Irish American Writers & Artists

August 30, 2012

Kirwan Rocks Stephen Foster in new musical “Hard Times”

“Hard Times” Headlines 1st Irish Theatre Festival, a Month of New Irish Theatre in NYC

Hard Times is a soulful musical of clashing Irish and Afro- American cultures, written by IAW&A Board member Larry Kirwan of Black 47. Through a re-imagining of Stephen Foster’s songs, Kirwan conjures the creation of tap dance and explores the troubled life of the “father of American Music” against the backdrop of New York City’s Civil War draft riots.

The venue will be familiar to IAW&A Salon goers–The Cell Theatre on West 23rd Street, NYC

By Larry Kirwan
Songs by Stephen Foster and Larry Kirwan

Sept 13 – 30
13-15 at 8pm
19 at 3pm
21, 22, 24, 27, 28, 29 at 8pm
30 at 3pm

Opening: Thursday, September 13th, 2012
Closing: Sunday, September 30th, 2012

for more info and to order tickets, go to


August 27, 2012

SRO at the Salon at The Cell

Filed under: Events,Literature,Music,Theater,Visual Arts — by johnleemedia @ 2:12 pm
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A standing room only crowded greeted first time presenter Sanem Ozdural at the IAW&A Salon on Tuesday night. Sanem, a New Yorker by way of New Orleans, England and Turkey opened the evening with her debut novel LiGa, a story of a bridge tournament in which the players are, literally, gambling with their lives.  Set in the near future, a secretive organization, LiGa, has developed the technology to transfer the regenerative power of a body’s cell from one person to another. The tournament ends when one or more of the players reaches the point at which their cells no longer degenerate, thus conferring a form of immortality. In the reading we were introduced to the colorful cast of players, which included, among others, a formula one driver, a judge, and a Jesuit priest. Great beginning to a great evening.

Mary Carter

Singer, songwriter Tara O’Grady read a piece from her memoir Transatlantic Butterflies and the November Moon. In a flashback, Tara transported the listeners to a night in Donegal, where she stood under a moon similar to the one her mother stood under the night before she migrated to America. Tara finished her presentation with a beautiful song, taken from the book’s title, “November Moon.” The lyrics were taken from a poem she wrote while gazing at the moon in Donegal.  If you have an opportunity to hear this wonderful singer perform, you should. You can find the song on Tara’s second album Good Things Come to Those Who Wait

Three women presenting entirely different works followed Tara. First, Mary Tierney, with actor Ron Ryan, delivered a powerful performance of the first in a series of Haiku Plays, by Chris Force, which came out of her time at TimeBanksNYC (TBNYC). I’m looking forward to hearing and watching this first rate actor perform more of Force’s work in the near future. Another first time presenter, Mary Carter, who is a novelist, writing coach at The Manhattan Writers Den, and actress stepped up to the mic. Mary has written six novels and three novellas for Kensington Books, and is currently working on her seventh novel and fourth novella, both of which will be published in 2013. A very talented writer and reader, Mary read from her sixth novel, The Things I Do For You. And then Honor Molloy stepped up and presented “Backassed,” a small tale of humiliation, East Village, 1980s-style. This brief memoir tracks the end of a relationship, and the end of an era. Packed with emotion, Honor’s readings are always a tour de force and Tuesday night’s performance was no exception.

Gary Ryan

From generations of Mississippians, through Harvard, with a few detours through McSorley’s Old Ale House, poet and writer Gary Ryan dropped in and added his varied talents to the evening’s events. Gary’s writings are often about Mississippi and its environs, from the present day, and from the past.  Gary began with a poem, a conversation with a girl in a driving rain, which was followed by a story about a Confederate soldier tasked with digging five graves. Excellent work.

The second half of the evening opened with a dynamic act. Marni Rice, Chanteuse-Accordionist & Theatre Artist, who has performed her show in Canada, France, Japan, Gabon and the Cameroon, presented an excerpt from her solo play “Tales from Paris/Contes de Paris,” an autobiographical story about an American woman who goes to Paris with $100, a handful of songs and an accordion to discover the city of lights. Combining song, story & character she spins the tale of being a street musician whose survival is dependent upon the assistance granted by the kindness of strangers. An exciting, passionate performance by a multi-talented artist. More about Marni and her music.

