Never Mind the Bollocks

The Cripple of Inishmaan Party

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In The Cripple of Inishmaan the character of island busybody Johnny Pateen Mike knows a good story when he hears one. Whether it's a tale of an ear-less animal or some gossipy tidbit about a local feud, he says, “A newsman has to be getting his news be hook or be crook.”

Consider that my thesis statement. With notepad and camera in hand, I entered the backyard of 32 Society Street last night ready to dish.

Luckily, I found the woman I was looking for. Judy Vane is a former Spoleto party organizer who told me, “We used to have 35 parties in 17 days. I called up this woman one year, who’d recently moved to a big house on Meeting, and asked her if she’d like to do something for the festival. She said, what does it involve? I said heavy hors d'oeuvres, invitations, a bar with whiskey. For how many guests, she asked? I told her 250. There was a long silence on the phone. Then she said, 'You must have a lot of nerve to cold call people like this.' ... Well, she hosted the party anyhow!”

Back story: at that same party, Vane tells me, one of the performers brought her infant. The actor took the fussing infant inside, placed it in the host's bedroom, and the child proceeded to have an explosion of epic proportions all over the lady of the house's fine linen. Suffice it so say that was the last Spoleto party she hosted. Ha, Spoleto parties of yore! Oh how we laughed, my new BFF Judy and I.That is until she got pulled away and I was left staring across the backyard.

Guests shuffle about the garden of 32 Society Street.
  • Guests shuffle about the garden of 32 Society Street.

The atmosphere was sticky as guests wedged between one another to grab bites of fruit and salmon. A trio played Irish ditties for the crowd. A large multi-colored light contraption was set up just behind the second bar and had guests shielding their eyes as if it was high noon.

Projected onto the neighboring house was the movie Ryan’s Daughter, a nod to the Irish themed evening, Nigel Redden announced from the host's balcony.

The entire event was the epitome of Erin Go Bragh chic — think less Saint Patrick’s Day in Savannah, more Hibernian Hall. I stepped up to the bar only to be offered the tiniest of Guinness Pints. “Those are Baby Guinnesses,” the bartender told me, “made with Kahlua and Baileys.” Feckin’ A! Line those babies up, I’ll take six.

Mingling next to the fruit table was Sherry Blackford with friends Wally and Bev Seinsheimer. The jovial group was one of a handful of attendees who actually saw the production prior to the party.

The place was ripe with delightful grand dames such as Sue Soderlund cooling herself with an exquisite folding fan. Sarah Donnem was in attendance having just come from a jazz performance.

My new BFFs, Judy Vane and Sue Soderlund, chat.
  • My new BFFs Judy Vane and Sue Soderlund, chat.

“I’m seeing so many things, I can’t even remember what I have scheduled tomorrow,” she said.

If Ms. Donnem’s comment was a tweet, it would have been followed by the hashtag #whitegirlproblems. But honestly, the lady was a gem. She joined me at the dessert table where we nibbled chocolate "sweeties," as the Inishmaan character of Bartley would say.

Speaking of characters, where were those saucy Irish actors? In disguise it turns out. The Aunties, played by Dearbhla Molloy and Ingrid Craigie looked so transformed minus their aging makeup, I had to do a double take.

Actors Dearbhla Molloy & Ingrid Craigie chat it up with guests
  • Actors Dearbhla Molloy & Ingrid Craigie chat it up with guests

“It’s not a life for everyone,” said Molloy, speaking of her professional acting career. “You give up a lot, like time with family, but I chose this tour specifically because of the travel.” Following Spoleto The Cripple of Inishmaan crew will take off for another festival in New England. “We get to meet such incredible people at each stop,” she said. “And I got to see the Grand Canyon! That was the thrill of my lifetime.”

Touching, but seriously? No gossip? No throwing her other actors under the bus? Like a fuming Johnny Pateen I felt defeated. Where were my stories? I had plenty of leads thanks to a pre-party research, but where were the scandalmongers to confirm all the dirt?

Then, it dawned on me, The Cripple of Inishmaan is a lesson in tact. Not to get too after-school special on you, but the play is at once a hilarious look at life in a small village and a depiction of the way people, like the nosy newsman, can hurt one another by spreading hearsay and nasty rumors.

Google searches had uncovered plenty, but I decide to keep my mouth shut. Time to call this event what it was — a beautiful garden party on a sultry eve. No gossip tonight for this reporter, just happy chit-chat with lovely people.

Bollocks!

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