In addition to 12 years as artistic director of
His latest, Holler, which opens today, is a musical about the late rap artist
A scene from Holler if Ya Hear Me.
Leon praised his new chair's benefactor,
"Theater allows him to expand what he does in his film work, and that's why he wants to come back to the stage every three or four years," said Leon. "That's the true litmus test: Not every film actor can do theater, but most of your great theater artists can do film."
He is currently in rehearsals for Same Time Next Year, where he'll act opposite
"I consider myself as a director, but started out as an actor," said Leon. "Every two or three years I act so that I can remind myself about the process and what actors are going through."
Leon said that the opportunity to teach at
"I'm also really looking forward to what I'm going to get from the students," he said. "I want to see what's in their heads, what energizes them, what's going to be the next story on
He said he hopes students will benefit from his own experience, and "not have to repeat the same mistakes." He said that while he doesn't have the syllabus mapped out yet, he said students could expect to learn how to break down, build, and maintain a character and "how you stand in truth."
"It'll be probably the rawest class they've ever had," he said.
Leon he does not consider himself to be a traditional teacher, he said his experience with the young cast of Holler transformed rehearsals into something of a collaborative master class, with rappers, dancers, actors, and poets learning from each other.
"You find the truth by working with the person you are opposite. I love that," he said.
And Leon knows about learning from the masters. He worked with
"As an African-American artist, I'll never forget the time I spent with
"In many ways August plays, Lorraine plays, and Tupac plays are all about the same thing--access to the American Dream," he said. "If I was making this play for a hip-hop rap concert then I'd simply play Tupac records. But I'm trying to tell a story. And in a story, you hear truth unfold."
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