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.