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Kenny Leon

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Information about Kenny Leon

Profile image of Kenny Leon

Profession

Category:
ArtMakers
EntertainmentMakers
Occupation(s):
Stage Director
Theater Chief Executive

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue, Red
Favorite Food:
Chicken
Favorite Time of Year:
None
Favorite Vacation Spot:
South Africa
Favorite Quote:
All You Have Is Your Time And Talent. Use Them Wisely.

Birthplace

Born:
2/10/1956
Birth Location:
Tallahassee, Florida

Profession

Category:
ArtMakers
EntertainmentMakers
Occupation(s):
Stage Director
Theater Chief Executive

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue, Red
Favorite Food:
Chicken
Favorite Time of Year:
None
Favorite Vacation Spot:
South Africa
Favorite Quote:
All You Have Is Your Time And Talent. Use Them Wisely.

Birthplace

Born:
2/10/1956
Birth Location:
Tallahassee
See how Kenny Leon is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Theatrical and television director and actor Kenny Leon was born Kenneth Leroy Leon on February 10, 1956, in Tallahassee, Florida, to Annie Ruth and Leroy Leon. The oldest of five siblings, Leon’s family moved to St. Petersburg, Florida, when he was nine years old. At Northeast High School in St. Petersburg, Leon got involved in the federal government’s Upward Bound Program which encouraged him to pursue his dream of becoming a lawyer. In 1978, Leon graduated from Clark College in Atlanta, Georgia, with his B.A. degree in political science. He attended Southwestern University School of Law in Los Angeles for a brief period before returning to Atlanta.

In 1979, Leon returned to Atlanta to try his hand at theater. He soon became a member of the Academy Theater in Atlanta where he worked as an actor and director. Often times, Leon would run outreach programs at prisons and schools; one such play was performed entirely by the homeless. All of the profits from the homeless-cast play were contributed to local homeless shelters. In 1988, after years of touring and directing across the country, Leon was offered a job as associate artistic director at the Alliance Theater in Atlanta. By 1990, he was the senior artistic director and would lead the company for the next ten years. By selecting a wide range of multicultural plays for the theater, Leon increased the minority attendance and the national reputation of the Alliance, and quintupled the endowment.

In 2002, after leaving the Alliance, Leon founded his own theater company in Atlanta, the True Colors Theater Company, which focused on promulgating and preserving Negro-American theatrical classics. Leon has continued to make waves in the theater world outside of Atlanta. In 2004, he directed his first Broadway play, reviving Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun for which he cast hip hop mogul, Sean Combs in the role of Walter Lee Younger; in 2007, Leon directed a television adaptation of the play. Between 2004 and 2007, Leon directed the world and Broadway premieres of August Wilson’s final two plays, Gem of the Ocean and Radio Golf; he also directed the world premiere of Toni Morrison’s first opera, Margaret Garner. While he continues to ensure the success of True Colors, Leon plans to put together all of August Wilson’s ten plays at the Kennedy Center as a tribute to the deceased playwright.

Leon was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on September 9, 2007.

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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Kenny Leon's interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Kenny Leon lists his favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Kenny Leon describes his mother's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Kenny Leon remembers being raised by his maternal grandmother
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Kenny Leon recalls moving to St. Petersburg, Florida
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Kenny Leon describes his grade school experiences in St. Petersburg, Florida
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Kenny Leon describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Kenny Leon remembers celebrating the holidays
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Kenny Leon talks about segregation in St. Petersburg, Florida
  • Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Kenny Leon remembers Macedonia Freewill Baptist Church in St. Petersburg, Florida
  • Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Kenny Leon recalls his early interest in acting
  • Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Kenny Leon talks about the Upward Bound program
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Kenny Leon recalls his decision to attend Clark College in Atlanta, Georgia
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Kenny Leon recalls the start of his acting career
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Kenny Leon remembers the Civil Rights Movement in St. Petersburg, Florida
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Kenny Leon describes the Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles, California
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Kenny Leon talks about his community theater programs
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Kenny Leon recalls his theater experiences in Atlanta, Georgia
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Kenny Leon remembers working with the Center Stage Theater in Baltimore, Maryland
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Kenny Leon recalls working for the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia
  • Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Kenny Leon remembers August Wilson, pt. 1
  • Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Kenny Leon remembers August Wilson, pt. 2
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Kenny Leon talks about his tenure at the Alliance Theatre
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Kenny Leon recalls diversifying Alliance Theatre's staff and programming
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Kenny Leon talks about theatre directors
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Kenny Leon recalls leaving the Alliance Theatre
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Kenny Leon remembers founding the True Colors Theatre Company
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Kenny Leon recalls directing 'A Raisin in the Sun,' pt. 1
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Kenny Leon recalls directing 'A Raisin in the Sun,' pt. 2
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Kenny Leon talks about the directors of August Wilson's plays
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Kenny Leon remembers his directorial vision for 'A Raisin in the Sun'
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Kenny Leon recalls directing August Wilson's 'Gem of the Ocean'
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Kenny Leon remembers directing August Wilson's 'Radio Golf'
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Kenny Leon talks about directing 'Margaret Garner'
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Kenny Leon describes the True Colors Theatre Company
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Kenny Leon recalls directing 'The Wiz'
  • Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Kenny Leon talks about his Tony Award nominations
  • Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Kenny Leon describes August Wilson's 'Radio Golf'
  • Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Kenny Leon describes the playwrights he admires
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Kenny Leon describes his concerns for the African American community
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Kenny Leon reflects upon his life
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Kenny Leon reflects upon his legacy
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Kenny Leon describes his plans for the future
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Kenny Leon shares a message to future generations