n 1971, three short months after graduating from Detroit’s St. Martin de Porres High School, James Cohen headed for Hollywood.
“My senior year I was in a play called Day of Absence, and I got bit by the acting bug,” Cohen explains. “I knew I was going to LA. I was determined to follow my dream.”
His dream became a nightmare: Cohen never landed a part.
“I didn’t have a clue what I was doing,” he says. “I had $200, didn’t know a soul out there. I lived on the streets of Hollywood for several years.”
Never wanting any other young person to repeat his experience, Cohen has spent the past 33 years – 24 in Detroit – training students from age 7 through their teens in the art and realities of acting. His Detroit N’ Hollywood School of Acting now meets two Saturdays each month in the gleaming Michigan State University Detroit Center on Woodward.
He’s Alive, Cohen’s annual Easter play – one of several original plays he produces every year – will be staged April 15 at Soul Harvest Ministries in Highland Park.
Cohen also holds a citywide acting competition every September, but Detroit N’ Hollywood concentrates on local youngsters, many of whom receive no arts instruction in school.
“Even when I was a kid, I loved kids,” he says. “I love to watch them grow and develop. That’s the spark for me, watching them have the opportunity for an artistic experience like this.”
His passion for performance has produced hundreds of alums like Joshua Cotton, who spent five years with Detroit N’ Hollywood and went on to act in college at Eastern Michigan University.
“He brought out the passion in us,” says Cotton, still an EMU undergrad. “Plus he’s a man of God, a very humble man. I had a great experience with James.”
Detroit N’ Hollywood School of Acting’s Easter production
3:30 p.m. April 15; arrive at 2:30 p.m. for Easter skits and a giveaway
Soul Harvest Ministries
16300 Woodward Ave., Highland Park
$10/tickets, refreshments available; 313-871-1296