Lenny volunteered to work at the McCarter Theatre in New Jersey because he loved theatre, but “New York was scary.” Director Terry Burgler, who later moved to Richmond, was directing A Raisin in the Sun and needed someone to play the moving man. Lenny—along with fellow VCU alum Dexter Zollicoffer (BFA ’86)—volunteered for the parts.
That’s where he first met VCU professor Maury Erickson and legendary Richmond actor Marie Goodman Hunter.
“I enjoyed every moment at VCU,” he says. “I knew I wanted to mix VCU with community as a working actor and Richmond allowed that.”
In one instance, Lenny had an opportunity to participate in a reenactment of Patrick Henry’s “Give Me Liberty” speech at St. John’s Church. While the release of Hamilton has sparked conversations about race-blind casting and more inclusive historical works, the reaction to Lenny’s role was a bit different.
Tom McGranahan, an actor and local theatre supporter who organized the annual reenactment, needed someone to play the clerk. He invited Lenny, who was rooming with Tom’s son Kevin (now VCUarts’ Scene Shop Foreman, by the way). When Lenny voiced his concern about a Black man appearing in this pre-Revolutionary scenario, Tom said, “People will understand.”
Lenny was right. “A staff member introduced each character and the look of horror on her face when she saw me … she had no idea what to do. You could see all the faces going ‘whaaat?’”
After graduation, Lenny spent several years in Richmond working on stage and in numerous training videos, including some directed by fellow alum Jerry Williams. “I could pay my rent, car payments and made a living on training videos and voiceovers.”
He also learned to work with—and sometimes challenge—producers, such as one who asked him to sound “urban.”
“She was trying to be sensitive, but showed her insensitivity,” he says. “I’m not afraid of asking a producer, ‘Do you want me to be more ghetto?’ As an artist, how can I help you get what you want?”
When Lenny later moved to New York, he started driving a limo. That’s where he met Terry Yohannon, who recruited him to work as a project manager at Villeroy and Boch, an international company and large producer of porcelain and ceramic products. After 15 years there, he now works in property preservation and management with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), while still doing some video and voice work in Philadelphia.
Written by Liz Hopper and Jerry Williams for the July 2020 Theatre Alumni Newsletter