Stephanie Silber

Stephanie Silber followed a tough act but was up to task deftly reading her well-crafted short story, “Houdini,” an oblique contemplation of gun violence as seen through the prism of a slice of American life: an aging woman, her silent, smoldering, live-at-home adult son, and their trip to the mall, which culminates in the escape of the son’s emotionally damaged dog, Houdini.  What happens when the beast within every human heart finally slips its chains?

Niamh Hyland, who recently appeared at Lincoln Center’s OurLand Fest and sang Stephen Foster’s “Hard Times Come Again No More,” wowed the audience with a reprise of her performance. Singing a cappella, Niamh’s bravura performance was one of the evening’s many great highlights. I hope she comes back soon.

Brendan Connellan

Brendan Connellan, whose readings are becoming an audience favorite, read from his dark Wall Street novel, Biggie Big Shot, which touched on the inconvenient feelings of we human beings, the acute need for speed when firing somebody before they go and break stuff and a digression on the merits of Bruce Springsteen as the axe was being sharpened. Fun and Games!

Kathleen Walker

Kathleen Walder read a poem inspired by her earliest memory “Silent Screams.” A great healing and release process occurs when I am able to write about, and then share, painful, old experiences with others. At the end of the evening Kathleen commented, “This evening and the entire experience is tremendously freeing. It helps me open up my writing. I am so grateful that the IAWA salons exist.” We’re grateful she’s a part of our group.  

And then, a big ending: Harpist, songwriter Russell Patrick Brown performed a work titled “Little Animals,” which was inspired by a cat he ran over, which now shall live on forever in his angelic song played with harp, accompanied by, as Russell calls it, “his dulcet vocal tones.” Russell is a well-known New York town bard, a few parts American, and shockingly, even a little Irish. Why shockingly? You’ll have to hear him. No tiptoeing through the tulips for Russell, a storyteller, harpist, pianist, singer, dancer, aerialist and most modest man. Great act. 

Salons are normally held on the first and third Tuesdays of each month. The next salon will be at the Thalia Café, located at Broadway and 95thStreet, on September 4 at 7PM.

For more information on the Irish American Writers and Artists and their salon series contact Charles R. Hale

 Photos by Cathleen “Cat” Dwyer

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April 16, 2012

IAW&A Members about Town

Filed under: Events,Literature,Music,Theater,Visual Arts — by johnleemedia @ 1:06 pm
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by Charles Hale

Are you looking for some low cost entertainment in New York this week?  Here are three alternatives:
 On Tuesday night, April 17th, The Irish American Writers & Artists Salon at The Cell begins at 7PM.  The salon allows members up to ten minutes to present in the medium of their choice, reading from a published work or one in progress, staging or reading from a play, a musical performance, presenting a work of art or telling a story. While the presentations are limited to members, all are welcome. This week highlights will include Aedin Moloney, who recently appeared in the Irish Repertory Theatre’s Dancing at Lughnasa, reading Molly’s soliloquy from James Joyce’s Ulysses, TJ English, author of a number of bestsellers, including Havana Nocturne, reading from his latest book, Savage City, and Connie Roberts, (photo left) the 2010 winner of the Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Award will be reading her poetry. The Cell is located at 338 W23rd Street. Admission is free.
On Thursday evening, April 19th, at Fornino’s restaurant in Park Slope, Brooklyn, Billy Barrett will be hosting an evening of reading and performances. Barrett, master of the neo-beat confessional will riff on being brassy Boston Irish, while Honor Molloy (photo right) and Kevin Holohan will be providing the Irish Black Comedy. Holohan will read from The Brother’s Lot, a satirical and hilarious novel that explores religious hypocrisy in an Irish secondary school and Molloy will
be reading from Smarty-Girl-Dublin Savage, a wild child’s struggle to hold her family together in 1960s’ Dublin.  Word is the evening will be kicked off by a jazz trio. Fornino’s is located at 254 Fifth Avenue in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn. Admission is free. I’d be attending this event if it weren’t for the fact that I’ll be back at The Cell that same night, Thursday, April 19th, appearing in a full length reading of ….
Stoopdreamers and Other Brooklyn Stories, a play by Pat Fenton. Fenton intimates the dreams, trials and travails of ordinary people trying to find the American dream in post WWII Windsor Terrace, among them a cop who really wanted to be a writer, a movie projectionist at the Sanders Theatre whose life is defined by the continuance of movie reels as he waits for the changeover mark, and a beautiful dreamer named Janice Joyce who tried to go home again. Fenton’s play is an Irish-American story about an area that was once the hub of one of the greatest, Irish working-class neighborhoods in Brooklyn.  Jack O’Connell, who appears in the TV program Blue Bloods, will be performing the role of Moon Mullins, I, (photo left) who haven’t appeared in Blue Bloods, will be reading the role of Terry Smith, an Irish cop…talk about stereotyping.  Admission is free.

