Folaranmi Afolayan has been preparing for the stage since she was two; that was the age she begin taking dancing lessons. However, acting didn’t really catch the professional theatre major’s interest until she took on her first leading role.
“I was Julius Caesar in an all female production in the 6th grade,” she said. “I was so nervous, yet excited throughout the performance.”
In middle school, she continued to perform and grew fonder of acting, but it was after seeing “To Kill a Mockingbird” at the Virginia Stage Company that she found her niche.
She attended high school at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, which gave her the academic foundation to begin a professional acting career.
Deciding on a college was quite easy for the Boone, N.C. native. She knew that she wanted to attend a historically black college, and A&T and Howard, were the only HBCU programs that offered a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in theatre.
“I figured, I don’t like extremely cold weather, so A&T, here I come! I also wanted to immerse myself in an environment where I could thrive as an artist and also have the traditional college experience,” she said.
The 21-year-old has performed in numerous productions including “String,” “Black Nativity,” “The Shadow Box,” “Tambourines to Glory,” and “Cuttings from the Classics.” She has enjoyed playing all of her characters but her favorite has been Ruby Jackson in Abram Hill’s “On Strivers’ Row.”
This summer, Afolayan connected with the global world by acting and studying abroad. She credits Professor Frankie Day, chair of the theatre department, with setting the stage for this opportunity. Day studied at the British American Drama Academy in the summer of 2010. During that time, she formed a professional relationship with the professors in the UK and they came to do their first outreach workshop at A&T in the spring of 2011. In the Spring of 2012, the dean of the British American Drama Academy came back to A&T and held auditions for their Midsummer in Oxford Program. Afolayan auditioned and was accepted for the program.
She explains, “I studied with graduate students from Yale, Julliard, UCLA, Northwestern, and so many other great institutions. I not only took classes in Shakespeare acting and text analysis, but also in modern acting, voice, movement, and audition technique.
The highlight of Afolayan’s experience was attending a Pan African production of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar at the Royal Shakespeare Company in London.
“The play’s setting was in modern day west Africa as opposed to Rome and I had never seen an all black cast perform a Shakespeare play,” she said.
Afolayan would like to travel abroad again particularly Nigeria and study theatre and its connection to cultural traditions.
“My father is from Nigeria, so it would be a great opportunity to go to my homeland and continue my studies in theatre,” she said.
Afolayan aspires to attend graduate school and pursue a degree in performance studies. Her ultimate goal is to establish a theatre company in Nigeria that develops plays based on political and social issues. Additionally, she would like to produce one original play and publish a book.