Kenny Leon

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Kenny Leon
Born (1956-02-10) February 10, 1956 (age 59)[1]
Tallahassee, Florida
Occupation Director

Kenny Leon is a Tony Award Winning 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]


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.[3] 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,[4] 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 Rashād 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. Leon 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 Rashād in the world premiere stage play Every Tongue Confess written by Marcus Gardley, running 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 Lifetime 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 True Colors Theatre Company; and a musical inspired by the work of rapper Tupac Shakur.[5]

In 2014, Leon directed the Broadway revival of "A Raisin in the Sun" starring Denzel Washington and LaTanya Richardson Jackson and the Broadway premier of the musical "Holler if You 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". [6]

In March 2015, it was announced that Leon would direct "The Wiz" for NBC to air on December 3, 2015 as their next live musical. Cirque du Soliel is partnering on the production with plans to bring the show to Broadway in 2016. Leon is slated to direct both the television production and Broadway revival. [7]

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, Leon was a recipient of the 2007 Georgia Arts and Entertainment Legacy Award for his contributions to Georgia's cultural legacy.[8] Leon currently holds the Denzel Washington Endowed Chair in Theatre at Fordham University, previously held by Joe Morton and Phylicia Rashad[9]





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