Kenny Leon teams up with Kennesaw State University

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Kenny Leon on the set of "Hairspray Live!" AJC photo: Ryon Horne

Tony Award-winning director Kenny Leon keeps a pretty packed schedule.

PAST COVERAGE: Behind the scene with Kenny Leon on the set of “Hairspray Live” 

The founder and artistic director of Atlanta’s True Colors Theatre Company, Leon directed a Broadway revival of “Fences” starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis. (They reprised their roles for the film version, which Washington directed).

He directed the Atlanta-filmed modern remake of “Steel Magnolias” starring Queen Latifah, Alfre Woodard, Jill Scott and mom-and-daughter Phylicia and Condola Rashad. 

He directed live versions of “Hairspray” and “The Wiz” for NBC. His annual Celebrity Golf Tournament & Gala, held in Atlanta supports True Colors educational programming including the National August Wilson Monologue Competition for high school students. Artists such as Cedric the Entertainer, Usher, Flex Alexander and Julius “Dr. J” Erving attended this year’s gala, where Leon joined Samuel L. Jackson, Glynn Turman, Crystal Fox and Eugene Lee for
a powerful reading from Wilson’s “The Piano Lesson.”

Yet with all these plates constantly spinning, Leon wanted to add one more. He reached out to KSU to come up with a way to inspire their students.

“Kenny approached us about how he could work with our students in meaningful and impactful ways,” Patty Poulter, dean of the College of the Arts, said in a KSU release. “He is incredibly enthusiastic and eager to work with our students, and it is very exciting to have him at Kennesaw State University.”

Leon explained in the release why he carved out time in his calendar for the master classes: “I want to bridge that gap between the academic world and the professional world. There should be a healthy synergy between the academic world and the professional/artistic world. So, I am all for that. When I have a master class with students who are serious about being in this business, it’s better to give than receive. I am rewarded by giving.”

Sorry, but the classes are open to enrolled students only. We might be able to sneak a peek during the upcoming event, so stay tuned. For now, rest assured it’ll be an extraordinary opportunity for some lucky scholars.

“You make the profession better by sharing with young folks what you know to be true,” Leon said. “So, I am hoping that it can mean something to them.”

Accredited by the National Association of Schools of Theatre, KSU’s Department of Theatre and Performance Studies offers a Bachelor of Arts with four concentrations: acting, performance studies, musical theater and design/technology. Students perform in plays, musicals, poetry performances, adaptations of classic literature, storytelling, improvisational comedy and new works. Currently, 230 students are in the major.

“We are so pleased to have an artist with the extraordinary achievements of Kenny Leon to work with our students,” Department Chair Rick Lombardo said. “Kenny is a remarkable teacher and director, and our students will have a very special experience working with him.”