April 12, 2012

“Dancing at Lughnasa” Star Aedin Moloney Highlights April 17 Salon

Filed under: Events,Literature,Theater — by johnleemedia @ 8:06 pm
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The Irish American Writers & Artists’ Salon at The Cell on Tues., April 17  is shaping up to be a great event. Aedin Moloney, who recently starred as Rose in the Irish Repertory’s production of Dancing at Lughnasa, a performance the Wall Street Journal described as “especially striking,” will be reading Molly’s soliloquy from James Joyce’s Ulysses.  Those who have heard Aedin read Molly describe it as mesmerizing.

The Cell is located at 338 W23rd Street. The Salon begins at 7:00 and runs until about 9:30

See for yourself what all the fuss is about an IAW&A salon.

March 22, 2012

Post St. Patrick’s Day at Salon at the Cell

Filed under: Essay,Events,Film,Literature,Music,Theater,Visual Arts — by johnleemedia @ 6:30 pm
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The song Waltzing Matilda, an Australian bush song, was written in the late nineteenth century. Australian Eric Bogle used lyrics from the tune in his anti-war derivative “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda,” and Tom Waits followed that with his very personal “Tom Traubert’s Blues,” which incorporates lyrics from Bogle’s song.  Wait’s recording was at the heart of presenter Tom Mahon’s work “Hanoi’s Most Dangerous People,” at Tuesday night’s Irish American Writers & Artists’ Salon at The Cell.  But unlike the anti-war sentiment of Bogle’s version, Mahon effectively used Waits’ recording as the backdrop for his cathartic journey back to Vietnam, where he served as a soldier during the Vietnam war.  A beautifully photographed journey accompanied by a nice twist on an old tune. 

First time reader, Kate McLeod (photo above) read a personal essay, “What the Sock Drawer Says” which came to her when she was pondering a heaping drawer full of  single, mismatched socks and thought of it as a metaphor for her life. Single  again, after she lost her husband, she felt out of place and like a stranger.  McLeod’s piece included a wonderful segment/impersonation of Martha Stewart on how to organize a sock drawer and some insights into an extraterrestrial conspiracy that looks into the possibility that losing socks in the rinse cycle of washing machines around the world may be an alien phenomenon.  Kate, a journalist and playwright, is a wonderful addition to our growing group of talented artists. 

Pat Hanrahan read another excerpt from his novel/thesis in progress. We met another of his main characters, John Fitzgerald, who has moved back to his old home, having separated from his wife. John now has to listen to his father, instead. Pat mentioned that reading aloud, hearing his own voice in front of an audience, leads to hours of rewriting, which he believes has really aided his writing process.  Perfect. That is exactly what Malachy McCourt visualized when he first suggested the salon format.
Another first time reader, Gary Ryan, (photo left) presented several short poem and prose pieces borne of experiences in both New York City, where he lives, and Mississippi, where he grew up. At one point he was able to mention Faulkner and the ill-fated Donner Party in the same sentence. Deft, Gary. 

