Stephen McKinley Henderson
- MA – Purdue University
- BFA – North Carolina School of the Arts
- Juilliard Drama Division
Professor Henderson has worked on stages throughout the United States and abroad, on and off Broadway, and in television and film. His work in the 2010 Broadway revival of August Wilson’s, FENCES with Denzel Washington and Viola Davis earned Stephen a Tony nomination in the featured actor category. That season he also received the Richard Seff Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor presented annually by Actor’s Equity. He is a Fox Foundation Fellow, member of the LAByrinth Theatre Company, Distinguished Alumnus of Purdue University College of Liberal Arts, and a former Chair of our department. His term as Chair was interrupted in 1999 by his work with Pulitzer Prize winning playwright, August Wilson.
In his eloquent obituary for Mr. Wilson in 2005, Michael Feingold of the Village Voice wrote,
“…To think of the great characters and scenes in August’s plays is to think of an epic parade of great African American actors who have seized their moment to make theater history: James Earl Jones and Mary Alice in Fences, Charles S. Dutton in Ma Rainey and The Piano Lesson, S. Epatha Merkerson confronting him in the latter, Roscoe Lee Browne sagely ironic in Two Trains Running, Stephen McKinley Henderson oozing malice in Jitney, Ruben Santiago-Hudson and Lisa Gay Hamilton glaring a skyful of weaponry at each other in Gem of the Ocean…”
Professor Henderson’s film and television work include Tower Heist for Imagine/Universal; Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, (Oscar Nomination in Best Picture category) for Warner Brothers; Aaron Sorkin’s HBO series, THE NEWSROOM; Everyday People, HBO Films, which screened at the Sundance Film Festival in 2004; and William Duke’s PBS American Playhouse film of A Raisin in the Sun, starring Danny Glover and Esther Rolle. He also recurred as a judge for 15 seasons on NBC’s landmark series LAW AND ORDER and was a co-star on the FOX series, NEW AMSTERDAM.
In Buffalo, Professor Henderson has received ArtVoice Awards for both Outstanding Performance and Career Achievement. In 1993 he was honored with the Artist of the Year Award from the Arts Council of Western New York presented by National Endowment for the Arts Chair, Jane Alexander. The late theatre and film producer, founder of the Julliard Drama Division, John Houseman cited Stephen’s work as a student in his memoir, Final Dress, publisher, Simon& Shuster. Dr. Samuel Hay cites his work as an actor, director, and educator in his text, African American Theater, A Critical Analysis, publisher, Cambridge University Press.
Mr. Henderson has been part of several productions at Kennedy Center, most notably as a member of the acting company for Kenny Leon’s historic Century Cycle Readings in 2008. His five Broadway roles from 2001 thru 2010 include Slow Drag in the revival of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom with Charles S. Dutton and Whoopi Goldberg and Van Helsing in, Dracula, The Musical, directed by Des McAnuff. Off-Broadway roles include Pontius Pilate in the LAByrinth Theatre Company’s production of The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, directed by Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Turnbo in Marion McClinton’s production of Jitney. During the off-Broadway run in 2000, Jitney garnered the N.Y. Drama Critic’s Award for Best Play and earned Drama Desk, Obie, and Audelco awards for each actor as members of the outstanding ensemble of the New York season. In Los Angeles, Henderson won a Drama Critics Circle Award as an outstanding featured actor and the NAACP Theatre Award for Outstanding Dramatic Performance by a Male. The London run of Jitney won the Olivier Award for Best New Play of the London season, 2002.
In Yale Repertory’s 2009 production of Death of a Salesman, Stephen played Charley to Charles S. Dutton’s Willy Loman. Other regional roles for various companies Azdak in Caucasian Chalk Circle, Bynum in Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, Creon in Antigone, Falstaff in Merry Wives of Windsor, Sizwe in Sizwe Bansi is Dead, Sitting Bull in Indians, and Solyony in Three Sisters. He played Winston in the Irish premiere of Athol Fugard’s The Island, for Dublin Theater Festival (1981) and received a Jeff Award nomination when the production moved to Chicago’s Wisdom Bridge Theater the following year.
Stephen’s most recent directing credit was Signature Theater’s production of Charles Fuller’s, Zooman and the Sign which ran off-Broadway in 2009 for which he received an Audelco nomination (honoring outstanding achievement in African-American off-Broadway). He made his New York directorial debut with ALI! by Geoffrey C. Ewing and Graydon Royce. Their homage to the legendary champion ran off-Broadway during the 1992 season, transferring from the John Houseman Studio to the Sheridan Square Theater. The production garnered two Audelco Awards and an Obie for Mr. Ewing’s Outstanding Performance. In the summer of 1993, Stephen traveled to London to re-stage ALI! for the Mermaid Theater. It was also revived for the National Black Arts Festival in 1994 and the Olympic Arts Festival, Atlanta, 1996. His production of The Meeting by Jeff Stetson for the St.Louis Black Repertory Theater was presented at Kennedy Center as part of the Imagination Celebration in the Theater Lab, 1994.
While on the roster of Affiliate Artists Inc. (l986-9l), Professor Henderson conducted workshops and presented solo “informances” throughout the nation. A list of the corporate sponsors would include Reader’s Digest, The Alcoa Foundation, U.S. Steel, and the Purina Foundation. From l976-l982 Stephen was a resident member of the Loretto-Hilton Repertory a.k.a. Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. For ten years he enjoyed an artistic association with Studio Arena Theatre of Buffalo, NY and remains an occasional consultant for artistic directors, Mark Cuddy of Geva Theatre, Rochester, NY; Ron Himes of The St. Louis Black Repertory Theater; and Scott Behrend of Buffalo’s, Road less Traveled Theatre Company.
Stephen’s early education in Kansas City, Kansas, led to an academic scholarship to attend Lincoln University in Missouri, a historically black institution, where he met and was directed by Dr. Thomas D. Pauley. In his freshman year at Lincoln, he auditioned for John Houseman and Michael Kahn and became a member of Group l, Juilliard Drama Division in 1968. Stephen is interviewed in the PBS American Masters documentary on Juilliard, first aired in January of 2003. His conservatory training continued at North Carolina School of the Arts (BFA) where he served as president of the student government and at Purdue University Graduate School (MA), where he was Director of the Drama Workshop for the Black Cultural Center. He has attended summer sessions at Rose Bruford Academy in Great Britain and William Esper Studios, New York. In the summer of 2001, Stephen was part of a master class taught by Lloyd Richards at the Actor’s Center, NYC and continued to study with Mr. Richards on a Fox Foundation Fellowship for three years. The Actor’s Center master class is featured in a documentary on Mr. Richards being prepared by filmmaker Michael Schultz.