Kenny Leon

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Kenny Leon
Born (1956-02-10) February 10, 1956 (age 61)[1]
Tallahassee, Florida
Alma mater Clark Atlanta University
Occupation theatre, television director

Kenny Leon is an American director notable for his work on Broadway and in regional theater. Robert Simonson of Playbill described Leon as "arguably Broadway's leading African-American director."[2] In 2014, he won the Tony Award for Best Director of a Play for A Raisin in the Sun.[3]


He gained prominence in 1988, when he became one of the few African Americans to head a notable nonprofit theater company as the artistic director of Atlanta's Alliance Theatre Company.[4] During Leon's 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 time there.

Leon resigned from the Alliance in 2000 to take on other projects. These included being the co-founder and artistic director of True Colors Theater Company,[5] a group based in both Atlanta and Washington, D.C. He also took his talents to Broadway. In the spring of 2004 he directed a revival of Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun, starring Sean Combs, Phylicia Rashad and Audra McDonald in his Broadway debut. At the end of that year, he directed the Broadway premiere of August Wilson's Gem of the Ocean. In spring 2007, he directed August Wilson's Radio Golf. All three plays were nominated for Tony awards, and Leon was a Drama Desk Award nominee for A Raisin in the Sun. He also directed the television version of A Raisin in the Sun, which aired on ABC in February 2008. He was nominated for a Tony Award in 2010 for Best Director for his work on August Wilson's Fences, starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis, earning them both nominations and wins for Best Performance for Male and Female in a Play.

In November 2010, Leon directed Phylicia Rashad in the world premiere stage play Every Tongue Confess written by Marcus Gardley, which ran at the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C.

Leon has also directed plays at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, the Huntington Theater Company in Boston, the New York Shakespeare Festival, and the Goodman Theater in Chicago among many others.

In January 2012, he completed a Lifetime Original Television remake of Steel Magnolias.[1] Other projects includes the world premier of a staged adaptation of the 1967 film Guess Who's Coming to Dinner at the Kenny Leon's True Colors Theatre Company; and a musical inspired by the work of rapper Tupac Shakur.[6]

In 2014, he directed the Broadway revival of A Raisin in the Sun starring Denzel Washington and LaTanya Richardson Jackson and the Broadway premiere of the musical Holler If Ya Hear Me, featuring the discography of Tupac Shakur. Leon won the Tony Award for Best Direction of a Play for his work on A Raisin in the Sun.[7] That same year Mr. Leon directed NPR Presents Water±, written by award-winning NPR Science Correspondent Christopher Joyce, and award-winning theater writers Arthur Yorinks and Carl Hancock Rux with an original sound score by violinist Daniel Bernard Roumain (DBR). The show toured nationally, co-hosted by NPR's Michele Norris and WWNO's Eve Troeh and featuring Tony Award-winner Anika Noni Rose (Caroline, or Change); Tony Award-nominee Michele Shay (August Wilson's Seven Guitars); Jason Dirden (Tony Award-winning production A Raisin in the Sun); and Lucas Caleb Rooney (Boardwalk Empire).[8]

In March 2015, it was announced that he would direct The Wiz for NBC to air on December 3, 2015 as their next live musical. Cirque du Soleil is partnering on the production with plans to bring the show to Broadway, in 2016. He is slated to direct both the television production and Broadway revival.[9]

Leon participated in the federally funded TRIO Upward Bound college-prep program while in high school. He is a graduate of Clark Atlanta University. In addition to his directing experience, he has extensive acting experience on stage and in television and film. He made an appearance in the Hollywood Black Film Festival winner Big Ain't Bad, playing the role of Thomas Jordan, the mayor of Atlanta. In 2004, People named him one of the "50 Most Beautiful People" of the year. In 2007, he was a recipient of the 2007 Georgia Arts and Entertainment Legacy Award for his contributions to Georgia's cultural legacy.[10]

He currently holds the Denzel Washington Endowed Chair in Theatre at Fordham University, previously held by Joe Morton and Phylicia Rashad[11]





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