Charles Hale followed, debuting his short video Breathing of an Ancestor’s Space and Time (featured in earlier blogpost). By understanding the events that surrounded one incident in his grandfather’s life he was able to get the “feel of things,” he was able to breathe from my grandfather’s space and time.  Mark Donnelly read three scenes from the play he is writing about Mother Jones, an Irish immigrant who was a prominent union organizer in the American Labor Movement in the early 20th Century. A very spirited reading.  And Kathy Lawrence read from Becoming Irish, her memoir. Kathy read a light story–the time she and her Mom went to the Irish Consulate for citizenship and end up shamelessly flirting with some handsome cops. And a dark story–A 1912 family photograph reveals a terrible secret that has ramifications for Kathleen and her siblings to this day.  As Kathy says, she comes from a family that never stops giving…literary material, that is. 

Novelist Honor Molloy read from The Carpet with the Big Pink Roses on It by Maeve Brennan  This work is  from Honor’s series on reading stories to children, which are written by a variety of writers. Watching Honor you had the sense that she loved being able to let the story flow through her. A great story performed by a great reader.

Kevin McPartland read from chapter two of his soon to be published, coming of age novel, Brownstone Dreams. It’s a story set in sixties Park Slope, Brooklyn, and is based on his deceased cousin Robert’s tragic life. Another great Brooklyn story from this much anticpated novel. 

Pat Fenton, along with the wonderfully expressive and talented actor, Jack O’Connell, read from his play Stoopdreamer and Other Brooklyn StoriesThe play is about a lost part of Irish working-class Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn, and some of the characters who lived in it before Robert Moses drove the Prospect Expressway through the very heart of it in 1953, and divided it forever. Pat recently added the words Brooklyn Stories to his title, since, as he said, “The arts in Brooklyn are pretty hot now, and that new title has more universal appeal.”

Billy Barrett, (photo above) closed out the evening reading from his memoir in progress Highway Star. Billy carries himself with the bravado of a new crowned prince in urban street confessionals. Vivid, poignant and gritty or maybe he’s just decided to get his life off his chest. “Fat and forty ain’t that bad…” he says with a smile.

The next Salon will be at the Thalia Cafe, located at Symphony Space on the corner of 95th and Broadway, beginning at 7PM. For info on joining the Irish American Writers and Artists or attending a salon, contact Charles R. Hale

March 21, 2012

“Breathing of an Ancestor’s Space and Time” Debuts at Salon

Filed under: Essay,Literature,Television,Theater — by johnleemedia @ 4:16 pm
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Charles Hale debuted his short film “Breathing of an Ancestor’s Space and Time” at last night’s IAW&A Salon at The Cell.

By understanding the events that surrounded one incident in his grandfather’s life through this video, Hale is able to get the “feel of things,” he is able to breathe from his grandfather’s space and time.

Author Peter Quinn called Hale’s video, “Concise and eloquent, narrative that borders on poetry, subtle yet emotional….The restraint in the piece is powerful…a willingness to let viewers and listeners have their own thought instead of telling them what to think.”


March 8, 2012

To Hell and Back at The Thalia Salon


Hell’s Bells and the The Bells of Hell were a central theme of Tuesday’ night Irish American Writers and Artists’ salon at the Thalia Cafe on Tuesday. Malachy McCourt, one of the owners of the old Greenwich Village saloon Hell’s Bells, told a riotous story of how the name of the saloon was banned from the New York telephone directory and then led the attendees in a chorus of The Bells of Hell. New member David Coles also invoked the spirit of the old saloon, reading from his novel In the Midnight Choir, based on his New York City life in the 1970s, hanging out in two Village saloons, the aforementioned Hell’s Bells and The Lion’s Head. Wonderful story.

John Kearns reminded the audience that his play In the Wilderness will be on stage in early June. John read two St. Patrick’s Day selections.  The first, from his book, Dreams and Dull Realities, was about a young boy’s refusing to wear a “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” button on Saint Patrick’s Day.  The second, a story called “Making a Visit,” described a Paddy’s Day memory of a young woman’s dancing a jig on top of a bar.   

First time presenter Guenevere Donohue read and sang from her new playKiller is My Name. As Guenevere described it, Killer is personal myth, memory as legend, and the mystery of the Marine, poet and spy who was her father. I look forward to this multi-talented woman sharing more of her art. 

