Kenny Leon is a Tony Award-winning, premiere director on Broadway whose directorial credits span an incomparable range of work from classic theatre to drama, comedy, opera, musicals, musical revues and film.
Leon won the 2014 Tony for Best Director for the Broadway revival of Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin In The Sun, garnering two more Tony wins for Best Play Revival and Best Featured Actress for Sophie Okonedo. He also directed Holler If Ya Hear Me, the first hip-hop musical to hit Broadway, featuring the music of Tupac Shakur, with the Gold Co. producing.
In 2015, he directed The Wiz! Live for NBC; and, In My Dreams for Hallmark Hall of Fame starring Katherine McPhee, and The Watsons go to Birmingham for Walden Media and Hallmark in 2013.
In October 2012, Leon brought together a stellar cast for the made-for-television remake of Steel Magnolias, to premier on the Lifetime Television Network. The film opened to 6.5 million viewers, making it Lifetime’s third most-watched original telecast ever. Among Women 25-54, Steel Magnolias has become Lifetime’s most-watched movie in network history with 2.5 million viewers. This new version directed by Leon, starred Queen Latifah, Phylicia Rashad, Alfre Woodard, Condola Rashad and Jill Scott.
In 2011, Leon became the first African-American director to have concurrent shows on Broadway with The Mountaintop and Stick Fly. In The Mountaintop, written by Katori Hall, Samuel L. Jackson starred as Dr. Martin Luther King opposite Angela Bassett, who played a maid awed by the civil rights leader. Stick Fly, a dysfunctional-family comedy produced by Alicia Keys, featured Dule Hill, Mekhi Phifer and Condola Rashad.
In 2010, Leon directed the Broadway revival of August Wilson’s Fences, starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis. The play was a huge critical and box-office success, having garnered 10 Tony Nominations including “Best Director,” the most nominations ever for a play revival. Fences set box office records and received the Tony Award for “Best Revival of a Play,” “Best Actor” and “Best Actress.”
Leon’s additional Broadway credits include the Tony Award-nominated plays Radio Golf (2007) and Gem of the Ocean (2004), both by August Wilson. He also directed Swimming Upstream, featuring women of New Orleans and the impact of Hurricane Katrina on their lives and city, and Breaking the Silence, a United Nations event aimed at bringing awareness to child abduction across the globe.
In 2004, Leon made his Broadway debut with the 2004 Tony Award-winning revival of Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun, starring Sean P. Diddy Combs, Phylicia Rashad and Audra McDonald. Leon received a Drama Desk Award nomination for “Outstanding Director of a Play” before reuniting the cast in 2008 to direct the television adaptation, which aired on ABC to 12.7 million viewers. Leon was nominated for “Best Director” by the DGA for this television version, which also received Emmy and Golden Globe nominations in addition to three NAACP Image Award wins.
Building on a career in regional theatre (Arena Stage, Milwaukee Rep, Huntington Theatre, L.A.’s Center Theatre, the Public, Chicago’s Goodman Theatre, among others), and after leading Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre for 11 years, Leon founded Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre Company in 2002. Based in Atlanta, GA, the Company is dedicated to diversity and the preservation of African-American classics.
Through True Colors, Leon produces the August Wilson Monologue Competition, an annual competition currently in eight major cities providing workshops and training to hundreds of teenagers. Regional winners receive mentoring and coaching alongside free travel and board to New York City, to participate in the Competition Finals at the August Wilson Theatre on Broadway performing monologues from August Wilson’s Century Cycle before a panel of judges. First, second and third place winners receive scholarships and all finalists receive hardbound book sets of August Wilson’s plays.
Leon is a graduate of Clark Atlanta University and holds honorary doctorates from Roosevelt University and several other institutions. He has been a featured speaker for arts organizations, awards shows, corporate and political groups, churches, and universities including Yale University, Northwestern University and NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.
Leon’s diverse body of projects in theater and film requires him to split time between Atlanta, Los Angeles, and New York.