Four-Time Tony Award-Winning Producer Ron Simons Dies at Age 63 | Playbill

Obituaries Four-Time Tony Award-Winning Producer Ron Simons Dies at Age 63

He was a producer on The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess, Ain't Too Proud, and Thoughts of a Colored Man.

Four-time Tony Award-winning producer Ron Simons has died at age 63. The news was revealed by his production company Simon Says Entertainment, who wrote: "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." Mr. Simons died June 12. The cause of death is unknown.

Mr. Simons was born Ronald Keith Simons in Detroit, Michigan, November 30, 1960. He was an only child to a single mom, and was primarily raised by his grandparents. Mr. Simons did not set out to pursue theatre. He initially pursued business, graduating from Columbia Business School in 1989 with an MBA in marketing and international business. He was soon hired at Microsoft as a product manager in San Francisco, California. Then, when he was 39 years old, he decided to quit his tech job. He had gotten into tech in order to support his family, but in his heart, he wanted to be an actor.

After receiving an MFA in acting from the University of Washington, Mr. Simons moved from California to New York. There he became a company member of The Classical Theatre of Harlem. He also got an agent and started booking screen acting gigs (his screen credits include Marvel's The DefendersDaredevil, and multiple episodes of Law & Order and its spinoffs). Then, in 2009, dissatisfied with the kind of work he was getting and seeing, he decided to expand into producing, founding his company Simon Says Entertainment. His first foray into producing was on the 2010 film Night Catches Us, starring Kerry Washington and Anthony Mackie. His first theatre producing credit was the 2012 revival of Porgy and Bess starring Audra McDonald and Norm Lewis. For the next decade, Mr. Simons would be a co-producer on numerous Broadway shows, and he would win Tony Awards as a producer for Porgy and BessA Gentleman’s Guide to Love and MurderVanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, and Jitney. His other credits include producing on Ain't Too Proud and the 2012 revival of A Streetcar Named Desire, which featured a majority-Black cast for the Tennessee Williams classic.

Then after the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown, Mr. Simons decided to make the move to lead producer, the one in charge of raising the entire capital for a Broadway show and who shepherds it from an idea to a full-grown production. His first lead producing project was Thoughts of a Colored Man by Keenan Scott II in 2021, and the 2022 revival of for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf. Both of those shows made Broadway history—Thoughts for being the first in Broadway history to be written, directed, starring and lead produced by Black artists while for colored girls was led by Camille A. Brown, the first Black woman to direct and choreograph a Broadway show since 1955.

In a 2022 interview with The Root, Mr. Simons spoke passionately about his personal mission to bring more Black storytellers and, crucially, more Black producers to Broadway: "It doesn’t have to be $25,000 or $10,000. But people need to stand up and recognize that without support, we could go away. We could really, seriously, truly go away. And what a loss that would be because if I went away, there would be nobody telling all the stories I‘ve been telling. Maybe somebody, probably not...One by one, show by show, it’s my job to make people understand that Black stories are not only important—they’re viable. I always want to get more Black people to see our stories, to tell our truths. And that’s why I support Black storytellers.”

The Classical Theatre of Harlem, said in a 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."

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