Tony Award winner Kenny Leon to direct Steppenwolf’s ‘King James’

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Kenny Leon accepts the award for best revival of a play for “A Soldier’s Play” during the 74th Annual Tony Awards at Winter Garden Theatre on September 26, 2021, in New York City.

Kenny Leon accepts the award for best revival of a play for “A Soldier’s Play” during the 74th Annual Tony Awards at Winter Garden Theatre on September 26, 2021, in New York City.

Getty Images for Tony Awards Pro

Kenny Leon, the Tony Award winning director for the Broadway revival production of “A Raisin in the Sun” in 2014, will be helming Steppenwolf Theatre’s world premiere production of “King James,” it was announced Wednesday.

“King James,” written by Steppenwolf ensemble member Rajiv Joseph (“Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo”) in a co-commissioned production with Center Theatre Group, will debut in Steppenwolf’s Downstairs Theater next March. Told through the eyes of two sports superfans, the play looks at the life and career of NBA superstar LeBron James’ reign in Cleveland, and the impact that sports and athletes in general have on the lives of their fans and communities. Former Steppenwolf artistic director Anna D. Shapiro, who announced in May that she was stepping down from the post, was initially slated to direct “King James.”

Last year, Leon earned a best director Tony nomination for “A Soldier’s Play,” which won the award for best revival of a play. In accepting the Tony for the production, Leon emphasized the need for increased inclusivity and diversity in theater, including the scope of works. “No diss to Shakespeare, no diss to Ibsen, to Chekhov, to Shaw — they’re all at the table,” he said, “but the table’s got to be bigger.”

His critically acclaimed career also includes television, most notably his Emmy-nominated turn as director of “Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia” for the Lifetime network.

In 2006, Leon directed Goodman Theatre’s production of August Wilson’s “Radio Golf.” He is currently the senior resident director for the New York City-based Roundabout Theatre Company.

Tickets for “King James” are currently part of Steppenwolf’s membership series; single tickets will go on sale at a later date. 

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