While enrolled in the Wayne State University Theatre program, Henrí Franklin and his classmate Thomas Harris accomplished something that no other theatre student at Wayne State had done before; they wrote a play that was so good that it was produced as an actual Wayne State Theatre production in the university’s Studio Theatre, not just as a “student” production. The play, Before There Was Broadway, was inspired by the true story of the first Black acting company, The African Company, which came out of lower Manhattan in the early 1800s. The group was controversial because it formed when slavery was still the law of the land in the South, and also because it was an “integrated theatre” with black and white actors performing together in their productions. Franklin learned about the African Company in one of his acting classes with Wayne State Theatre Professor Aku Kadogo. The play was so successful that it sold out, with standing room only, for six out of its seven performances.
Franklin’s success in writing theatrical literature has not stopped there. He is a co-founding member of the Project Theatre Company in Detroit with two of his former classmates, Anton Bassey and Thomas Harris. All productions put on by the Project Theatre Company are original productions the company members write themselves. These productions, Franklin says, are inspired mostly by real-life experiences, such as the many hardships that Detroiters and Americans countrywide are currently facing. In addition to his involvement with Project Theatre Company, Franklin uses his knowledge of theatre as a means of teaching life skills to others. He is involved in three youth organizations – Teen Hype, Arts League, and Michigan Youth Theatre – in which he uses drama to teach kindergarten through twelfth-grade students how to deal with life’s challenges through the vehicle of youth theatre.
Recently, Franklin had the opportunity to fly out to California and play a role in the daytime drama Days of Our Lives. He was one of two winners in a talent competition at a Days of Our Lives casting call at Detroit’s MGM Grand Casino in November 2009. Franklin says that massive casting calls are not normally something he gives much time to, but he decided to go to this one because three separate friends contacted him and insisted because they had a “good feeling” about it. His cold reading for talent agents from both Detroit and Los Angeles so impressed them that they chose Franklin from among more than a thousand auditioners to appear on the show. His “open-ended” character might be brought back for future episodes. Stay tuned!