young to do something.”


Pete Seeger did not make a speech.

Pete Seeger

Instead, he strummed his banjo and softly sang, “Quite Early Morning,” about the power of song to inspire the next generation to sing and play and to fight for justice.   Seeger’s voice is not as strong as it once was, but his spirit certainly is, and he had a full house willing to join in with him.


“And so keep on while we live

Until we have no, no more to give

And when these fingers can strum no longer

Hand the old banjo to young ones stronger … ”


I don’t know of any “young ones stronger” who can take up Pete Seeger’s banjo when he finally grows too tired to play.  But, perhaps the song did inspire some younger artists listening, as T.J. English suggested the Eugene O’Neill Award has the power to do, and as Peter Seeger has done for decades.


“I know that you who hear my singing

Could make those freedom bells go ringing.”


Seeger exhorted us to keep the song going.  With considerable gusto, the 93-year-old urged us to sing it, “One more time!”


Growing up in Wexford, Ireland, Larry Kirwan said he wanted to play the guitar like Jimi Hendrix.  Then one day, he turned on Radio Telefis Eireann (RTE), the only channel available on his black-and-white TV at the time, and saw a man alone on stage playing a quiet acoustic guitar and singing.  The singer, Tom Paxton, revealed to Larry a new type of communication between artist and audience and Larry realized that music did not have to be “blasted out” to be effective.  After this story, Larry got the crowd to sing a few bars from Tom Paxton’s “The Last Thing on My Mind.”


Tom Paxton took to the stage with his guitar, and he did sing “The Last Thing on My Mind.”  However, he first sang a song about falling in love simultaneously with a woman and with Ireland.

Tom Paxton


Finishing the tune, he quipped, “Never let it be said that I don’t know how to pander to an audience.”


When Paxton did perform “The Last Thing on My Mind,” a song beautifully recorded by Judy Collins, the Manhattan Club crowd sang along with him.


Using a slang term, he picked up in Ireland and the U.K., Paxton paid Judy Collins the tribute of dubbing her a true “muso,” or a “lifer” dedicated to the creation and performing of music.


Next up was the man that Larry described as needing no introduction, IAW&A Co-Director, Malachy McCourt. In presenting Judy Collins with her Eugene O’Neill Lifetime Achievement Award, created and donated by Tiffany & Co., Malachy thanked Judy Collins for being a true friend and a treasure throughout the many years that he has known her.  He jokingly wished that she would become a Mormon so that she could welcome him as a second husband.

Judy Collins happily accepted the award and thanked and hugged Malachy and Larry.  She spoke of how happy she was to have her name associated with the great Eugene O’Neill and agreed with Pete Seeger’s assertion that whatever future we will have will be because of the arts.  Interspersing bits of a cappella singing, Collins told amusing tales about her career and about how she met her husband.


Emcee Larry Kirwan & Honoree Judy Collins

To wrap up the ceremony, Co-Director Ashley Davis gathered Pete Seeger, Tom Paxton, and Judy Collins on stage to sing, “Will You Go Lassie, Go?”  The audience, of course, was very willing to help out.


Then it was back to the socializing at the open bar with generous hors d’œuvre that kept coming and coming.  Novelists, musicians, poets, actors, filmmakers, photographers, illustrators, and artists of all stripes made and renewed connections well past the party’s official closing time.  Here’s hoping that they also renewed their commitment to keep the music going, until their “fingers can strum no longer.”

Congratulations to Judy Collins on her Eugene O’Neill Lifetime Achievement Award!  Judy Collins believes she is from a long line of storytellers and balladeers.  A line that’s still being drawn …

And a special thanks to all our patrons, advertisers, supporters, volunteers, presenters and to the great crew at Rosie’ O’Grady’s Manhattan Club for making this event such a success!

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