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Anderson Senior Follies director Annette Martin will retire after 26 years

Anderson Independent-Mail logo Anderson Independent-Mail 3/15/2019 Kathy Pierre

For the past 26 years, Annette Martin has been the driving force behind the Anderson Senior Follies. She writes, directs, arranges and plays in each year's big show.

Martin has been with Senior Follies since the beginning, starting as an accompanist who had big ideas. When the Senior Follies started in 1989, the performances were just song-based until Martin intervened, she said.

"I go, 'This is not church, it's theater. You can't just stand up there and do that,'" Martin said. "So I asked those in charge, 'Would you mind if I gave you just a little movement?' So that worked and the next year I did the piano and a little bit of choreography. By the fourth year, I was producing, directing, writing, performing, accompanying, everything."

Sunday, at the end of the fifth performance in four days, Martin will retire from Senior Follies.

Annette Martin directs Anderson Senior Follies, in their 30th year at the Anderson University Fine Arts Center's Henderson Auditorium in February. The show, a song, dance, and comedy performance named "A Class Act" is led by retiring director Martin and incoming director Mary Nickles. Martin said the show is a whimsical look at being a senior, with vintage, patriotic, and classy people. © Ken Ruinard / staff Annette Martin directs Anderson Senior Follies, in their 30th year at the Anderson University Fine Arts Center's Henderson Auditorium in February. The show, a song, dance, and comedy performance named "A Class Act" is led by retiring director Martin and incoming director Mary Nickles. Martin said the show is a whimsical look at being a senior, with vintage, patriotic, and classy people.

Senior Follies is a 75-member volunteer theater production born out of Anderson University with cast members who are 55 and older, according to the Senior Follies website.

David Larson, a theater professor at Anderson University and the founding director of the Senior Follies, hired Martin as an accompanist for the first show in 1990 based on a recommendation. She later took over for him as the director.

Larson said Martin has been the "heart and soul" of the Senior Follies for the 26 years she's been directing.

"That's an amazing run," Larson said. "We just want to celebrate her this week."

a group of people standing in front of a crowd: Annette Martin, right, directs Anderson Senior Follies, the 30th year at the Anderson University Fine Arts Center's Henderson Auditorium in February. The show, a song, dance, and comedy performance named "A Class Act" plays March 14-17 at the auditorium. Martin said the show is a whimsical look at being a senior, with vintage, patriotic, and classy people. © Provided by Gannett Co., Inc. Annette Martin, right, directs Anderson Senior Follies, the 30th year at the Anderson University Fine Arts Center's Henderson Auditorium in February. The show, a song, dance, and comedy performance named "A Class Act" plays March 14-17 at the auditorium. Martin said the show is a whimsical look at being a senior, with vintage, patriotic, and classy people.

Now 63, Martin and the members of the Senior Follies have experienced many life events together, from illnesses and hospitalizations, to births of grandchildren, to deaths of loved ones and fellow members over the past 30 years.

Martin's mother died two weeks ago. She said the timing has overwhelmed her, to say the least. She's been juggling making arrangements for her mother with preparing for the show, but she knows her mom wouldn't have wanted her to question her commitment.

"I went to a lot of funerals of their spouses, and that was hard," she said, referring to the life experiences she's shared with the group. "And I'm sure they'll be at my mom's service because that's what we do."

Martin's commitment to the seniors is so strong that for 15 years, she commuted to Anderson from Charleston to continue directing. She would leave Charleston on Sundays after playing piano in church, drive to Anderson and stay through Thursday so she could be back in Charleston for church rehearsal on Friday.

"I didn't come back because I love theater," Martin said. "I didn't come back because of any other reason than I love those people and they're my family. I did it for them. I could've easily said, 'I think I don't need to do this anymore.'"

Martin said she'll spend her time learning to play the harp, spending time with her 10 grandchildren and teaching piano lessons. She said she has missed out on a lot of moments with her older grandchildren throughout the years because of the intensity of putting together the show and no longer wants to make that sacrifice.

"There's parts of me that when we do a couple of numbers, I just get teary-eyed, but you have to know when it's time to go," Martin said. "And it's time to go."

Annette Martin, left, directs Anderson Senior Follies, with incoming director Mary Nickles, right, the 30th year at the Anderson University Fine Arts Center's Henderson Auditorium in February. The show, a song, dance, and comedy performance named "A Class Act" plays March 14-17 at the auditorium. Martin said the show is a whimsical look at being a senior, with vintage, patriotic, and classy people. © Ken Ruinard / staff Annette Martin, left, directs Anderson Senior Follies, with incoming director Mary Nickles, right, the 30th year at the Anderson University Fine Arts Center's Henderson Auditorium in February. The show, a song, dance, and comedy performance named "A Class Act" plays March 14-17 at the auditorium. Martin said the show is a whimsical look at being a senior, with vintage, patriotic, and classy people.

Don Brewer, president of the Anderson Senior Follies, has known Martin for 17 years through the organization and now considers her a "dear friend." He said Martin has cultivated more of a ministry than an organization.

"She's brought a lot of joy to many, many elderly people," Brewer said. "We've had people come who were all down in the dumps, and when they leave, they smile. It's gonna be hard to replace what she's done."

Martin plans to keep in contact with other retired members, but she said she'll keep her distance from the organization out of respect for the new director. She wants the new leadership to be able to run the organization their way, without her interfering.

Each of the Senior Follies' five performances will seat up to 1,000 people, and they're all either close to selling out or sold out, according to the online ticketing system. Martin doesn't want any fanfare or special attention for her last show. She wrote in her directors' notes in the program that it's her 30th and final show.

"I wanna go out on top," Martin said. "And we're on top."

More: Anderson Senior Follies returns with Name that Tune

This article originally appeared on Anderson Independent Mail: Anderson Senior Follies director Annette Martin will retire after 26 years

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