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.

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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

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