AT THE THEATRE ALIVE! GALA on January 28, 2021, EdTA honored black director Kenny Leon with the Craig Zadan Theatre for Life Award. Thespian Nation Live attendees were treated to a special watch party for the festivities. Watch Leon talk about the award from his director’s chair at home (below).

Kenny Leon is just one of many directors of color who have made huge contributions to theatre. Here are five more black directors who have left their mark on the theatre world.

Meet 5 Outstanding Directors

  1. Woodie King, Jr. founded the New Federal Theatre and the National Black Touring Circuit in 1970 in New York City, where he remained as producing director throughout his career. King has produced shows both on and off Broadway and directed performances across the country in venues such as the New York Shakespeare Festival; the Cleveland Play House; Baltimore Center Stage; and the Pittsburgh Public Theater; earning numerous nominations and awards. Awards include a 1988 NAACP Image Award for his direction of “Checkmates,” and 1993 AUDELCO Awards for Best Director and Best Play for his production of Robert Johnson: Trick the Devil; he also received an Obie Award for Sustained Achievement.
    Find him here.
  1. Theatre producer and director Marjorie Moon is the President and Executive Director of The Billie Holiday Theatre in Brooklyn, New York, where she has served for more than 30 years. Marjorie Moon has directed several award-winning productions, including Weldon Irvine’s “Young, Gifted and Broke,” winner of four prestigious AUDELCO Awards. Moon has also produced more than 150 productions and has received numerous awards for her work at the Billie Holiday Theatre.
    Find her here.
  1. Jackie Taylor is the founder of the 40-year-old Black Ensemble Theatre (BE), an institution recognized throughout the nation for outstanding original productions and exceptional educational outreach programs. Jackie Taylor has written and produced more than 100 plays and musical biographies; many of them acclaimed productions. She is also an accomplished actress and performer with featured roles in several major films, television shows, and theatre She has worked with such greats as Sidney Poitier, Laurence Fishburne, Vanessa Williams, Bill Dukes, Glynn Turman, and Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs. Honors include a League of Chicago Theater Lifetime Achievement Award, one of the Top 10 in the Arts in the Chicago Sun-Times’ 100 Most Powerful Women; “Producer of the Year” by the National Black Theater Festival and a “Phenomenal Women Award” by Expo for Today’s Black Women. Find her on the web here.
  1. Ron Himes is the Founder and Producing Director of The Black Rep. He is also the Henry E. Hampton, Jr., Artist-in-Residence at Washington University in St. Louis. He has produced and directed more than 200 plays at The Black Rep, including all 10 plays written by August Wilson. Himes has directing credits from numerous other noteworthy theatres including Delaware Theatre Company; People’s Light in Malvern, Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia; 7 Stages in Atlanta; Studio Theatre in Washington, D.C., among others. Honors include the 2013 Outstanding Organization of the Year Award from 100 Black Men and the Citizen of the Year Award from the Gateway Classic Foundation; the 2007 Distinguished Alumni Award from University College at Washington University, St. Louis; the 2004 Heroes Pierre Laclede Award; the Lifetime Achievement Award from The Arts & Education Council in 2001; Creative Artist Award from The Better Family Life in 1997; Woodie Award for Outstanding Direction from the St. Louis Black Repertory Company; an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from the University of Missouri—St. Louis in 1993, and from Washington University in 1997. Plus, the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Life and Legacy Award from the National Panhellenic Alumnae Council. Find him here.
  1. Eileen J. Morris is a director, actress, and educator with The Ensemble Theatre in Houston, TX, where she has produced more than 78 productions, including 4 world premieres and 57 regional premieres. The Ensemble Theatre is an award-winning company, receiving the 2013 Best Season Theatre Award from the Houston Press under Morris’ leadership, also past winner of the Best Showcase for African-American Actors and Best of Houston Theatre 2008. Morris is a board member of the Black Theatre Network, a national organization dedicated to the exploration and preservation of the theatrical visions of the African Diaspora. Morris is the only woman in the country who has directed eight of the August Wilson 10-Play Cycle. Find her here.

Dig deeper into the accomplishments of these five theatre-history makers, and others, in Cheryl J. Williams upcoming book, African American Directors in American Theatre.

Check out History MakersBlack Theatre Network, and Black Theatre Matters to meet more black directors. You’ll get a better feel for what the view is like from the director’s chair!

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