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100th Salon Celebration

Irish American Writers and Artists, Inc., celebrate.

By John Kearns and Karen Daly, Contributors
October / November 2015

Irish American Writers and Artists, Inc. (IAW&A) celebrated its 100th Manhattan Salon at the Cell Theatre on September 15 with a curated evening of readings and performances and a retrospective of IAW&A Salon photographs by Cathleen Dwyer.

The brainchild of actor and writer Malachy McCourt, the Salons provide a forum for IAW&A members to present their work in any genre – fiction, memoir, poetry, music, dance, film, visual and theatre arts.

Produced and hosted by IAW&A treasurer John Kearns, the 100th Salon featured more than a dozen artists whose work has been developed over the bimonthly series’ first four years.

Special guests included George C. Heslin, Artistic Director of Origin Theatre Company’s annual 1st Irish Theatre Festival, who welcomed the IAW&A to this year’s festival line-up, and Deputy Consul General Anna McGillicuddy.

The program included Sarah Fearon’s comedy routine that evolved into her play, Ted Talks NYC, winner of first prize at the Players Theatre Short Play Festival, and Mary Lou Quinlan, who had read her early work on The God Box at a Salon in 2011. Her book, a tribute to her late mother, became a New York Times bestseller, website, mobile app, and one-woman play performed in the U.S., Ireland and at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2014.

Maura Mulligan, whose first effort at sean nos stepdancing took place at a spring 2015 Salon, was also present. In the All-Ireland sean nós competition at Fleadh Cheoil in Sligo this summer, she won a third-place medal. Trad musician Patty Furlong accompanied Maura on button-accordion.

Megan O’Donnell read several poems. An award-winning fiction and non-fiction writer, she is a recent CCNY graduate who studied with IAW&A board member Brendan Costello. Among the fiction writers who had previewed their stories at Salons was Mary Lannon, whose “Frank N. Stein” was published in Story magazine. Tom Mahon read “Unforgivable,” a selection from his novel. Mary Pat Kelly, IAW&A Vice President and the author of Galway Bay, shared excerpts of her newest novel, Of Irish Blood at the Salon.

Two writers described the influence of the Irish American community in encouraging their work. Colin Broderick, author of two memoirs and a filmmaker from County Tyrone, is editing a book, The Writing Irish of New York. Honor Molloy, author of Smarty Girl: Dublin Savage, and frequent Salon performer, told of coming to America as an Irish child.

Every Salon has a musical performance. Contemporary singer Cathy Maguire was accompanied by guitar virtuoso Damien Kelly. Maxine Linehan sang about the trials and tribulations of living in NYC. Her song, written by her husband/accompanist Andrew Koss, debuted at a past Salon. Larry Kirwan, IAW&A President, premiered a brand new song, about his great-grandfather, a Wexford sea captain, whose ship went down off Cornwall in 1898.

Author, raconteur, and Salon guiding spirit Malachy McCourt brought the 100th Salon to a close with story and song.

Numerous other artists credit the IAW&A Salon for helping develop their work. They include John Brennan, John Cappelletti, Kathleen Donohoe, Kathleen Frazier, John Kearns, Maura Knowles, Margaret McCarthy and Vivian O’Shaugnessy. ♦

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