The man above is Charlie, my dad.
He’s tapping away at the teacher talent show at Spain Junior High in Detroit in 1967. I was 3 years old and in the audience. I remember this event and the all-African American student body that uproariously cheered on my dad, their assistant principal. What I don’t remember so well is the racial struggle of those times and the significance of this unifying event.
Nonetheless, dad and I rediscover this together on stage during the Words in Motion Festival at 16th Street. Dad turns 80 in June. He gets onstage with me and tells his story . . . even dons those tap shoes again!
It’s called The Me, Mom & Dad Show!
Oh, yeah. Mom is in the show too—couldn’t leave her out now could I?
In 1994, prior to reality TV, Martie documented her mom (Carolyn) on video with the help of Emmy-winning filmmaker Joe Winston. Act one of the show mingles mom’s interview with live storytelling and reflects on Carolyn’s ability to create a memory out of any occasion or object.
The second act looks at memory from another angle and features dad, Charlie, live on stage with his daughter. During a phone call two years ago, Charlie (then 77) complained to Martie about short-term memory loss and she suggested he exercise his memory muscles by taking up the tap dancing lessons he used to do as a boy. Charlie did just that and now takes memory by the horns and performs his tap with Martie in a piece that recalls the race riots of 1967-68, when he was in the early stages of his 44-year career with Detroit Public Schools. The dad story appeared in Live Bait Theater’s 2008 Fillet of Solo festival and received this praise: “the heart of the evening … the biggest impression – Martie Sanders’s dad Charlie shares the stage in her affectionate tribute, closing the evening with a rousing tap number.” Chicago Reader.
This show also played to a sold out house and was a fundraiser for Y-ARTS Detroit in October 2008. Martie and her parents, Carolyn and Charlie dished it out on the 16th Street stage for 4 special performances!