Karl Geary – Montpelier Parade Launch at the Irish Arts Center

How it’s New York: In New York at the Irish Arts Center
How it’s Irish: Irish writer Karl Geary launches his first Novel Montpelier Parade.

Karl Geary reading from Montpelier Parade at the Irish Arts Center – photo by Andy Ryan

He has crafted a compelling story of longing, love, loss and isolation with vivid characters and a driving narrative that made me not want to put the book down, and sad when I was finished reading.

What a delight it was to get the chance to hear my old East Village pal Karl Geary read this past Tuesday night at the Irish Arts Center!  It was yet another wonderful evening of collaboration put together by the innovative folks at the IAC, with Jenna Nicholls and Gerry Leonard providing musical counterpoint and an insightful conversation with Poet, Playwright and Actor Dael Orlandersmith.  I got a chance to sit down with Karl before the show and it was fantastic to get a further look inside the characters and inspirations behind this fantastic first book.

 

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War Movies and Film Festivals

How It’s New York: Irish Screen America and New York Film Festival happen in New York City. Irish Rep’s Ciarán O’Reilly is in one of the shorts, and several of the directors live here.
Float

Float

How It’s Irish: “No Stone Unturned” is a film about the Troubles and New York Irish Shorts are made by Irish filmmakers

Last weekend was quite the film buff’s dream. Not only was Irish Film America hosting their annual film festival, but Lincoln Center’s New York Film Festival also opened. I was lucky enough to attend both in one day. Focused on Irish cinema, I began by seeing Alex Gibney’s “No Stone Unturned” at the Elinor Bunin Monroe film center. Described as a murder mystery in its title, going in I wasn’t sure if I was seeing a drama or a documentary, but it’s a murder mystery doc. (more…)

Queens Gets A Film Fest – The Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema

 
How it’s New York: The movie extravaganza took place in Queens
How it’s Irish: The fest featured films from the Celtic Nations including Canada and The UK

 

 

Earlier this month, Queens played host to the inaugural Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema. The Fest, which ran from August 4th-13th, screened over 150 features and shorts at the Queens Museum and Kew Gardens Cinemas, which is the borough’s only operating art-house theatre. There were free panels as well on subjects such as Women in Independent Film and The Dos and Don’ts of Distribution. With the Unisphere close by, it was fitting that the selections came from a veritable United Nations of countries like Canada, Romania, Pakistan, the UK and the US.

Although Ireland didn’t have anything in the fest, the Celtic Nations were well represented. I saw the Canadian feature “Grand Unified Theory”, which won Best Screenplay. In keeping wit the themed programming the organizers created for the fest – science and outer space were the theme for what I saw- was accompanied by a music video from the British band Jenny Got Famous called “Loneliest Hour”. The charming video is about an astronaut in a spaceship made entirely out of cardboard, which director Karl Dixon explained in a Q&A after, took three months to build. (more…)

‘Woody Sez’ will break your heart and lift your spirits

How it’s New York: “Woody Sez” takes place at Irish Repertory Theatre, one of the city’s best residential theatres. Guthrie

David M. Lutken plays Woody Guthrie in “Woody Sez.” ©Carol Rosegg.

influenced the Clancy Brothers and Christy Moore. Andy Irvine, of Planxty, has a wonderful song tribute to Guthrie in his “Never Tire of the Road.”
How it’s (Irish) Scottish: Woody Guthrie was of Scots descent, and his mother sang old ballads to him. The show has been performed at the Edinburgh Fringe and in Belfast.

Listen to our podcast with David M. Lutken here!

Somewhere during the thrilling performance of “Woody Sez” at Irish Rep I began to feel depressed.

When did the working man stop believing in unions? When did labor throw in with management? How did this happen? Would Guthrie, whose guitar had “this machine fights fascists” on it, be dismissed as “Antifa” today?

There has hardly been a rally this year that didn’t close (or open) with Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land.” Maybe, like me, you learned the song in kindergarden (along with “If I Had a Hammer,” written by Pete Seeger, a long-time collaborator of Guthrie’s). Maybe you forgot this song was composed by a 20th-Century American.

Woody Guthrie (1912-1967), the subject of the devised musical byby David M. Lutken with Nick Corley and Darcie Deaville, Helen Jean Russell and Andy Teirstein, is considered the father of American folk-music. Rightly so. His music, which chronicled the Dust Bowl years in particular and fought Fascism, had an impact on not only folk singers but also rock singers.

