In July of 2020, over 300 Black, Indigenous, and People of Color theater-makers penned a letter that challenged White theater to change. The letter, “We See You White American Theater,” called into question the sincerity of white theatre leader promises to diversify, yet whose actions kept the Great White Way mostly white. But before the delivery of this letter, one Black man was crusading for change and changing the color of theatre producers on Broadway.
Ron Simons, of SimonSays Entertainment, has been blazing the trail to expand the breadth of who has a voice on Broadway for a number of years. And he’s got the trophies to prove that he puts his money where his passion is. While Ron also works in film and television with an impressive list of current projects under development, he is a four-time Tony Award© winning producer, having racked up more than any other Black producer in history! Simons’ Tony-nominated and winning producer credits include "Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations," "Jitney," "A Gentlemen’s Guide to Love and Murder," "Porgy & Bess," and "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike." Ron also holds the distinction of being the first African American to lead three Black shows to Broadway.
Ron’s connection to the Pacific Northwest no doubt helped to prepare him for the changes he is making on Broadway. An MFA graduate of the University of Washington Professional Actor Training Program, and a former executive at Microsoft ---- in addition to holding an MBA from Columbia Business School ---- Ron has built the perfect mix of skills and knowledge to truly become the change he wants to see.
In a recent Zoom meeting with potential Black producers around the country, Ron emphatically iterated the importance of more Black representation on Broadway, on and off the stage. His trademark ‘Tell Every Story®' includes a devotion to assuring that Black women specifically, take up more space among the bright lights. He is currently stewarding the entry of more Black producers with the Broadway return of Ntozake Shange’s "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf," to be directed by Camile A.Brown and set to premiere this year. In this recent NY Times profile, you can see he is not deterred in his quest, despite the fact that theater may be struggling.
We thank you Ron for inspiring us to take more risks to assure that every story is told, and for being an anecdote to the dismissive history that has plagued the Black theatre community for so long. Our spotlight is focused on your stellar accomplishments and the bit of chocolate you are dusting along the previously mostly all milky white way.
To learn more about Ron Simons and his projects, enjoy his TedX x Broadway talk (below), or check out his website.