Alliance Theatre Company of Atlanta, GA's 2000-01 season will be the last for artistic director Kenny Leon. The ten-year veteran announced on July 20 that he would resign at the end of the upcoming season to pursue other "personal and professional challenges."
In a statement released by the theatre's press office, Alliance board chair Debbie Shelton said, "I regret but respect his decision, and understand his desire to move on to his next horizon, wherever that may be." Leon told the board that he had not accepted another position elsewhere. (By contrast, La Jolla Playhouse artistic director Anne Hamburger -- her term just one year old -- also tendered her resignation this week, to take a position as Executive Vice President of Creative Entertainment for Disney's theme parks and resorts.) In September 1999, Variety reported that Leon would be co-directing the Harlem Globetrotters-based musical, Hoops, with Savion Glover, but little has been heard about that project since.
Leon's last season at Alliance will be a busy one. He'll "work closely" with director-choreographer Debbie Allen on her new musical Soul Possessed and will direct the world premiere of Willy Holtzman's Hearts. He'll also stage Eugene O'Neill's classic, A Moon for the Misbegotten, as well as select the plays for the 2001-02 season and help the Alliance find a new leader. Other plays on the Alliance schedule include A Christmas Carol, Light Up the Sky, Spinning Into Butter, Art, The Book of Ruth, The Hobbit, Dinner With Friends and God's Man in Texas.
In its press release announcing Leon's departure, the Alliance points to such accomplishments as growing the company's endowment from $1 million to $5 million (thanks to an NEA challenge grant) and premiering new plays by such scribes as Alfred Uhry, Athol Fugard and Pearl Cleage. Disney's Aida, one of the hottest tickets on Broadway, had its world premiere at Alliance this past season. Ethnic diversity has been an important facet of the company, which boasts an audience of 320,000.
-- By David Lefkowitz