“Woody Sez” at Irish Rep is already on my Top 10 list. It is one of the best shows of the year.

I know, the year’s not over. This show will not be edged out of Top 10. It will probably stay in Top 3. Hell, it may stay at the top.

It was meant to end in June, but it kept extending. It now will end on Sept. 10. You can still see it: hurry up!

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Podcast #42: Gavinstock and Woody Sez

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How it’s New York: Gavinstock is the second annual Gavin’s Irish Music Festival, consisting of some of the best Irish bands in New York. “Woody Sez” is a show about Woody Guthrie, playing at New York’s Irish Repertory Theatre.
How it’s Irish: Gavin’s Irish Country Inn— need we say more? but it’s in East Durham, New York, the Emerald Isle of New York, and the bands are all playing Irish music. Woody Guthrie was Scottish descent.

WOODY SEZ HAS BEEN EXTENDED THROUGH SEPT. 10!!!

We talk to Bernadette Gavin,  of Gavin’s Irish Country Inn, about Gavinstock, as well as to Kevin McCarthy  of Shilelagh Law, one of the bands playing there. We then talk to David Lutken, performer and co-deviser of the phenomenal “Woody Sez” at Irish Repertory Theatre.

 

Featured Tune: “Together in the End,” about 9/11, by Shilelagh Law

Last chance to see ‘Indecent’

How it’s New York: ‘Indecent’ describes an event that happened in New York City: Sholom Asch’s play ‘God of Vengeance’ was put on trial for indecency in 1923, due to a lesbian kiss.
How it’s Irish: Eugene O’Neill appears in one scene. Lisa Gutkin of The Klezmatics wrote the music; Gutkin also plays Irish trad.

One of the best plays on Broadway closes tomorrow, Aug. 6. If you haven’t seen “Indecent” by Paula Vogel yet, run and get a ticket.

Director Rebecca Taichman unexpectedly won the Tony Award for best director, as well as the same from Outer Critics Circle. The play should have been secure for years, but at least it extended from a June closing to tomorrow’s. She and Vogel (“How I Learned to Drive,” “The Baltimore Waltz”) created the play together.

Lisa Gutkin and Aaron Halva created the music, which is played live onstage, sometimes by performers. Sometimes it’s Yiddish-flavored, sometimes it’s cabaret, always it’s tuneful and gorgeous.  In a scene with playwright Eugene O’Neill  (who loved “God of Vengenace”) it’s Irish. The choreography by David Dorfman is witty and inventive.

“Indecent” had its New York opening at The Vineyard theatre last spring and transferred to Broadway. That’s remarkable when you consider its serious subject: the history of “God of Vengeance,” a play that features a lesbian kiss at its heart.

“Indecent” demonstrates the amazing power of theatre in front of your eyes. (more…)

Canada’s Genie Bouchard Comes To New York To Make Her World Team Tennis Debut

How it’s New York: World Team Tennis, which has a local team, The New York Empire, plays here
How it’s Irish: All the teams have players and coaches from a wide array of countries including Canada, Great Britain and the US.

For tennis enthusiasts looking for a fix between Wimbledon and the US Open, there is courtside action to be found locally thanks to Mylan World Team Tennis, co-founded by Billie Jean King in 1973. World Team Tennis is like the tennis equivalent of minor league baseball, and offers fans a relaxed evening of on-court action, contest giveaways, amusing mascots, trivia and a lot of music. Literally after every point the announcer played a few seconds from a vast array of songs.  Last week the big news was the arrival of Canadian Eugenie Bouchard who joined the home team, the New York Empire, coached by two-time Olympic gold medal winner Gigi Fernandez.

Genie Bouchard

New York Empire Team Members Neil Skupski, Kirsten Flipkens and Coach Gigi Fernandez

I attended last Friday night’s match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing. There was a considerable amount of construction going on in preparation for the US Open at the end of August and the audience had intimate seats inside Court 17. The New York Empire faced off against the San Diego Aviators, the reigning champs. Along with Bouchard, the Empire, which is like a mini United Nations, included Americans Mardy Fish and Maria Sanchez, Brit Neal Skupski and Belgian Kirsten Flipkens.

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Reporting on ‘Immigrant Arts in America’

How it’s New York: The Museum of Jewish Heritage is located in Battery Park.

