Kenny Leon to Receive “Mr. Abbott” Award


Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation (SDC Foundation)
Will Honor Tony Award-Winning Director Kenny Leon
For Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre

(November 17, 2016 – New York, NY) The Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation (SDC Foundation), the not-for-profit foundation of Stage Directors and Choreographers Society (SDC), announces that acclaimed Director Kenny Leon will be honored with the distinguished 2016-2017 “Mr. Abbott” Award for the outstanding artistry and creativity of his forty-year (and counting) career. The Award will be presented at the Foundation’s annual gala event on March 27 at espace in New York City. Chairing the “Mr. Abbott” Award Committee are Executive Board Members Oz Scott and Michael Wilson, with Honorary Co-Chairs Samuel L. Jackson & LaTanya Richardson, 2013 “Mr. Abbott Award” winner Jerry Mitchell, and Denzel & Pauletta Washington. Proceeds from the gala benefit Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation.

SDC President Pam MacKinnon stated, “I am very happy that the SDC Foundation is honoring Kenny Leon with this year’s “Mr. Abbott” Award. His long and varied career, as an important artist and producer as well as educator, mentor and celebrated director, is an inspiration. His continuing legacy is large. He is committed to rich, beautiful, provocative story-telling. I am a tremendous fan and always look forward to what I am about to see when his name is on the marquee. Congratulations, Kenny!”

The “Mr. Abbott” Award, presented by the SDC Foundation on behalf of directors and choreographers to one of their peers, is named in honor of the late renowned director George Abbott. It is presented in recognition of extraordinary contributions to the field. Past recipients represent the best of the profession and include Michael Bennett, Arvin Brown, Graciela Daniele, Gordon Davidson, Agnes de Mille, Bob Fosse, Garson Kanin, Kathleen & Rob Marshall, Lynne Meadow, Jerry Mitchell, Mike Nichols, Trevor Nunn, Jack O’Brien, Harold Prince, Lloyd Richards, Donald Saddler, Gene Saks, Susan Stroman, Daniel Sullivan, Tommy Tune, George C. Wolfe, Jerry Zaks, and last year’s awardee James Lapine.

Joy Abbott, the widow of George Abbott, noted, “I deeply appreciate SDC Foundation’s continued stewardship of Mr. Abbott’s legacy. I know he would have respected and enjoyed Kenny’s body of work, and that Mr. Leon’s expansive vision and dedication to the nurturing of young talent would have inspired George.”

Kenny Leon is a Tony Award-winning Broadway and film director. His Broadway credits include the 2014 revival of A Raisin in the Sun (Tony Award Winner for Best Direction of a Play and Best Revival), The Mountaintop starring Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett, Stick Fly produced by Alicia Keys, August Wilson’s Fences (which garnered ten Tony nominations and won three Tony Awards including Best Revival), the 2004 revival of A Raisin in the Sun with Sean P. Diddy Combs, Gem of the Ocean, Radio Golf and the 2014 premiere of Holler if Ya Hear Me, a new musical created using the music of Tupac Shakur. Off-Broadway credits have included critically-acclaimed productions of Thulani Davis’ Everybody’s Ruby at the Public Theater and Lydia Diamond’s Smart People at Second Stage, among others. Leon’s recent TV and film work includes Hairspray LIVE! scheduled to air on December 7, 2016 and The Wiz LIVE! both for NBC, In My Dreams for Hallmark Hall of Fame, The Watsons go to Birmingham for Walden Media and Hallmark, episodes of Private Practice and Ghost Whisperer, A Raisin in the Sun for Sony Pictures Television, and the Sony and Lifetime TV adaptation of Steel Magnolias. Leon was awarded the 2010 Julia Hansen Award for Excellence in Directing by the Drama League of New York.

Prior to co-founding True Colors Theatre Company, he served 11 years as Artistic Director of the Alliance Theatre, where he produced the premieres of Disney’s Elaborate Lives: The Legend of Aida, Pearl Cleage’s Blues for an Alabama Sky and Alfred Uhry’s The Last Night of Ballyhoo. Other directorial credits include Toni Morrison’s opera Margaret Garner, the world premiere of Flashdance: The Musical, and the complete August Wilson Century Cycle at the Kennedy Center. He has directed extensively throughout the US, including at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre, Boston’s Huntington Theatre, Baltimore’s Center Stage, Los Angeles’ Center Theatre Group, and New York’s Public Theater. Leon is also the Co-Founder of the National August Wilson Monologue Competition for high school students, a national education program teaching reading comprehension, public speaking, and performance techniques through the work of the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright. Mr. Leon is an alumni of Clark Atlanta University.

For more information about the “Mr. Abbott” Award and other SDC Foundation programs, please visit

For 50 years, Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation has developed and promoted the creativity and craft of directors and choreographers. SDC Foundation’s mission is to create access to the field, to connect artists, and to honor the theatrical legacy of these artists. The centrality of the director’s role in theatre and the impact that they have on other artists’ careers—from playwrights to designers to actors—makes SDC Foundation’s services essential to the theatre industry’s health and continued vitality.

Through mentorship programs, community forums and public events, SDC Foundation constructs paths for early-career directors and choreographers from all backgrounds to interact with established artists around the country, puts mid-career artists in the room together to debate and solve issues they face in the business, and reaches beyond the theatre industry to tell the story of what directors and choreographers contribute to the art form. In a discipline that can often feel isolating, SDC Foundation serves the needs of artists at all stages, building a cross-generational theatre community.

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