ifteen years later, it’s still the party everyone in town is talking about. In 2002 there was – allegedly – a wild party at the Manoogian Mansion, the Detroit mayoral residence thrown by then-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. Supposedly, an exotic dancer named Tamara “Strawberry” Greene was in attendance, and she was – again, allegedly – attacked by Kilpatrick’s wife.
It’s the stuff of barbershop and beauty salon lore, but what is concrete is Greene’s murder in April of the next year. The mystery of whether there was a party at the mansion is still unsolved. So, too, is Greene’s murder.
Carol Teegardin, a former Detroit Free Press reporter, went out to find answers. She published a book in 2011 about Greene’s life, death and the police investigation that yielded no results. It was slow to take off at first, she says, but as Kilpatrick’s sentencing to a lengthy prison term in the months that followed captured the public’s attention, more people were interested.
Now Teegardin, with noted theatrical director Mary Bremer-Beer, is bringing Greene’s story to the stage. In Strawberry – What Party?, premiering at the Marlene Boll Theatre on Jan. 20, actors dramatize Greene’s life and tragic ending – including an actor playing the mayor himself.
“(Greene was) a black woman who got killed, and nobody cared enough to investigate,” Teegardin says. “Every other day there’s a woman killed in a violent way, and nobody really cares.”
Party? follows Greene’s life before becoming a dancer and her family life – she was a mother of three – as well as the police investigation. Teegardin’s hope is that it brings more attention to violence against women, and perhaps brings closure to Greene’s murder.
“It’s a play about Detroit for Detroit,” she says.
Strawberry – What Party? 8 p.m. Jan. 20-22 and 27-29, Marlene Boll Theatre at Boll Family YMCA, 1401 Broadway St., Detroit. $17-$25. Tickets at brownpapertickets.com or 248-660-7629.