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Director Kenny Leon Wins Again; Appointed To ATW Advisory Committee

Tanya Isley

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Chalk up another accomplishment for acclaimed Tony Award-winning director Kenny Leon! The American Theatre Wing recently appointed Leon to its Advisory Committee, which provides support, and guidance to the Board of Trustees and staff of the Wing as they implement the organization’s goals and objectives.

It’s only fitting that Leon serve on this committee, as he has enjoyed an exceptional and creative career on Broadway and in regional theatre. Leon won the Best Director of a Play Tony for 2014’s A Raisin in the Sun with Denzel Washington and Sophie Okonedo. Ten years before that, he made his Broadway debut with the same play, directing Sean Combs, Audra McDonald and Phylicia Rashad.

In addition to A Raisin in the Sun, Leon’s Broadway credits include The Mountaintop starring Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett, August Wilson’s Fences (which garnered 10 Tony nominations and won three Tony Awards including Best Revival), and the 2014 premiere of Holler if You Hear Me, a musical created using the music of Tupac Shakur.

Leon rose to prominence in 1988 as one of the few African Americans to head a notable nonprofit theater company as the artistic director of Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre Company. During his tenure, the company staged premieres of Pearl Cleage’s Blues for an Alabama Sky, Alfred Uhry’s The Last Night of Ballyhoo, and Elton John and Tim Rice’s musical Aida, which went on to Broadway. The Alliance’s endowment also rose from $1 to $5 million during his tenure.

After resigning from the Alliance, Leon co-founded Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre in Atlanta and currently serves as its the artistic director. Since its opening, the company has staged productions of The Wiz, Black Nativity, Miss Evers’ Boys, The Colored Museum and Spunk among others. It also boasts Hollywood and Broadway heavy hitters such as Reuben Cannon, Angela Bassett, Samuel L. Jackson, Bill Nunn, Courtney B. Vance and Phylicia Rashad on its Board of Trustees and Advisory Board.

Leon is also noted for his work in television, including “In My Dreams” for Hallmark Hall of Fame, “The Watsons go to Birmingham” for Walden Media and Hallmark, and the Sony and Lifetime TV adaptation of “Steel Magnolias”. Leon is the recipient of numerous awards including the 2010 Julia Hansen Award for Excellence in Directing by the Drama League of New York.

On working with Leon, Cleage once told National Public Radio, “He isn’t really someone who’s trying to superimpose a flashy vision, so that people will gasp and say ‘Oh, the director was this and the director was that,’ He’s actually trying to get to the heart — the real heart — of these people that the playwright has created.”

In addition to Leon, actress Tamara Tunie serves on The American Theatre Wing Advisory Committee and LaTanya Richardson Jackson is a member of its Board of Trustees.

Tanya Isley is an award-winning writer, editor, word nerd and grammar snob. A southern girl with metropolitan swag, she was born in soul, raised on R&B but got her life from hip-hop. Tanya's managed news media content strategy for more than 50 websites. Her experience has included stints at The Manna Network, Cox Communications, Cygnus Business Media, and WTVD-TV. Tanya has undergraduate degrees from North Carolina Central University and a graduate degree in interactive journalism from American University.

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Congrats!

Protected: Get Your War Clothes On: Billy Porter Energizes in GLAAD Acceptance Speech

Jerrica White

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Award Nominations

Could The Color Purple Be On Its Way to an Emmy Award?

Tristan Halstead

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emmy-award

Just one month after scoring a Grammy Award for “Best Musical Theater Album,” The Color Purple, which starred Tony and Grammy Award winner Cynthia Erivo, may get an Emmy as well. Announced on March 22nd, one of their live television performances received a Daytime Emmy Award nomination for “Outstanding On-Camera Musical Performance in a Daytime Program.”

Last year, as part of the NBC Citi Concert Series on Today Show’s Best of Broadway Week, the cast of The Color Purple made a guest appearance to sing the title number of the musical, led by Erivo. In a performance that left us breathless and astonished, this would appropriately be the same morning the cast learned they received four Tony nominations, including “Best Revival of a Musical.”

Based on the novel by Alice Walker, The Color Purple first appeared on Broadway in 2005, earning 11 Tony nominations. The recent scaled down version, directed by John Doyle, opened in December of 2015, and ran for 450 performances before closing on January 8th, 2017.

A North American tour launches in the fall later this year. Check The Color Purple for more information.

Now we can’t help but wish for a musical film adaptation, with Erivo reprising Celie. We’ve no doubt she’d easily snatch up her EGOT-status. Regardless, congratulations are in order for the cast of The Color Purple!

Edit: While this is the first time a Broadway production has been nominated in these categories, Erivo and the cast will not actually be eligible to receive the award. Instead it will go to the program that hosted the performance.

Bummer.

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Coming Soon

Viola Davis To Star In Film Adaption of Small Great Things

Jazmine Harper-Davis

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Viola Davis has no intention of slowing down, ever. After picking up her Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Fences on Sunday, Deadline reported she is set to star in the film adaption, alongside Julia Roberts, of Jodi Picoult’s New York Times Bestseller, Small Great Things. The duo’s last project together was the 2010 film adaptation of Eat Pray Love.

Small Great Things centers on a labor/delivery nurse who takes care of newborns at a Connecticut hospital. She is ordered not to touch the baby of a white supremacist couple. When the baby dies in her care, she is then taken to court by the couple and charged with a serious crime.

