Detroit Performs


Curated By: Detroit Public Theater

Curated by Detroit Public Theater, this episode features Henrí Franklin performing the deeply impactful poem entitled “Views of Color in 8:46” taking into account the amount of time George Floyd’s neck was kneeled upon before his passing. Plus, Eric Gutman’s one-man-show “From Broadway to Obscurity.”

AIRED: October 06, 2021 | 0:26:28

- Hello, everybody, I'm Satori Shakoor

and welcome to "Detroit Performs Live from Marygrove,"

where Detroit's talented artists take the stage

and share insights into their performances.

I'm so excited about this episode,

curated by our partner organization, Detroit Public Theater.

We began with a piece written and performed

by Henri Franklin entitled "Views of Color in 8:46."

- Listen to me with you heart, and tell me if they're lies.

- [Shakoor] Later, we'll see a snippet

of Eric Gutman's one man show,

"From Broadway to Obscurity."

♪ I'm falling baby, through the sky, through the sky ♪

♪ I'm falling baby through the sky ♪

So take a seat, and get ready

for "Detroit Performs Live from Marygrove."

- [Announcer] Funding for "Detroit Performs" is provided by

the Fred A and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation,

the Kresge foundation,

the A. Paul and Carol C. Schaap Foundation,

the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs,

the National Endowment for the Arts,

the DeRoy Testamentary Foundation,

and by contributions to your PBS station

from viewers like you, thank you.

(lively music)

- So it's my pleasure to be here with

Sarah Winkler from Detroit Public Theater,

one of the producing directors here

and the curator for the two performances

Henri Franklin and Eric Gutman.

Welcome Sarah. - Thank you Satori.

- Oh, how did you come to curate

these two gentlemen and their performances?

- We chose two pieces that are deeply rooted

in partnership and collaboration.

Eric Gutman's piece was born out

of a collaboration between Detroit Public Theater,

Detroit Public Television, Chautauqua Theater Company,

and the Buffalo PBS affiliate.

And Henri Franklin's piece was born

out of this national collaboration with the Breath Project.

And that was an invitation that came

to Detroit Public Theater to participate in

just shy of a month after George Floyd's murder,

to amplify the voices of multidisciplinary artists of color.

- Can you just tell us what

Detroit Public Theater's mission is?

- Detroit Public Theater's mission is to produce

world-class theater with world-class artists

in the city of Detroit and making sure

that Detroit artists are connected

to the national theater community as well.

- Thank you Sarah so much for being here.

And now we're going to the stage

to see Henri Franklin perform his piece,

Views of Color in 8:46.

- Hmm, huh.

What's it like being a person of color in America?

Whew, um, hm.

Let's see, where do I begin?

Really not so sure.

Let's let's start off with the pen.

No, the one you use on paper, not the one trapping our kin.

The one that writes lies about history

to cover our eyes like a brim

and buried the truth in shadows,

like silhouettes on the scrim.

You know, I have a couple of questions

about this land that we're in.

And really take the time to listen,

and then answer me at the end.

All right, like,

like how Klansman claim Christian,

but killing blacks is not a sin.

We supposed to love each other, right?

So how you lynch with a grin?

This is America, so when was the great again?

Now would it be a different story

if our shoes you walked in?

Like, what if your son was killed

for a hoodie he was wearing?

Or what if your daughter was shot in her own home

because of a call from a Karen?

What if you were giving their eulogy

about how your life has shattered

and from the crowd, someone yells,

"Hey, buddy, all lives matter."

What if you were told you can't live here

because it's actually written in the laws?

What if the pigment of your skin was used for just cause?

What if a whole different race of people

sailed up into your neighborhoods said,

look, what we found y'all

and started taking all that they could?

but here's the real kicker, what if they never leave?

You do all you can to stop them,

but your weapons are made from the trees.

They've got spears that make thunder,

but from their hands and they believes

there's a stinging in your chest

and you find it hard to breathe.

You can't breathe, you can't breathe.

Tie a noose around your own neck.

I wonder how hard you'd squeeze.

Put shackles on your son's arms

and tell them their shirtsleeves.

