From MLK to Miles Davis, meet the Baylor prof bringing legends to life on stage
Whether performing on stage as some of history’s most significant figures or giving life to characters in productions written by some of America’s legendary playwrights, Baylor professor Sam Henderson (BFA ’05) has built a dual career — giving life to these voices, and preparing students to do the same.
On campus, Henderson serves as an assistant professor of film and digital media/theatre. In theaters and on stages, he’s played figures such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., acted in plays by Shakespeare and August Wilson, and written plays on subjects such as jazz musician Miles Davis.
In recent years, Henderson has brought to life productions that are not only entertaining, but impactful. Through his work with the Tony Award-winning Dallas Theater Centre and other venues, he has elevated Black voices and artists such as:
- August Wilson: One of America’s most decorated playwrights, Wilson might be best known for his play Fences, which was made into a movie starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg for Wilson; Henderson acted in Wilson’s Civil Rights-era drama Two Trains Running at Fort Worth’s Jubilee Theatre, the oldest running African-American theater in Texas.
- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: Katori Hall’s play The Mountaintop is a two-person show, demanding a great deal of the actors who carry the entire production. Henderson earned the role of MLK in a Dallas Theater Center production of the show.
- Miles Davis: For his graduate thesis, Henderson (also a musician) wrote and performed a one-person show called The Man with the Horn: Four Scenes in a Solo Act about the jazz musician, who Henderson describes as a flawed human and one of the greatest composers and bandleaders ever.
- Moon Man Walk: Henderson brought the James Ijames production to Baylor last year, directing the story of a young man traveling to his mother’s funeral (which happened to be the first Baylor play ever to feature an all-Black cast).
“I believe for an actor in the theatre to do their job well, there has to be a significant amount of deference to the written word — in the beginning was the Word, right?” says Henderson. “So, my approach has been, irrespective of the role or project, to collaborate with a director in an attempt to discover what the author or playwright is trying to say. And if I’ve ever succeeded at this, then that is when I feel as though I’ve taken the opportunity that’s been given to me and handled it in the most responsible way possible.”
Sic ’em, Sam Henderson!