What a timely moment for a movie like this to be in the works, especially given the current climate of the United States. This story touches on race, civil rights for all citizens, the justice system and privilege. The book does a good job of examining racism both subtly and overtly in a way that leaves readers with questions about themselves, privilege, and power sparking insightful discussions. If the book can do that, we can not wait to see how the film amplifies the message! The audiobook also features Queen Audra McDonald.

The selfish part of me is really here for Viola Davis going off on a racist white woman (and she doesn’t have to play a maid to do it) *insert upside down smiley face*.

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Is that a new role, Aaron Burr, Sir? Brandon Victor Dixon Joins Power

Jerrica White

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The streets of 45th may no longer be paved in gold, but the we continue to see full-blown streaks of the silver lining in life post Shuffle AlongTony nominated Brandon Victor Dixon, who is currently starring as Aaron Burr in the Broadway production of Hamilton, is taking his talents to the small screen. Dixon joins the fourth season of “Power” as Terry Silver, an attorney that raises a suspicious brow to Ghost’s (Omari Hardwick) criminal activity.

Produced by Curtis Jackson (50 Cent) and created by Courtney A. Kemp, “Power” has become the most popular show on the STARZ network and currently competes for the Sunday night entertainment slot in the house of many. The fourth season is slated to air Summer 2017 and picks up after the arrest of James St. Patrick/ Ghost by his ex-mistress, Assistant US Attorney Angela Valdez (Lela Loren). Yikes. #TeamTasha

It might just be me, but “Power” was starting to take a stroll down This Is Too Much Boulevard. I’m hoping the addition of new recurring characters will give the series a breath of fresh air. Speaking of fresh air, shout out to Broadway Black favorite and Tony winner, Anika Noni Rose, for staking her claim in this mega hit series with a stunning debut in season 3 as the crooked cop, Jukebox.

The world proves to be wide enough. Let’s continue to support black theatre and black television. Congrats, Brandon!

BVD received a 2016 Tony nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical for his role as Eubie Blake in Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed. A member of the Original Broadway Cast of The Color Purple, he received a Tony nod for his portrayal of Harpo. Other notable work includes: Motown: The Musical and Scottsboro Boys.

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Cicely Tyson To Be Honored At American Theatre Wing 2016 Gala

Jazmine Harper-Davis

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Photo by Charles Sykes

The American Theatre Wing will honor Tony winner Cicely Tyson at its annual Gala September 26 at The Plaza Hotel (Fifth Avenue at Central Park South).

Tyson, who was last on Broadway in a revival of The Gin Game, joins the ranks of her fellow co-star James Earl Jones and countless others including; Dame Angela Lansbury, Julie Taymor, and Stephen Sondheim to name a few.

“Cicely Tyson exemplifies what the American Theatre Wing is all about, from her career-defining performances to her passionate commitment to arts education via her namesake performing and fine arts school,” said Heather Hitchens, president, and CEO of the Wing, in a statement. “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to honor her at this year’s Gala.”

The funds raised at the annual event will provide support for the Wing’s programs, such as SpringboardNYC, the Theatre Intern Network, the Andrew Lloyd Webber Initiative, which champion and celebrate American theatre and ensure that the next generation is “on the stage, behind the scenes, and in the audience.”

Honorary co-chairs for the event include Kathy Bates, LaTanya Richardson Jackson and Samuel L. Jackson, Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee, Pauletta and Denzel Washington, and Alfre Woodard and Roderick Spencer. Marva A. Smalls, CeCe Black, and Anki Leeds will serve as Gala Chairs.

The evening includes cocktails, dinner, and performances. For tickets and more information, contact Jeremiah Hernandez by calling (212) 765-0606 or emailing gala@thewing.org.

Until then, lets look back at the Broadway Black interview on Opening Night of The Gin Game starring Tyson & Jones

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Heather Headley (Finally!) Gets Her Caricature At Sardi’s

Jazmine Harper-Davis

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Tony Award-winning actress and certified wig snatcher, Heather Headley, currently having us all protect our edges in The Color Purple, celebrated her Sardi’s caricature unveiling with co-stars  Cynthia Erivo, Danielle Brooks and many more August 9. All we can say here is ABOUT DAMN TIME.

 

@heatherheadley makes her Sardi’s debut! @bwaycolorpurple

A photo posted by Polk & Company (@polkpr) on

Why you ask? I mean check her credentials.

Heather earned a Tony Award in 2000 for her performance in Aida and before that she originated the role of Nala (key word ORIGINATED) in The Lion King in her Broadway debut.  She then went on to pursue a music career, releasing her debut album This Is Who I Am in 2002 and later earning a Grammy for her 2009 album Audience of One.

In 2012, she made her London stage debut in the West End production of The Bodyguard, for which she was nominated for an Olivier Award. After a 16-year absence from the Broadway stage, the queen blessed us with her talents once more joining the cast of The Color Purple in May, taking over for the revivals original Shug Avery, Jennifer Hudson. A move that was a blessing, because seeing her and Cynthia sing “What About Love?” is  spiritual experience we didn’t know we needed.

And because we’re in the spirit of giving, go ahead and buy your tickets to The Color Purple here.

And because we’re feeling extra, extra nice get your life watching Heather singing “Memory” from Cats below. You are welcome.

Heather Headley – Memory (Andrew Lloyd Webber – 40 Musical Years)

Heather Headley singing ‘Memory’ from the musical Cats for ‘Andrew Lloyd Webber – 40 Musical Years’ TV Special

 

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