Take your wives and mothers and daughters

and have their way as they please.

Now they have to live with the trauma

and the belly would form a seed

as they watch your last breath fall from your chest

where you bleed, so what would you do?

Hmm? How would you react?

Could you walk around in Gucci if it fit you like that?

The hardship of this plight, I wouldn't wish on another,

but someone made that wish and it landed on people of color.

I can't even lie, right here. I want to take a break

because of all the pain we've endured

to this venom called hate.

But I can't. Yeah, I hear you.

Yeah. (imitating bird)

(laughing) Yeah, no, that's funny,

that's funny, you know what that means.

Hey, but now that I have your attention,

I need your help with some things.

I need your help to find the words that I seek.

So when I rhyme and take a pause,

scream out the words that you think.

No, no, really no screaming at me.

Yeah, no, this part is interactive, yes, it's okay.

Naw, now hold up, hold on my people, before we get geeked,

we got things we need to correct.

You know that stuff we don't speak?

The things we learned from older folk

who didn't know that they teach with their actions,

not their words, so our eyes heard all of their speech.

Like, okay, like how do we have all of this sidewalk,

but we still walk in the...street,

take high blood pressure medication,

but we won't change how

Hey, she ain't got no daddy.

What dog? I bet she a freak.

Make eye contact with a brother? You better look grim.

Don't...speak, man, who taught us this?

It's what we learned in the street.

Now God forbid that you smile.

Cause now you have a gay or a geek.

Side note: don't you think

either one of those people are weak.

I know some cats that wear a skirt,

but they'll delete your front teeth.

And before you go to make fun of that smart kid

who can't dance, don't forget,

they're the ones who designed the cell phones

you use for your Tik Tok fans.

Let's talk about some cycles that rotate

like kebabs on a flame, because maybe if we speak on them,

some of our choices might change.

Like, like how we keep having babies

with folk we don't like.

The child look just like them,

so you pissed off on the sight of this angel

that you brought here that night.

You just wanted the bust a (humming)

Oo, you nasty, but you know what? You right.

You skinny dipped in that ocean,

now you got a little tyke and you blame it on the Hinney,

because that you sleep at night.

But the truth is you made your choice that condoms,

condoms? Nah, nah, I'm all right.

Treat the baby mama so bad,

now making love just don't feel right.

So what about this kid? Who they grow up to be like?

The dad that's not there or the mama they speak like?

Dress like, dance like, no woman in the fam got a man,

so who you think this child going to think?

Now I understand, things happen.

So I'm not saying that this is wrong or it's right.

But the path of a child can change

with both masculine and feminine insight.

Yeah, yes, yes, like every area of life, balance is key.

If non-biased wisdom is what you seek,

then both sides you must see.

Okay, if a cop is afraid of your skin

and not treating you right, is it really the best option

to put up that physical fight?

Now I know you really want to because that's just not right.

And you mama ain't raised no hoe,

so for sure it'd be night night.

And you know this wouldn't happen to you

if your epidermis had been white,

but is it really worth your pride

if your kids don't see you tonight?

Or ever again, unless your name pops up on a hashtag.

RIP to my friend.

No, I hear you, yes, I, I hear you it's,

bro bro, you lying.

There are plenty of us who complied

and we still ended up dying.

Sad as that is, I can't deny that it's true.

And I really don't know exactly what to say

to help you get through the situation

and get you back to your crew.

But 60 shots from four cops in their Glock 22?

That's some real sad math when it's divided in you.

And it's a vicious double standard, yeah, I hate it too.

But to see our loved one's face again, that chump burger?

Yeah, we chew.

Racism is a real sick fight,

so use your brain to get through

because not all heavyweight bouts

are guaranteed a round two.

I guess that's why some cops try to heal it

with a shot like the flu. Hmm.

Sad part is they got families just like you,

but they'd rather take your life and see their wife.

So, tell me what should you do?

Others may think I'm lying, but you know, that it's true.

Now with that in mind, protect you and your seed.

If that means this one time,

smile and move slow, then so be it.

You can't scream at a graduation

if you're not alive to see it.

