An Irish Gift

Anna Manahan, a renowned Irish actress died last week in her Waterford home at the age of 84. I never saw her on the stage but twenty five years ago I had a brief and memorable encounter with her at a brunch party given in her honor.

Our noisy crowd was draped all over the room and sitting on the floor, merrily finishing up our omelets and Bloody Marys.  At an opportune time—after all there is no free lunch-- our proud Irish American host announced that he had “persuaded” our distinguished visitor to perform for us.

Advertisement

She chose the famous soliloquy of Molly Bloom in James Joyce’s Ulysses and launched forth instantly and intensely. She had a deep magnetic voice and an evocative power of expression that thrilled her listeners into breathless attention. Molly was present. “Yes and yes and yes.” The great words affirming love and living soared and transported us.

On that long ago afternoon Anna Manahan generated one of those shining moments that Joyce described as “epiphanies,” those times when the radiant reality’s clarity and truth breaks through the veil. In my case a new light dawned as I fully grasped for the first time the force of drama. It is possible for word and voice to transform time and place.

So a belated thank you and a fare well to a great Irish actress who helped me to discover that ancient and ever new truth: art is news that stays news.


Sidney Callahan

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

Advertisement

The latest from america

I have found myself for the first time truly afraid of what it means to ask and to allow my children to be part of the church.
Kerry WeberAugust 15, 2018
Cardinal William H. Keeler in May 2009. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz) 
A Pennsylvania report accuses Keeler of covering up sexual abuse allegations while serving as bishop of Harrisburg.
Associated PressAugust 15, 2018
With her appeal to emotion, Gadsby reminds audiences to see the vulnerable, resilient human being behind the humiliated stand-up comic.
Allyson EscobarAugust 15, 2018
Boston Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley and Deacon Bernie Nojadera, executive director of the U.S. bishops' Secretariat for Child and Youth Protection, are pictured during the 2017 Catholic convocation in Orlando, Fla.  (CNS photo/Bob Roller)
“Our first job is to listen, to be empathetic,” said Deacon Bernie Nojadera, the executive director of the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat for the Protection of Children and Young People.