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…)

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.”

 

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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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.”

 

Caroline’s On Broadway Presents Des Bishop

How it’s New York: Caroline’s has been entertaining local audiences for over three decades

DES BISHOP

How it’s Irish: Des Bishop and all of the comedians on the bill are Irish-American

Des Bishop at Caroline’s on Broadway
Saturday, June 24, 7:30 and 10 p.m.
Sunday, June 25, 7:30 p.m.
1626 Broadway, New York
212-757-4100

Caroline’s kept it all in the hilarious (Irish-American) family Friday night and for headliner Des Bishop, that was literal as he shared the bill with his brother Aidan, and their much-abused mum was in the audience. Friday kicked off the first of five shows the lads are doing over the weekend, with Brendan Fitzgibbons as host for the evening.

Fitzgibbons, a Chicago native, warmed up the room with crowd work, showing no love for Wisconsin or New Jersey. Having lived in both states I say fair. Now calling Crown Heights in Brooklyn home, Fitzgibbons explained that his current roommates are all women, which his friends told him sounded awful. His take on the difference between living with women (his current roommates) and with guys:

“I have a safe place for my emotions. Beats being called gay whenever I asked about the weather.”

Although most people in the room last night were fans, for those unfamiliar with the Bishop brothers’ story, they were raised in Queens but spent large parts of their youth and adult years in Ireland. Aidan Bishop, the younger of the two, has been living in Dublin for the last 14 years. He’s worked steadily as a comedian in Europe, creating a one-man show that went to the Edinburgh Fringe and is perhaps best known as the resident MC at the International Comedy Club in Dublin.

Of his unmistakable Flushing accent Bishop remarked, it’s “the least intelligent accent on the planet. You’d never hear it on the Discovery Channel.” About a decade ago, when he was in his late 20s, Bishop, who had struggled as a student, learned for the first time he was dyslexic, which was life-changing for him and also a source for comedic gold.

“When I had to look up ‘dyslexia’ on Google, it was the most patronizing ‘did you mean?’ ever! Fuck you, Google!”

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The Pictures of Dorian Gray

How it’s New York: Visit to a New York bar.
How it’s Irish: It’s an Irish bar named for an Oscar Wilde character.

In the East Village of New York City there is a bar called Dorian Gray and this week I made my inaugural visit. It styles itself as Simple, Cheery, and Charming—which it is, and that will have to suffice as a review as I was only there long enough for one beer. And therein lies a tale.

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Irish-American writer Jimmy Breslin dead at 88

How it’s New York: Jimmy Breslin wrote about New York: “a New York Institution.”

©David Shankbone [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

How it’s Irish: Breslin was Irish-American.

 

Newspaper icon Jimmy Breslin dies at 88

Jimmy Breslin, the street-savvy, Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper columnist whose two-fisted prose championing the little guy and pillorying those who betrayed the public trust made him a New York City institution for more than 40 years, died Sunday. He was 88. Breslin, who also turned out a string of fiction and nonfiction books, died of complications from… (more…)

When Irish eyes are rolling… (Hail the Unnamed Irishman)

How it’s New York: Trump is from New York.

Donald Trump, making Ireland Nigerian Again.

How it’s Irish: It’s St. Patrick’s Day tomorrow, and Trump wanted to find an Irish proverb to read to Enda Kenny.

Because of the day that’s in it, Irish people, such as Irish Labour secretary Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, he of the piercing blue eyes who called Trump a “fascist” right after the election (and the video of him saying it went viral, watch it below), are in the U.S.

Ó Ríordáin is here to participate in Irish Stand, a ticketed event at Riverside Church with such people as New York-based writer Colum McCann, “West Wing” actor Richard Schiff, and representatives from the Food Bank for New York City, the Jamaica Muslim Center in Queens, and politicians. Performances are curated by our friends at Artists Without Walls.  

Proceeds are going to the A.C.L.U., who have been staunch in their defense of those at risk under Trump.

No doubt this is also why Sean Spicer wore a green tie to the press briefing today, at which he once again yelled at the press.

But the real reason for this post is  that I simply could not resist the joy (O frabjous day!) of Trump reading a Nigerian poem and thinking it’s an Irish proverb.

Before you say “this is not culture!” remember: proverbs and poetry are culture… (more…)

Perfect Irish soda bread

How it’s New York: New Yorkers love to eat?

