Kenny Leon to Be Honored With Craig Zadan Theatre For Life Award | Playbill

Education News Kenny Leon to Be Honored With Craig Zadan Theatre For Life Award The Tony-winning director will receive the honor at the Educational Theatre Foundation's Theatre Alive! virtual gala, streaming on Playbill.
Kenny Leon Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Tony-winning director Kenny Leon will be awarded the third annual Craig Zadan Theatre for Life Award at the Educational Theatre Foundation's Theatre Alive! virtual gala January 28, 2021 at 8:30 PM ET. The celebrity-packed event will stream free on Playbill.

The benefit event supports ETF and their efforts to increase access to theatre education in underserved schools. The 2021 gala will specifically support two programs, the Thespian Relief Grants to Save School Theatre, which provided financial relief to theatre programs struggling with the effects of COVID-19; and Pathway, a new program addressing racial disparity in theatre.

Leon's honor is being given in recognition of his dedication to promoting and preserving the joy of theatre, inspiring young artists, and leaving a lasting impact on generations to come. Part of this work includes serving on the advisory board of ETF's Pathway initiative, which creates opportunities for high school students to work with industry professionals of color and perform works encouraging dialogue around racial equality. Leon serves on the program's advisory board.

“Craig was a visionary committed to racial equity,” says Leon. “He helped many people of color with their careers, including me. He made sure that Black and brown people were included in the pursuit of the American dream. Before we acknowledged this epidemic of race and racism in America, Craig was doing the work on the ground. We miss him, we thank him, and we love him, and I’m honored to accept an award championing his legacy.”

Leon is the third artist to receive the honor, which was first given posthumously to the award's namesake and his producing partner Neil Meron in 2018, and to Bernadette Peters in 2019.

“Kenny Leon embodies the spirit of the Craig Zadan Theatre for Life Award, and we’re thrilled to celebrate him in a year in which we pay tribute to the resilience of school theatre programs through Theatre Alive!,” says ETF President Julie Cohen Theobald. “In the toughest of circumstances, teachers are finding creative ways to make theatre happen when students need it most. This event will honor them, support those hit hardest by the pandemic, and push forward our vision of ensuring every student has access to theatre in their school.”

Also being awarded at the 2021 celebration is The Shubert Organization, honored with ETF's Standing Ovation Award in recognition of significant contributions to theatre education nationally through philanthropic efforts or program activities. Shubert Chairman and CEO Robert E. Wankel will accept the honor on behalf of the organization.

Presenting sponsors for Theatre Alive! include Playbill, Apples and Oranges Arts, and iHeart Radio Broadway. NBC, Concord Theatricals, Nancy and Kenneth Duffy, Broadway Licensing, Broadway On Demand, Open Jar Studios, and Mark Weinstein are additional sponsors, with support also provided by Disney Theatrical Group, Dramatists Play Service, and Mark Drum,

For more information and to register for the streaming event, visit

Education News

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