Panelist Daniel Kahn and Moderator Ann Curry – Photo by Julia Osen Averill

How it’s Irish: The panels included representatives from the Irish Repertory Theatre, the Irish Arts Center and Irish artists Carrie Beehan and Larry Kirwan.

On July 17th, an all-day summit entitled Immigrant Arts In America was held at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, presented by National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene. The morning panels (which I unfortunately missed) featured a wide array of representatives from the New York arts and culture communities, including the Kairos Italy Theater, the American Federation of Musicians Local 802, the Turkish American Repertory Theater, the Irish Arts Center and Cumbe: Center for African and Diaspora Dance.

In the afternoon I attended two panels moderated by journalist and former “Today” co-anchor Ann Curry. The first was entitled Curating The Immigrant Experience and included Rocio Aranda-Alvarado  from El Museo Del Barrio, Elissa Cohen from the Museum of Jewish Heritage, Hanna Griff-Sleven from the Museum at Eldridge Street and Andrew Rebattta from the Museum of Chinese in America.

Griff-Sleven spoke about the unique position that the Eldridge Street Museum, which is housed inside the 19th century Eldridge Street Synagogue, has held for the last century on the Lower East Side and well beyond the little stretch of street.

“We’re an anchor in the neighbourhood. The faces have changed but they’re still immigrants with the same problems. We’re a country of cast outs. We’ve reached out to the community when we’ve had to and it reinforces the notion that we come together.” (more…)

Podcast #41: ‘Find Your Way Home’ and ‘The Journey’

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How it’s New York: ‘Find Your Way Home’ plays Symphony Space on Tuesday, July 25. ‘The Journey’ had a New York premiere.
How it’s Irish: The musical ‘Find Your Way Home’ is about an Irish family in 1910. ‘The Journey’ fictionalizes in film an encounter between Ian Paisley and IRA leader Martin McGuinness in 2006, as they attempt to end the conflict in Northern Ireland.

We spoke to “Find Your Way Home” co-author Jimmy Kelly, and to “The Journey” director Nick Hamm.

Featured song: “Heaven Hear Me Now,” from “Find Your Way Home.”

 

Enda Walsh’s ‘Rooms’ need space to grow

How it’s New York: Irish Arts Center is known as one of New York’s best residential theatres. Enda Walsh’s “Rooms” was a companion piece to “Arlington” at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn, so Walsh encouraged a New York City tour.
How it’s Irish: Enda Walsh is an Irish playwright, and the voices heard in “Rooms” are Irish ones.

 Guest writer T. Cat Ford, a New York City-based playwright, visited Enda’s theatrical installation last month and wrote a report for us. She brings the eye of a professional theatre artist working in a smilar idiom to this write-up. For a full  review, see Alice Farrell’s coverage here.

In Enda Walsh’s “Rooms,” a theatrical installation at the Irish Arts Center, the audience is invited to explore three rooms – a kitchen, a hotel room, and a child’s bedroom, in small groups – while listening to the inner thoughts of each room’s inhabitant.

This is an exciting concept and potentially immersive.

Unfortunately, I did not feel “Rooms” achieved its goals.

When entering someone else’s space all of our senses are engaged.

We learn about other people not only through sight and sound but by touch and smell. The audience is invited to explore the rooms, encouraged to pick up the items and yet the rooms are not lighted well enough to facilitate this. Only one room brings the lights to full, and that is fairly late in the piece. (more…)

This year’s tune: Catskills Irish Arts Week 2017

How it’s New York: Catskills Irish Arts Week takes place in East Durham, New York, and everybody in the Tri-State area comes

Kevin Crawford, Dylan Foley, David Doocey launch “The Drunken Gaugers” at The Blackthorn.

who can (and many from further away).
How it’s Irish: It’s a week of intensive Irish music, dance, and arts. Some teachers are Irish, some are Irish-American, all love their subject. And East Durham, we’re told, looks a bit like Ireland.

There’s always one.

One tune you hear everywhere you go, in the Catskills. The first summer I came it was “Pipe on the Hob.” One year it was “Brendan Tonra’s jig.”

This year I think there were two.

It’s usually a jig, but not always.  If you’re in a building with several classes in different rooms, say the Yellow Deli (the  restaurant with wonderful baked goods open all night during this week), you might hear strains of it floating down the hall as concertina and fiddlers and whistlers all pick it out.

