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Director Kenny Leon Wins Again; Appointed To ATW Advisory Committee

Broadway Black

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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.

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Award Nominations

Cynthia Erivo Nominated for BAFTA’s Rising Star Award

Drew Shade

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Cynthia Erivo at Opening Night of the Color Purple. Photo by Drew Shade

Tony, Emmy, and Grammy Award-winning actress, Cynthia Erivo, known for her transformative performance as Celie in the 2015 Broadway revival of The Color Purple is now one of five actors nominated for the British Academy of Film’s 2019 Rising Star Awards.

Most recently seen alongside Viola Davis in Steve McQueen’s Widows, Erivo says:

“I’m ever grateful to BAFTA and the jury panel for nominating me for the 2019 EE Rising Star Award. It means the world to me to be acknowledged by the community that, for most of my life, I’ve known as home. Thank you for this incredible honour.” – Cynthia Erivo

The BAFTA Awards will take place on February 10th.

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Congrats!

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

Jerrica White

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billy porter

So, I have a question.

In the same line of thought as “innocent until proven guilty,” do we grant the assumption of positive intent in our expectations of our brothers and sister in regards to woke-ness, à la woke until proven problematic?

Now don’t get me wrong, there was no doubt in my heart that Tony and Grammy Award-winner, Billy Porter, was woke. Nope, none. What I wasn’t ready for, was the way he fixed his fingers to pen one of the greatest acceptance speeches of my lifetime, and how he turned the Gospel classic “I Don’t Feel No Ways Tired” into a battle song.

The 28th Annual GLAAD Media Awards honored Billy Porter with the Vito Russo Award, presented to an openly LGBTQ media professional who has made a significant difference in promoting equality and acceptance.

He started by affirming the room full of members of marginalized communities, with my personal daily mantra: “You are enough. we are enough.”

Since the beginning of time artists are the folks who engage critically and encourage those who think they are powerless to question the status quo.

Brothers and sisters across the room leaned in.

The days of shut up and sing are over.

Alliteration informed and illustrated as Porter preached on remaining “vigilantly visual” as we tell our stories. Acknowledging the reality of our times, he spoke on Number 45:

Where they slipped up this time is in that declaration of war. It’s not only against Black and Brown people and Queer people anymore, it’s against ALL of us. And as a result, the good news is: white folk, and straight folk, and all those fierce women folk, are mad now. And NOW maybe something might get done!

Get. Your. War. Clothes. On.

From slavery to emancipation, to the 13th Amendment, to Jim Crow, to the Civil Rights Movement. From Stonewall to AIDS, to marriage equality— we gotta remember the shoulders who we stand on—the ones who fought and died for those freedoms that we hold so dear. Let’s use these historical strides we’ve made as a nation to empower us as warriors on this battlefield of equality.

Amen.

Until we can figure out how to love one another unconditionally, no one wins. Freedom. Equality. Justice. Have always come at a cost and evidently the always will.

If that’s not the truth.

Stay strong. Stay vigilante. Stay visible. Stay hopeful. Stay focused. Be brave. Be fierce.

Resist.

RESIST.

RESIST.

RESIST.

For a full list of this year’s winners, honorees, and guests, visit GLAAD.

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