Tom Mahon shared a story “Lat Life Happiness,” a love story for seniors, which he noted there are far too few.  Sheila Walsh read from her new play“Mr. Tweedy’s Nieghbors,’ a play about spiritural renewal the Irish-American way.  John Kearns and Sarah Fearon assisted Sheila in the reading. Sarah then provided the evening’s comic relief reading from new comedy notes.  

Mikelle Terson read three poems.  ”So No, We Cannot Be Friends”, a poem about betrayal and soap, “Behind”, which speaks to the depth of story behind “the bones of the brow” of each person we meet in our everday lives, and ”For Those Who Can Hear” which addresses the urgent situation of the African Elephant.

Mikelle also asked the audience to “hear  the calling” by entering her “What Made the Elephant Happy?” writing contest.  Deadline is March 15th, 2012.  The five dollar entrance fee goes to the elephants.
Judges are the venerable Malachy McCourt and jazz great, David Amram.  

Maureen Walsh followed with a story “The Enemies of Rose” about an eccentric godmother who enlivens the narrator’s childhood during the Irish-American heyday of 1950′s New York, when St Patrick’s balls were held at midtown hotels and everyone summered at the ‘Irish Riviera,’ also known as  Rockaway Beach. 

Robert Haydon Jones read “My Tawdry Story” a tale about what happens to a highly respected senior citizen from Connecticut when his DNA is a perfect match with semen found at an unsolved rape murder in Miami more than 30 years ago. A riveting story and well read.

Kathy Callahan’s laugh out loud memoir in progress, A Tale of Two Snoring Readers was anything but sleep inducing. She read of those suffering from sleep apnea, discovering how to overcome its significant challenges, the stigmas and complications that effect intimate relationships, daily functioning and emotional health.   

And Kate Vaughan, calling on her substantial Irish wit, read from her novel in progress Shennanigans, which takes place at the Lt. Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Home and shows how even in sad times we can always make the best of it, and know that with God’s help/love anything is possible.  

Great evening enjoyed by a full house. 

The next Irish American Writers and Artists’ salon will be at The Cell theatre, 338 W.23 Street, on March 20, beginning at 7PM.  For more information about the salons or the Irish American Writers and Artists contact Charles Hale at

February 23, 2012

“What at Night!” at Salon at The Cell

As Terry “The Toad” Fields says in the final scene of the film American Grafitti, “Jesus what a night!”  That’s what folks were saying about the Irish American Writers and Artists’ Salon at the Cell on Tuesday night. And speaking of American Grafitti, just as George Lucas included Del Shannon’s “Runaway” in a scene in which Toad is tooling  around in his friend’s ’58 Chevy, Pat Fenton deftly incorporates Shannon’s song into his play Stoopdreamer and Other Windsor Terrace Stories

And what a treat is was to have actor Jack O’Connell, who has appeared in a recurring part as the character Stanich in the TV series Blue Bloods, read from Fenton’sStoopdreamer.

Stoopdreamer revisits a lost part of Irish working-class Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn, and some of the characters who lived in it before Robert Moses drove the Prospect Expressway through the very heart of it in 1953, and divided it forever.  A terrific reading by O’Connell of Fenton’s slice of Brooklyn life. 

Pat Hanrahan began the evening reading from his novel in progress.  The story is set in a small Irish town early this century. The main characters are an elderly man living in a nursing home who came home after years in England,  a local man, whose wife threw him out around the time his mother died and a young woman who runs a family business and was affected directly by 9/11. Listening to Pat you had the feeling this was going to be a special evening.  

Singer/songwriter Ashley Davis, a cofounder of the IAW&A, accompanied by two musicians, harpist Cormac De Barra and violinist Megan Hurt, beautifully performed two songs, “Wild Mountainside” and “These Winter Days” from her latest album Songs of the Celtic Winter. The warm sound of Hurt’s fiddle beautifully rounded out Ashley’s tunes.  

Kathleen Frazier read from Silkie Girl, historical fiction inspired by her grandmother and the countless Irish girls who ventured to America to work as domestic servants.  Through their efforts they sponsored countless others to join them on these shores.

