Photo by Chuk Nowak

Frannie Shepherd-Bates is an accomplished prison theatre practitioner, director, educator, designer, choreographer, administrator, and performer.

Frannie is the founder, director, and lead facilitator of Shakespeare in Prison (SIP), Detroit Public Theatre's signature community program. She began SIP in 2012 (under the auspices of Magenta Giraffe Theatre Company, which she led from 2008-2014) as its sole volunteer facilitator and administrator, personally handling every aspect of the program.

Since those early days, Frannie has worked with the prison ensembles (and alumni!) to develop the structure, objectives, and pedagogy of the program; developing a culture of warmth, openness, professionalism, and dedication. In 2015, the program moved from Magenta Giraffe Theatre Company as it dissolved to Detroit Public Theatre as it was founded.

On February 7, 2012, Shakespeare in Prison consisted of one volunteer and a 10-woman ensemble at Women's Huron Valley Correctional Facility. Since then,  nearly 300 incarcerated adults have been part of SIP's ensembles—including members of the men's program at Parnall Correctional Facility, established in 2017.

Pre-show chat at Parnall Correctional Facility. Photo by Chuk Nowak.

In addition to her prison work, Frannie has directed plays for many of southeast Michigan's theatres; including Detroit Public Theatre, Williamston Theatre, Tipping Point Theatre, Shakespeare in Detroit, Planet Ant Theatre, and Water Works Theatre Company. Her work with youth includes programs and productions with Michigan Opera Theatre Children’s Chorus, the Roeper School, Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit, and Matrix Theatre Company. She also served as Director of Programs for Detroit Public Theatre, and Director of Education for Water Works Theatre Company for several years.

Frannie has been recognized for her work as an artist and arts advocate by the Wilde Awards (Critics' Choice 2013; Best of the Bard 2015; Best Play nomination 2016), the Pulsar Awards (Best Play 2017), and CBS Detroit, and she accepted an Arts Achievement Award on behalf of MGT from WSU’s Department of Theatre and Dance. She has spoken about prison theatre at conferences such as Shakespeare in Prisons (2013, 2017), Pedagogy and Theatre of the Oppressed (2017), Art X Detroit (2015), and Human Rights Through Education (University of Michigan, 2013). She has been featured numerous times in local, regional, national, and international media for her work in prisons and as an artist.

Frannie graduated from Wayne State University with a BFA in theatre (acting) in 2006.