KENNY LEON is founding Artistic Director of True Colors Theatre Company, Principal of KLProductions and a highly acclaimed director, producer and actor. Following an unprecedented 11-year tenure as Artistic Director of the Alliance Theatre Company, Kenny began True Colors Theatre Company in order to further his personal and professional mission of preserving and refreshing the African American classics, while also producing works from various times, cultures and perspectives.
As Artistic Director of the Alliance Theatre Company, Leon commissioned and directed three new works from Pearl Cleage, Flyin’ West, Blues for an Alabama Sky and Bourbon at the Border. Also while at the Alliance, Kenny produced the premieres of Disney’s and Elton John’s Elaborate Lives: the Legend of Aida, and Debbie Allen’s Soul Possessed. Off-Broadway, Leon also directed Purlie Victorious, Everybody’s Ruby (starring Phylicia Rashad) and last year directed the off-Broadway smash hit Emergence-See, featuring Daniel Beaty at the New York Shakespeare Festival/Public Theatre. He also directed the premiere of Broadway bound Rejoice! with True Colors in collaboration with the National Black Arts Festival. This summer, Leon will direct Ceremonies in Dark Old Men with True Colors. Leon also directs True Colors Theatre Company’s annual all-youth production of The Wiz with a Broadway design team, offering Atlanta’s youth an unforgettable experience.
Kenny directed the final two Broadway productions of August Wilson’s epic 10-play cycle, the 5-time Tony-nominated Gem of the Ocean (pre-Broadway and Broadway) and Radio Golf (pre-Broadway and Broadway in May 2007). Kenny looks forward to his upcoming collaboration with the Kennedy Center to pay homage to the great playwright August Wilson; the “Century Cycle” project will showcase all 10 of Wilson’s plays in one concentrated package under Leon’s artistic leadership.
In 2005, Kenny directed the world premiere of Toni Morrison’s opera, Margaret Garner, working with Composer Richard Danielpour, Conductor Stefan Lano and featuring mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves. Margaret Garner was produced at Michigan Opera Theatre, Cincinnati Opera, where it sold more tickets than any opera ever performed there, and Opera Company of Philadelphia.
In 2004, Leon directed the Broadway revival of Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun, with an all star cast featuring Sean “P.Diddy” Combs, Sanaa Lathan, Audra McDonald and Phylicia Rashad; the show garnered two Tony Awards, and for Leon, a nomination for Outstanding Director by Boston’s Drama Desk Awards. His production of A Raisin in the Sun went on to register the highest-grossing box office sales for a drama in Broadway history. In Fall 2006, Kenny directed the film adaptation of “A Raisin in the Sun,” featuring the Broadway cast. The film is soon to be released on network television in collaboration with Sony and ABC.
Kenny’s directorial credits span an incomparable range of work, from classic theatre, to drama, to comedy, to musicals, to musical revues, to operas, to film. He’s directed extensively around the country, including, among others, Chicago’s Goodman Theatre, Boston’s Huntington Theatre, Connecticut’s Long Wharf Theatre and Hartford Stage, Baltimore’s Center Stage, Los Angeles’ Center Theatre Group, Milwaukee Repertory, New York’s Public Theatre, Atlanta’s Fox Theatre, Seattle Repertory, Georgia Shakespeare, San Jose Repertory, Dallas Theatre Center, and Oregon Shakespeare.
Leon was honored as one of the “Top 20 Southerners to Watch” by the Financial Times of London, was chosen as one of People Magazine’s “50 Most Beautiful People” and was awarded the 2004 “Martell Cognac Rise-Above Award”, honoring his artistry and entrepreneurial spirit. He was the “Face of Martell” for the 05’-06’ advertising campaign and has been featured on the back covers of GQ, Black Enterprise and Jet Magazines. He received the Atlanta Business League Trailblazer Award, and earned the MIT Eugene McDermott Award among many others.
A graduate and honorary Ph.D. of Clark Atlanta University, Kenny is also very active in his communities. He sits on the Board of the New Globe Theatre, New York, NY; he’s a member of 100 Black Men of Atlanta; he conducted an improv workshop at the Patricia M. Sitar Center for the Arts in Washington, DC; for the Dekalb County, GA, school system, he directed Snapshots: From a Decade of Directing American Theatre, a retrospective of his directorial work performed by students from across the county; and Leon recently directed an evening of readings at Tribeca Film Institute’s “All Access Open Stage,” a year-round program that promotes artists of color in film and theatre. Kenny was Literacy Action Incorporated’s honorary co-chair for their 35th Anniversary Campaign and is a sought-after keynote, motivational and inspirational speaker with engagements at arts associations, fortune 500 companies and youth organizations around the country.
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