Kathleen announced that her personal essay on sleepwalking will appear in the memoir section of the March/April issue of Psychology Today.  Her coverage of the 2011 Norman Mailer Gala, “A Gala Raises the Question: Are You an Activist?” will appear in the spring issue (March) of the quarterly magazine, Avalon.

Maura Mulligan, a salon regular, whose memoir Call of the Lark will be published on May 10th, read a humorous passage of her early dancing days in Mayo.  In a solo competition at her first feis, held in the middle of a field, her shoe went flying into the air and landed on the judge’s desk. He disqualified her. A beady -eyed man, the locals called him “the ferret.” Because it was customary to bow to the judge, her mother reminded her with a wag of her finger: “Now, don’t you forget to bow to the ferret.”  An exquisite reading from a very talented writer. 

Mark Donnelly followed with a stirring reading of the opening scene of his new play, Mother Jones, the Irish immigrant who played an important role as a union organizer in the American Labor Movement during the early decades of the 20th Century.  John Kearns announced that his play, In the Wilderness, a story of a South Bronx high school will be part of the Planet Connections Theatre Festivity in June (six dates TBA). John also read a poem called, “Valentine Avenue.   And Kevin Holohan, author of the highly acclaimed novel, The Brothers’ Lot, read a short story which captures a mother’s unconditional love for a grown-up, messed-up child that the rest of the world and even she may not entirely like. 

Mary Lou Quinlan performed a scene from her play The God Box, currently in workshop in NYC. The play is part of a multi-media project linked to her upcoming book, also called The God Box. Mary Lu lovingly shared her mother’s gift of faith, love and letting go. The God Box will be released on April 17, 2012.

Novelist Gavin Corbett followed Kevin with a selection of poems that touched on a variety of topics including the recent deaths of Steve Jobs and Whitney Houston, late-evening cricket, and the divine qualities of French bulldogs. Using techniques such as non-rhymes and non-sequiturs, Gavin had us all staring at our feet in bewilderment, when we weren’t rolling on the floor with laughter. One of the funniest readings I’ve heard in years.

Billy Barrett kept it cranking with an edgy reading from his memoir in progress, ‘Highway Star.  “They honeymooned in New York, took in Lenny Bruce and affected a blue-note cool that flew through the roofs of their B-52’s into nights full of gazing the stars. Jack Jones and Bobby Darin poured out of the hi-fi like Perfect Manhattans being dumped on the slats of Toots Shor’s. What a gas! The whole world was looking in…. “ Riveting writing, great presentation.

Michelle Woods announced that her book Censoring Translation: Censorship, Theatre and the Politics of Censorship Translation will be out in April.  She ended the evening with an excellent reading from a novel in progress, called Right. 

Great, great night!
The next salon will be at the Thalia Café, located at Symphony Space,  on 95th and Broadway. The salons begin at 7PM. For more information about the salons and joining the Irish American Writers and Artists, contact Charles Hale @

January 19, 2012

A Big Night at “Salon at The Cell”

by Charles Hale

Tuesday evening’s IAW&A’s Salon at The Cell began with newly elected Irish American Writers and Artists’ president, TJ English, whose best seller, The Savage City,  is now available in paperback, thanking the members and friends in attendance for making the Salon the success it has become.

Following TJ, the talented writer, John Kearns, who has presented poetry, a novel in progress and scenes from his plays at prior Salons, read a segment from his first novel,  The World, in which the main character, known as “The Youth,” stands on a bridge over a littered stream and receives his vocation to be a writer. After this experience, the character becomes known as “The Artist.” 

Maura Mulligan, whose book, Call of the Lark,will be published on May 10, the anniversary of her arrival in the United States from Ireland, read from a novel in progress. The main character works as a teacher in the NYC Department of Education. She is confronted with a problem–unwanted, unprofessional attention from the principal of the school–that she’s never had to deal with.  The question is, how will she deal with this sexual harassment? Given Maura’s wonderful facility for words, as evidenced by her past readings from Call of the Lark, I anxiously await the development of this new work. 

New IAW&A member Tom Phelan read a gripping selection from his latest novel, Nailer, in which a former inmate of the Irish industrial schools sets out to achieve justice for himself and his murdered brother. I hope Tom comes back and continues reading from this extraordinary work. 

