An interview with Ron Simons, CEO, and President of SimonSays Entertainment in New York. Here’s what the talented executive, entrepreneur, actor, and philanthropist shared with NJ Urban News Writer, Margrira about what drives him and why.
NEW JERSEY URBAN NEWS:
Thank you for taking the time to speak with me about your career as a producer. I’m passionate about theater because it saved my Life, so I am fondly attached. You are a man of many firsts. First African-American Broadway producer to win 4 Tony Awards (also to earn 5 Tony nominations). First African-American producer to lead and produce three African-American shows on Broadway. Made the first African-American show with all creative leads as women of color, and you created the first TWO African-American Broadway shows to feature African-American producers, African-American writers, African-American directors, and an African-American cast. Do you still act?
Simons: Yes, I still do act
New Jersey Urban News: I listened to the interview you completed for the BBC and was deeply moved.
(https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/w3ct37rs) Why did you step into the role of producer?
Simons: I produce because there are [many] stories worthy of being told that are not being told.
New Jersey Urban News: Facts. What’s the motivation? What are you best at?
Simons: I am best at storytelling, and I decided to use that as my agent for change. So my storytelling is my activism.
New Jersey Urban News: Were you the first African-American Broadway producer?
Simons: When I came on the scene, there were only two producers of color that I knew of; that was
Stephen [C. Bryd ]and Alia [Jones-Harvey].
New Jersey Urban News: Yes, they made Broadway history as the “only pair of African-American lead producers” when Danai Gurira’s (“Black Panther”) play, Eclipsed, opened at the Golden Theatre.
Simons: And I thought that was unforgivable, so I started mentoring people of color who want to be producers, and I have eight, [African-American] Black women, mentees that I am working with, and two of them are already working on Broadway shows which I am very excited about.
New Jersey Urban News: This is a leading question, so forgive me, but why are you excited for the two mentees?
Simons: Producers are the gatekeepers. They decide which projects will go forward or not. Broadway, not unlike other institutions, has a lot of nepotism.
New Jersey Urban News: Nepotism practically runs the film industry.
Simons: It’s who you know. And who you know can make the difference between you getting funding for your show or not.
New Jersey Urban News: Exactly. It’s the same for the film industry of which you and your company SimonSays Entertainment.
Simons: I tell my mentees the importance of networking can never be underestimated.
New Jersey Urban News: I’m the worse at networking because I am shy, but I will take your advice. I am passionate about theater, so this interview is all over the place.
Simons: It’s something that has a special place in your Life.