Sodabread

How it’s Irish: Soda bread is an Irish staple… and can be found all over during “the season!”

The Perfect Traditional Irish Soda Bread

The perfect Traditional Irish Soda Bread is a quick bread that has 5 ingredients and nothing else. Traditionally, it was not even made in an oven but made in a bastible which is a cast iron pot with a lid that was set over… (more…)

New Book on Irish Music by L.E. McCullough

How it’s New York:  Latest book from L.E. McCullough focuses on Irish-American musical heritage
How it’s Irish:  2-volume set offers 4 decades of Irish music scholarship

___________________________

L.E. McCullough started writing about Irish Traditional Music in 1974.

He hasn’t stopped yet.

What Whistle-Flyer 150dpi-trimA new publication titled “What Whistle Would You Play at Your Mother’s Funeral? — L.E. McCullough’s Writings on Irish Traditional Music, 1974-2016″ gathers in two volumes the more than 300,000 words on Irish music and culture the prolific musician/scholar has published in 43 years of teaching and research.

Published by Silver Spear Publications in PDF and paperback formats, Volume I contains Dr. McCullough’s three major academic works — his landmark Ph.D. dissertation (Irish Music in Chicago: An Ethnomusicological Study) and earlier M.A. and B.A. theses (The Rose in the Heather: Irish Music in Its American Cultural Milieu and Farewell to Erin: An Ethnomusicological Study of Irish Music in the U.S.).

Volume II, subtitled “Everything Else”, covers a wide range of Irish music performers, instrument-makers and music events — 122 essays and reviews, journal articles and concert reports, blog reflections, album notes, newspaper features, seminar presentations, whistle-playing tips … and a screenplay.

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Up the Scots! Celebrate Burns Night

How it’s New York: Thomas Burt is a New York lawyer, and the Iona Sessions take place in Brooklyn.
Robert Burns (1759-1796), portrait by Alexander Naysmith

Robert Burns (1759-1796), portrait by Alexander Naysmith

How it’s (Irish) Scottish: Robert Burns is Scotland’s favorite son, and symbolizes Scottish heritage. See below for Robert Burns songs sung by Jim Malcolm and the late Andy M. Stewart with Silly Wizard (with the late Johnny Cunningham, Phil Cunningham, Martin Hadden and Gordon Jones, filmed in 1988). Just try not crying when Andy M. sings it.

Trust me. You know a few poems by Robert Burns. What do you sing on New Year’s Eve? “Auld Lang Syne.” That was his. “My luv is like a…” if you’re thinking “red, red rose,” you’re right, and that was his, too. “The best laid plans of mice and men…” also his.

The “Bard of Ayrshire,” who wrote in broad Scots in the 18th century, has become over the years the national symbol of Scotland.

The Irish have Bloomsday, which celebrates James Joyce and “Ulysses.”

The Scots have Burns Night, which celebrates Robert Burns (1759-1796) in a formal dinner, complete with recitations, music, and, of course, Haggis.

There are fewer Scots than Irish in NYC, and as lawyer Thomas Burt points out, the Scots have been very good at assimilating. They are harder to spot, but they are here.

“It’s a focal point to remind us who we are, and what we have in common with each other.”

Burt is also secretary of St. Andrew’s Society of the State of New York, founded in 1756, before Burns was even born. He points out that past members include Alexander Hamilton and Andrew Carnegie. The society raises money for two children’s hospitals, provides scholarships for graduate study and more.   There’s also a Scottish Bar Association of New York.

Irish pubs are everywhere, true, but there are some Scottish pubs in NYC and Brooklyn: St. Andrews, 140 West 46th St.,  Caledonia Bar, 1609 Second Ave.,  are a few. More are listed here.

And the wonderful, amazing, BEST THING ON NEW YORK STAGE “The Strange Undoing of Pruedencia Hart,” which comes to the McKittrick Hotel courtesy of the Scottish National Theatre, with script by David Grieg, has just been extended until March 26th. The show, set in a Scottish pub,  includes free drams, Scottish music and a wonderful retelling of a “woman meets the devil” folk tale– in rhyme!  (this is one of the best things I’ve ever seen in the theatre. Review/podcast has been delayed thanks to a cold that lasted pretty much all December and January but believe me when I say you do not want to miss this show).