Tom Mahon, who read the first half of his story “Outcasts,” at a recent Thalia Care Salon, followed Pat with the second half of his story.  Tom explained how he’d written the story two years ago of a husband and wife from the husband’s point of view, but on rewriting realized that the wife’s ongoing dance with formidable demons really made it her story.  

I closed the out the first half of the evening with a video John Coakley’s White Wings, which examines how poor immigrants lived in New York City during  the late nineteenth century and the jobs they were  forced to take in order to put food on the table. 

Martha Pinson opened the second half of the program with a short film that she directed called It’s Not Saturday, in which a NY teenager finds himself the head of his family, which includes a sick grandma and a little brother. When he begins panhandling with his saxophone  we discover the power of his music to contribute not only to his family but to the city as well. Past IAW&A president and co-founder, Peter Quinn was in attendance and of Martha’s film he said, “It is a spare, eloquent, moving piece of filmmaking. Bravo to Martha!”  The film stars alto sax monster, Alex Han, Chase Williams, Linette Hardie, Scott Burik, and Frank Lewallen. The screenplay was written by Annette Beatrice and edited by Will Brook. 

Journalist and playwright, Pat Fenton, took us back to his old neighborhood reading a scene from his play in progress about a lost part of Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn, once a teeming, tight-knit, Irish and Italian blue-collar neighborhood that existed near 17th Street and 9th Avenue before Robert Moses drove the Prospect Expressway through the very heart of it in 1953, and divided it forever.

In his play, Fenton intimates the dreams, trials and travails of just ordinary people trying to find the American dream in post WWII Windsor Terrace, among them a cop who really wanted to be a writer, a movie projectionist at the Sanders Theatre whose life is defined by the continuance of movie reels as he waits for the changeover mark, a 9th Avenue pool hustler whose small piece of the American dream, two weeks summer vacation over a Rockaway saloon, Fitzgerald’s, is dangerously gambled one night, and a beautiful dreamer named Janice Joyce who tried to go home again, and almost made it, Irish American stories about an area that was once the hub of one of the greatest, Irish working-class neighborhoods in Brooklyn.

Pat’s characters, their hopes, desires and foibles, and his ability to create a moment in time, show off this wonderful writer’s talents.  

Mark Donnelly read a poem Blue-black Night and Snow, a memory poem about late winter nights as a boy, watching the snow from his bedroom window and praying that school would be canceled the next morning.  I really related to this one. I spent my entire youth praying that school be cancelled for any reason. 

Sarah Fearon read a recent draft of her play Air Rights,which features as its main character, the riotous realtor, Snazzy Peabody. The quintessential New Yorker, Snazzy epitomizes an everything is for sale, New York attitude. If you haven’t seen or heard Sarah–she’s got a great ear for voices–you should.  Very topical, very humorous. 

Last up was multi-talented, Larry Kirwan, who read/acted a chapter from his novel, Rockin’ The Bronx, set in the watershed years of 1980/81 that tracks the lives of four young Irish immigrants in the racially diverse Kingsbridge Road neighborhood.” After Larry’s presentation, Tom Mahon said, “There’s such a thing as performance writing, and it’s counterpart is performance reading.  We just heard both.” Perfectly stated. 

The next Irish American Writers and Artists’ Salon will be at the Thalia Cafe at Symphony Space on W. 95th Street off Broadway, Tuesday, February 7, at  7PM. For more information on joining the IAW&A or presenting at one of the Salons contact me at

January 18, 2012

“White Wings” Screened at “Salon at The Cell”

Filed under: Essay,Film,Literature,Music,Television — by johnleemedia @ 8:00 pm
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by Charles Hale

Pete Hamill, Brooklyn born author, and the son of Irish Immigrant parents, said of our immigrant ancestors. “We know what they gave up. They gave up their countries and in some cases their languages. They worked at the lousiest, rottenest jobs in order to put food on our tables. We have to honor that for the rest of our lives.” One such Irish immigrant was my great great grandfather John Coakely. John was a street cleaner. How much can one study or write about a street cleaner?

The music I have chosen for this work is, coincidentally, called “White Wings,” a beautiful work by Oystein Sevag:

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