Tony Award Winner Kenny Leon on His Work and the Importance of Preserving African American Classics

Kenny Leon already had an impressive resume—and after Sunday night, he can add “Tony Award winner.” He took home the award for best direction for his work on “A Raisin in the Sun.” (which also won for best revival of a play). Leon was a guest on our Strange Fruit podcast last year, and told us he hadn’t always planned on a career in the arts.

“Basically when you grow up poor in the South, your parents are itching for you to do something that they know something about,” he explained. “My choice was to be a teacher, a preacher, a doctor or lawyer, something like that—and being the first person in my family to go to college.”

He headed from Florida to Atlanta, where his involvement in the Atlanta University Center introduced him to people like Spike Lee, Samuel L. Jackson, and LaTanya Richardson.

Soon he was teaching theater workshops in the prison system and nursing homes, and working with and for the homeless in Atlanta.

“That really rewarded me,” he said. “I thought God had put me here to have a life in the arts.”

Laura Ellis

Laura is the producer of Strange Fruit, a weekly talk show focusing on race and gender, and produces other news & feature programming.

@funambulator

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