IONA Burns-3There’s even a Scottish music session: the Iona Session is held on Mondays at Iona,  180 Grand St., in Brooklyn. And they are having a Burns Night celebration, too:

The IONA BURNS NIGHT returns in all it’s shaggy glory next Wednesday 25th January at 9pm. Fiddler Emerald Rae and piper Andrew Forbes will unleash the musical beasts. Poetry, comedy, haggis and cheap adult beverages will flow. JR StraussMax CarmichaelAmy LynnCalum MichaelMatt DiazPamela Jean AgaloosMiguel Coias and Karen Brown in the house. Crying and screaming permitted. Also dancing and laughing.

The Burns Society of the City New York was founded in 1871, and is still going strong. It’s a great resource for anyone wanting to throw their own Burns supper, Burt says. It has a supper, and so does the American Scottish Foundation.

But what is a Burns Night (Burns Nicht) supper, anyway?  It celebrates the poet’s life, and the history of the Scots, and is held around his birthday: Jan. 25.

“It’s a rallying point for a diaspora that is hard pressed to find rallying points,” Burt says. “We assimilate out of existence into the economic and power structure of anywhere we land.”

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‘New York City: A Shining Mosaic’ review

How it’s New York: Tales of immigrants who arrived in New York City.
New York City: A Shining Mosaic produced by Charles Hale. September 27, 2016. 1st Irish Theatre Festival. Featuring Niamh Hyland, Walter Parks, Elsa Nilsson, Eleanor Dubinsky, Laura Neese, John Duddy, Jack O'Connell, Mala Waldron, Yuri Juárez, Julie Kline, and Charles Hale at Pier A Harbor House, New York City.

Photo courtesy of Mitch Traphagen.

How it’s Irish: Those arriving left lives behind in Ireland. This piece was part of Origin Theatre’s 1st Irish 2016.

Were this event staged a few years back, before the advent of the so-called “information age,” there’s quite a chance that attendees of this extraordinary production may well have invited encyclopedia salesmen into their home, to peruse their wares, and purchase a volume or two, to look up a few of the fascinating tidbits that Charles R. Hale’s modern masterpiece had informed them of.

“New York City: A Shining Mosaic” is so much more than a play: it is a series of vignettes, a song and dance revue, a carefully interwoven collection of biographies of several characters, some seen, others merely mentioned.

It is a story which unravels elegantly, a timeless tale that reminds us that there were generations here before us, dozens, scores, hundreds of them: men and women who had less, but yearned for more. Brooklyn had them by the thousands. :New York City: A Shining Mosaic,” directed by Niamh Hyland (music), Julie Kline and Charles R. Hale, is brought to us by Artists Without Walls, and is a production celebrated aptly right within sight of the arrival of all of those millions of immigrants who made it to New York, at Pier A, which looks out on New York Harbor, with Lady Liberty and Ellis Island calmly watching in the wings.

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An agonizing, haunting look at famine in Donnacha Dennehy’s “The Hunger”

Iarla Ó Lionáird and Katherine Manley perform in Donnacha Dennehy's The Hunger, a collaboration with Alarm Will Sound. (Photo courtesy of Jack Vartoogian/BAM)

Iarla Ó Lionáird and Katherine Manley perform in Donnacha Dennehy’s The Hunger, a collaboration with Alarm Will Sound. (Photo courtesy of Jack Vartoogian/BAM)

How it’s New York: Alarm Will Sound had its origins at Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY, and its debut concert was in New York in 2001. “The Hunger” was included as part of the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival.
How it’s Irish: The play originates from first-hand accounts of the Great Irish Famine in the 1840s. Playwright Donnacha Dennehy is a Dublin native, and the founder of the Irish musical ensemble Crash Ensemble. The play is presented in partnership with the Irish Arts Center.

Hauntingly melodic and starkly condemning at the same time, “The Hunger,” Donnacha Dennehy’s collaboration with Alarm Will Sound, is many things all in one: an opera, a documentary, a concert. The result is a work that is meant to unsettle the audience rather than to console.

The show had two performances on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s

As Asenath, Manley is the leader of a one-woman chorus, a Cassandra figure whose words and appeals seem to fall on deaf governmental ears in England. It is hard not to be frustrated at her recounting how a man on the verge of death is repeatedly told “come back on Tuesday” to receive his ration of grain.

Howard Gilman Opera House, as part of the 2016 BAM Next Wave Festival.

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