And the wild part is, these are thoughts

they'll probably never have.

They'll bust a cop square in the mouth,

take the squad car and then laugh

as they are taken into custody without a knot or a gash.

You kneel for that because you black

and they Kaepernick your face mask.

But until the laws change, our rule is to survive

because I, I, I, I, I'm staying stay, I'm staying...


I guess that's a moment of silence for all of those who

couldn't finish that saying.

And we want to let you know that for your families,

we are still praying.

Okay, listen, I have to say this right here.

And some of y'all might get mad,

but I can only speak from the experiences that I've had.

And it might be tough to see with social media eyes.

So listen to me with your heart and tell me if they're lies.

Not all cops are bad.

Not all black people grow up with no dad.

Not all white people are evil. Not all black people steal.

And for us to think that racism is not being taught,

then that's just not being real.

Children mimic what they see,

so let's show them how to heal.

Because if we don't and if we won't,

the blood continues to spill.

This is America, and I'm gonna tell you when it's great.

When kids from different races play together

because they haven't learned hate.

When we can learn to illuminate our country

as being more than just black and white,

because our Native, Hispanic, Middle Eastern

and Asian family all deserved to be in this light.

So does every nationality that lays

their head here at night.

So, do we really want to fix the problem

or do we just want to fight?

Think about who you love the most in this world,

for whom you'd give up your life.

Now treat everyone around you with that

exact same kind of love?

Now that's what great again, looks like.

So can we do that? Can we all do that?

Will we do that?

Will you do that?

Now, you can answer. I'm listening.


- It is a privilege to not only be in the theater,

but to be in the theater and witness such a powerful

performance by Henri Franklin.

And I'm sitting with Henri here now.

What inspired the writing besides

you being a person of color?

- Well, this piece was born out of a question.

What if my son asked,

what is it like being a person of color?

And literally one night I couldn't sleep

at like four in the morning.

I just picked up my phone and just started going.

And Views of Color in 8:46 was birthed.

- The George Floyd murder popped open so much.

- Right.

- I wonder how did it, could you write,

you wrote bought this piece following that, right?

- Yes.

- How did it affect you before

you were asked to write the piece?

- The George Floyd moment was very bittersweet for me,

to watch someone executed like that

in front of everyone's eyes,

it was very disturbing, but at the same time,

that was something we had been screaming about

for a long time.

It was bitter because of how graphic it was,

but it was sweet because of the outcome

and the outrage, and it really felt like, oh my God,

the world is actually listening to us now.

- Yes.

- I don't love the fact that it came

at the expense of George's life, I do not,

but I am grateful for what the outcome was.

I just wish maybe there was another way

for it to happen, you know?

- [Shakoor] What was the journey to the piece?

- So the piece is based on my personal experience

as a black man in America,

and it was very important to me

not to tell someone what to do

or what not to do in the piece.

It was literally just to ask a question.

Sometimes to get the response you want

out of someone is just ask them some questions

and let them answer it.

- [Shakoor] And so what do you want people to take

from your performance, from your message?

- The world can change only if we

change ourselves individually.

So it's like one person at a time,

and you start with empathy, you start with love

and that will you to hear another human.

If I hear them first, before you judge them,

hear them as a human, hear them as a son or a daughter.

Start there.

- And now we're going to have a conversation

with John Sloan III, who was director for the piece.

What was it like to work with the words

and work with the artists and work with that human being?

- It was really just about working with Henri

to try to get to the truth of the piece.

And he's so good and he's so talented

that you really want to make sure,

he's somebody, he goes from, you know, zero to 60,

very quickly, then 60 to 100, right?

Like the difference between a good performance

and a great performance is really

in detail work, it's in nuance.

And oftentimes that's what an actor needs

a director to do, right, to ask questions,

to try to pull out those individual beats,

not to make choices for them,

but to really investigate how they're making

those choices for themselves.

- And were you always strong as you were working with Henri

or were there times as a black man that it,

that it affected you on some level?

- I'd be lying if I said there weren't moments,

whether we were in rehearsal,

whether it was when I was preparing for rehearsal

or just sitting in the shoot where it hits you,

because, you know, those are moments that you deal with.

