Ron Simons Dies: ‘Thoughts Of A Colored Man’ Broadway Producer With Four Tony Awards Was 63

Ron Simons, who had a busy if low-key TV acting career before making his greatest impact producing such acclaimed Broadway plays as Thoughts of a Colored Man (2021) and the 2022 revival of for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf, died Wednesday. The four-time Tony Award winner was 63.

His death was announced by SimonSays Entertainment, the production company he founded in 2009. A cause of death was not immediately available.

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“It is with heavy hearts that we share the unexpected passing of our beloved, blessed, and highly favored friend, Ronald Keith Simons. Funeral details will be forthcoming,” the production company said in a statement.

The Classical Theatre of Harlem said in a separate statement, “We are heartbroken to learn of our friend and former trustee Ron Simon’s passing. Our thoughts are with his family. Ron has left behind an unmatched legacy on Broadway and beyond. We will always remember his kindness and incredible talent that inspired so many.”

Born Ronald Keith Simons in Detroit on November 30, 1960, Simons was the only child of a single mother and raised largely by his grandparents. Graduating with an MBA from Columbia Business School in 1989, Simons took a job as a project manager with Microsoft before deciding, at 39, to pursue a career as an actor.

Moving to New York from California, Simons joined The Classical Theatre of Harlem as a company member and by the mid-1990s was regularly booking small acting roles on TV. Credits include appearances on Nowhere Man, Jonny Zero, the various Law & Order franchise series, Marvel’s The Defenders, Daredevil, Succession and, on the big screen, 27 Dresses, Blue Caprice and After The Wedding.

While continuing to book acting jobs through 2019 (his most recent was the TV series The Resident), Simons increasingly focused on producing, at first in film (Night Catches Us, starring Kerry Washington and Anthony Mackie, in 2010) and then, with greater impact, on Broadway. He was part of the producing teams of the 2012 Tony-winning revival of Porgy and Bess starring Audra McDonald and Norm Lewis and, that same year, A Streetcar Named Desire starring Blair Underwood, Nicole Ari Parker and Daphne Rubin-Vega.

He would be part of the producing teams of three other Tony-winning shows: A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder (2013), Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike (2013) and Jitney (2017). Other credits between 2016 and 2019 include The Gin Game, Hughie and the hit Temptations musical Ain’t Too Proud.

Simons took on the role of lead producer on the acclaimed Thoughts of a Colored Man by Keenan Scott II in 2021, becoming one of the first producers with one of the first shows to reopen Broadway following the Covid shutdown. Despite strong reviews, Thoughts of a Colored Man was forced to shorten its expected run due to poor ticket sales, one of the many shows that struggled as Covid still ravaged the industry.

Simons returned to Broadway the following year as a lead producer of the well-reviewed revival of Ntozake Shange for colored girls…, directed by Camille A. Brown.

Both Thoughts of a Colored Man and for colored girls… made important marks on Broadway, the former being the first production to be written, directed by, starring and lead produced by Black artists. Brown’s Shange revival featured the first Black woman to direct and choreograph a Broadway production since 1955.

Information on survivors was not immediately available. Memorial services are pending.


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