3rd in a series of blogs on Atlanta director Kenny Leon before the Tonys. Come back for more on Thursday, and see a profile of Leon in Living on Saturday.
By Howard Pousner
New York — A man who knows his way around a script, Kenny Leon hasn’t written an acceptance speech to read if he wins the best director Tony on Sunday night.
Part of that is that, though the Atlanta director certainly is confident in his work, he’s not the presumptuous sort. He said he’d be “humbled” if theater colleagues voted to award him the Tony, feeling that the prize would not only honor “Fences” but more than two decades of directorial work in Atlanta, in regional theaters and on Broadway..
But the other consideration is that Leon knows he’s always at his best when he speaks “from the heart.”
As Sunday’s Radio City Music Hall ceremony nears, however, he’s started to worry about his mind going blank on national TV (8 p.m., CBS). “I was saying, wow, if it happens I would certainly not like to be at a loss for words. And I would certainly hate leaving out anything.”
What would he say if he wins as best director, one of 10 Tony nominations for which “Fences” is contending?
“I’d want to say something about [playwright] August Wilson and say something about the many actors and directors around the country working to make a living,” Leon said over late afternoon appetizers Wednesday at the Italian eatery La Masseria, which he likes so much he refers to it as “my restaurant.”
“And I’d want to say something about the country and our disregard for the development of the creative imagination. I think we need to really get that focus back for our young people in our schools.”
On that count, Leon doesn’t just talk the talk, but walks the walk.
His Atlanta-based Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre Company organized the 4th Annual August Wilson Monologue Competition that concluded with national finals here in early May. High school sophomores, juniors and seniors from Atlanta and the other regional semifinals competed, performing short monologues from one of the 10 plays in Wilson’s “Century Cycle.” That of course includes “Fences” and “Jitney,” being performed in Atlanta at the Alliance Theatre through June 27 by Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre Company.
After the Tonys but before he takes a much-needed vacation, Leon will appear for an audience talk at the Alliance after next Wednesday’s “Jitney” staging (information: 1-877-725-8849, truecolorstheatre.org).