In August Wilson’s eloquent obituary, 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...”
For his work in Paramount’s Oscar Nominated film of August Wilson’s, Fences starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis, Mr. Henderson received a 2017 Virtuoso Award from the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. In the 2010 Broadway revival of Fences Stephen received a Tony nomination for featured actor. That season he was presented with the Richard Seff Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor from Actor’s Equity Association. Stephen has worked on stages throughout the United States, abroad, on Broadway, off-Broadway, in television and film. His most recent Broadway appearance was in 2017 as Torvald in the heralded replacement cast of A Doll's House, Part 2 led by Julie White. His OBIE and LUCILLE LORTEL awards in the outstanding lead actor category are for his work as Pops in Stephen Adley Guirgis’, Between Riverside and Crazy. The play moved from the Atlantic Theater Co. in 2014 to Second Stage Theater in 2015 and received The Pulitzer Prize for Drama that season.
Henderson’s film work includes performances in five Oscar Nominated films: Greta Gerwig’s, Lady Bird; Steven Spielberg’s, LINCOLN; Mr. Washington’s, Fences, Kenneth Lonergan’s, Manchester by the Sea and Stephen Daldry’s, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Noteworthy television work includes Alex Garland’s FX series, DEVS; Aaron Sorkin’s HBO series, THE NEWSROOM; Jim McKay’s HBO Film, Everyday People presented at 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.
In Buffalo, New York Stephen has received two ArtVoice Awards for 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 Juilliard Drama Division, John Houseman cited Stephen’s work as a student in his memoir, Final Dress, pub., Simon & Shuster. Dr. Samuel Hay cites Stephen’s work as an actor, director, and educator in his text, African American Theater, A Critical Analysis, pub., Cambridge University Press.
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 six Broadway shows include two Tony winners for best Revival of a Play, A Raisin in the Sun, 2014 and Fences, 2010. He played 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 his 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 its 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. Jitney’s production history from 1996-2002 culminated in an Olivier Award for its run at the National Theatre of Great Britain; and in 2017, director Ruben Santiago-Hudson’s Tony winning revival of Jitney completed August Wilson’s unprecedented achievement in American Theatre.
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 include 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 directing credits include 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 Theater 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 when Muhammad Ali lit the Olympic Flame. 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.
Henderson is Professor Emeritus and former Chair of Theatre and Dance for The State University of New York at Buffalo. 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, the Purina Foundation, and Anhieser-Busch. 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. At Purdue University Graduate School (MA), he was Director of the Drama Workshop for the Black Cultural Center. He attended summer intensives at Rose Bruford Academy in Great Britain (1971) and William Esper Studios, New York (1993). In the summer of 2001, Stephen was part of a master class taught by Lloyd Richards at the Actor’s Center, NYC. He continued to study with Mr. Richards through 2003. The Actor’s Center master class is featured in filmmaker Michael Schultz’ documentary on Mr. Richards currently being edited.
Mr. Henderson is a Fox Foundation Fellow, a Master Teacher for The Lunt-Fontanne Ten Chimneys Fellowship Program, a recipient of the Woodie King Jr. Lifetime Achievement Award from The St. Louis Black Repertory Theatre and Distinguished Alumnus of Purdue University Graduate School, College of Liberal Arts. He was the 2016 Denzel Washington Endowed Chair at Fordham University and regularly teaches master classes for Juilliard Drama Division’s Third Year students. Stephen delivered Juilliard’s commencement address and was conferred Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts, May 19, 2017.