1960s Weather Underground Meets 1930’s Radical Union Organizer
Charlotte Marchant: a 1-hour KPFA-FM Special
100 Letters From My Father by Charlotte Marchant: A radical working-class family’s saga told through a dialog between a daughter in the 1960s Weather Underground movement and her immigrant English father, a 1930’s union organizer. Produced by Nina Serrano.
The father, Fredrick Marchant, had two children, Charlotte and Jeffrey, in the 1940’s while living in the housing projects of New York City. His wife Shirley died when the children were in their teens. As the children left home for college, he began writing them letters over the following years until his death in 1976. Only his letters to his son Jeffrey survived. His daughter Charlotte, recently edited and excerpted her father’s letters from the 1960’s and 70’s and added her own present-day commentary to create a dramatic dialogue. The result is a tapestry of ideas that shoot back and forth through time between her father commenting to her brother on her youthful radical activism and her own responses as her more mature self-today.
This epic piece, covering Charlotte’s several arrests and jailings, reveals the heart of a family as it struggles through those tumultuous times of social upheaval including the Vietnam War protests, the Black Panthers, the Days of Rage, the Women’s Liberation Movement, and the LGBT Movement. Their voices speak out against the forces of repression to affirm love and social commitment.
100 Letters from My Father Radio Production
Charlotte played herself in the recording attached to this blog post and English born San Francisco artist, Anthony Holdsworth, read Fred’s letters, whom he never met. Charlotte says Anthony “channeled” her father. I agree. I knew Fred because Charlotte’s mother and my mother were lifelong friends since childhood. Being fourteen years older than Charlotte, I was Charlotte’s babysitter and our brothers, Jeffrey and Philip, were playmates. In producing this moving piece for radio, I was thrilled to use Philip Serrano’s music to introduce and close this dialog. The title of his music is The Rosenberg Theme. Philip wrote and recorded it for my play, The Story of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg. I chose it for its 1950’s feel and nostalgia to help transport listeners to these earlier times.
I also added a short fascinating listeners’ “talkback” to the production to reflect on and analyze the readings and round out the hour.
You can share here and at Charlotte Marchant website at 100 Letters from My Father. You can also check out my blog on The Story of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg on this website. The play is now available in print and eBook from Estuary Press.