This year, I thought, maybe there isn’t one. I’d been to a few sessions, a few “listening rooms” (close-up concerts by some of the amazing guests: Michael Rooney on harp with June McCormack on flute stand out– gorgeous stuff– her flute playing is clear and pure and what he does with a moving base line and complex chords somehow suggests Cape Breton piano and Burt Bacharach at the same time), and of course, the concerts held at the Michael J. Quill Center in the evening (before the sessions and listening room and CD launches).

 

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Canada’s 150th Birthday: NYC Rocks The Great Canadian Songbook At Joe’s Pub

How it’s New York: Joe’s Pub is a longstanding performance space in Noho.

Christina Bianco impersonates Celine Dion on Canada Day. All photos ©Shani R. Friedman.

How it’s Irish: Several of the artists covered, like Joni Mitchell and Alanis Morrisette, are of Irish descent and a number of the performers, like Greg Naughton, are Irish American.

On July 1st, Joe’s Pub had its annual celebration of Canada Day with an evening of comedy, music and of course, the national anthem. For the 15th year, Joe’s Pub raised a glass (or many, as Canadians, like the Irish, are known to enjoy a drink) to the country’s many songwriters and artists, like Rush, The Weeknd, Joni Mitchell, The Tragically Hip and Alanis Morrisette.

Most of the performers were not Canadian but FOCs (Friends of Canada) and virtually all of them have come back year after year to interpret their favourite songs. A number of the singers are well known locally like Christina Bianco, Greg Naughton, Alyson Palmer and Tylee Ross.

The evening kicked off in the red and white-mittened hands of charming Master of Ceremonies Jeff Breithaupt. He explained that he created the Canada Day fest because his friends kept asking him whether Neil Young and Joni Mitchell are Canadian and exasperated, he told them yes, they belong to us!

Before the singing, comedian and storyteller Ophira Eisenberg, perhaps best known to New York audiences as the host of NPR’s “Ask Me Another,” shared some laughs. Looking out at the crowd she declared,

“Look at these faces. So white!”

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Podcast #40: Catskills Irish Arts Week

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How it’s New York: Catskills Irish Arts Week is in East Durham, New York.
How it’s Irish: The “Irish Catskills” were once vacation land to Irish Americans, a way to get out of the city. Historical, full of boarding houses and motels, the week in July of music classes, concerts, sessions, dances and more is a draw to everyone even a little interested in trad.

We spoke to CIAW Artistic Director Reidín O’Flynn, musicans Joanie Madden and Billy McComiskey, and CIAW founder, and flute master, Mike McHale, as well as an older student, Pat, who has learned keyboards in the Catskills.

This podcast is a special, perennial mini-doc.

Featured tunes: set dances from Billy’s 2014 CD, “Out of the Box.”

 

Rocker May at Webster Hall

How it’s New York: Webster Hall is a New York music venue
How it’s Irish: Imelda May is an Irish artist
Imelda May at Webster Hall

Imelda May at Webster Hall

She has apparently been called  the queen of Ireland by Bono, but I didn’t know a whole lot about Imelda May – other than she was from the Liberties in Dublin, had a unique hairstyle  and sang rockabilly. But that all changed on Tuesday when I saw her perform at Webster Hall. A school night an’ all, and the place was throbbing. I’m not sure what constitutes a full house at this non-seated venue, but it was close to full with what seemed like loyal May fans, many of whom were Irish, and Dubs in particular. A sign in the audience confirmed this and caught the singer’s eye when in the middle of her act she read the sign to the audience,

“Are youse comin’ for a pint after?”

to which she laughed and said

“Up the Dubs!”

Her set began with a couple of heartfelt ballads as she sat on a stool in a more indie/singer/songwriter style than I’d expected. Gone was the quiffed hair I had known her for, and in its place was a Joan Jett look and later I was to discover a Joan Jett sound too. The new look is part of May’s metamorphosis after some major life changing events – a divorce, a new baby, and a new musical style on her latest album, “Life Love Flesh Blood.”

A good friend of Bono’s, she talked about a recent dinner she had at his house, where a poem was recited instead of grace before dinner.

The poem focused on the two base emotions – love and fear (not hate as we all assume)  – and how pertinent it is that the world is focusing heavily on one of those right now. There is a great line in the song that followed this introduction, “Love and Fear”,

“Good people do bad things and bad people do good things … ”

– one that is still playing in my head days later. Other standouts songs of the evening were “Black tears” and “Should’ve been you”, both sang with a pure, raw intensity. (more…)