Henri And I had a conversation and I said,

I remember the first time I was handcuffed for no reason.

And I remember the first time I was put down on a police car

and patted down for no reason.

And that's something that unfortunately,

every black men of a certain age remembers.

That's a common experience.

And that's part of the reason that George Floyd's murder

was so resonant, and that's part of the reason

why this piece I think is so effective.

- [Shakoor] So is there any message that you want to leave

the viewers as being director, artist?

- I would encourage everyone to continue

to patron Detroit Public Theater,

to continue to patron all the other theater companies

and arts organizations in and around Detroit,

because that's how we have these conversations.

That's how we can open ourselves up

and start to learn more about cultures

adjacent to ours or completely separate

and apart from ourselves, and that's how we can begin

to grow and in a lot of instances begin to heal.

- So thank you very much, John Sloan III.

Now we're going back to the stage

and experience a performance by Eric Gutman,

his own piece, "From Broadway to Obscurity."

(piano playing)

♪ I'm high above the city, I'm standing on the ledge ♪

♪ The view from here is pretty, as I step off the edge ♪

♪ Now I'm falling baby through the sky, through the sky ♪

♪ I'm falling baby through the sky ♪

♪ It's my calling baby, don't you cry, don't you cry ♪

♪ I'm falling down through the sky ♪

♪ Toward the street that I'm from ♪

♪ Oh Broadway, here I come ♪

♪ Broadway, here I come ♪

♪ The pressure, it increases, the closer that I get ♪

♪ I can almost fall to pieces, but I'm not quite there yet ♪

♪ See, I've been braving crazy weather ♪

♪ I've been drowning out my cries ♪

♪ I pull myself together and I'm focused on the prize ♪

♪ I'm falling baby, through the sky, through the sky. ♪

♪ I'm falling in baby through the sky ♪

♪ It's my calling, baby, don't you cry, don't you cry ♪

♪ I'm falling down through the sky ♪

♪ And it's a tune you can hum ♪

♪ Oh Broadway here I come ♪

(humming melodically)

♪ Will I remain the same or will I change a little bit ♪

♪ Will I feel broken or totally complete ♪

♪ I retain my name when I'm the biggest, hugest hit ♪

♪ Or will I blend in with the rest of the street ♪

♪ The people all are pointing, I bet they'd never guess ♪

♪ That the Saint that they're anointing ♪

♪ Is frightened of the mess ♪

♪ And even though I fear it, I'm playing all my cards ♪

♪ Baby you're gonna hear it when I give 'em my regards ♪

♪ I'm falling baby, through the sky, through the sky ♪

♪ I'm falling baby through the sky ♪

♪ It's my calling baby, don't you cry, don't you cry ♪

♪ I'm falling down through the sky ♪

♪ And I refuse to go numb ♪

♪ Oh Broadway here I come ♪

♪ Broadway here I come ♪

♪ Broadway here I come ♪

♪ Broadway, Broadway, here I come ♪

♪ Here I come ♪

♪ And last thing I hear, as the impact grows near ♪

♪ Is it a scream or a cheer ♪

♪ Well, nevermind, I'll never find out ♪

♪ 'Cause Broadway, I am here ♪

- Thank you for being with us

on "Detroit Performs Live from Marygrove."

I appreciate the work Detroit Public Theater's doing

in and around our community.

Not only do they bring creative and entertaining shows,

they give us thought provoking pieces too.

You better believe I'm going to check them out

in their new space as soon as possible.

And when I see you there,

let's wave and say hello to each other.

Now make sure to join us next time

on "Detroit Performs Live from Marygrove,"

right here, where we promise

to bring fantastic performances.

I can't wait to see you when you come back.

- [Announcer] Funding for "Detroit Performs" is provided by

the Fred A and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation,

The Kresge Foundation,

the A. Paul and Carol C. Schaap Foundation,

the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs,

the National Endowment for the Arts,

the Deroy Testamentary Foundation,

and by contributions to your PBS station

from viewers like you, thank you.

(lively music)

(piano music)


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