Tavis Smiley, Kenny Leon Adapting Maya Angelou Memoir for the Stage

According to the Associated Press, Tavis Smiley is teaming with Kenny Leon to adapt his memoir MY JOURNEY WITH MAYA into a stage play. America's Poet Laureate Maya Angelou passed away on May 27, 2014 at the age of 86.

"I haven't been this excited by a project in a long, long time," Leon said. "I don't think there is another person like her in my lifetime or in the last 100 years of American artistry and literary achievement."

Smiley met Maya Angelou in the mid-1980s when she was 58 and he was 21. She told him, "We find our path by walking it" and that "nothing human is alien to me." Smiley explained: "That was her way of saying, 'Live your life on your own terms. Don't be afraid to try anything. Experience everything."

Smiley and Leon are on the hunt for a writer for the project, but no word on casting yet. Who do you think should play Maya Angelou?

Leon is slated to direct NBC's live version of THE WIZ, which is also preparing for a revival run on Broadway. He won a Tony Award last year for his revival of A RAISIN IN THE SUN starring Denzel Washington. Among Leon's past directorial credits are Broadway's CHILDREN OF A LESSER GOD, HOLLER IF YA HEAR ME, STICK FLY, THE MOUNTAINTOP, FENCES, RADIO GOLF, GEM OF THE OCEAN and more.

Smiley hosts PBS's TAVIS SMILEY and PRI's THE TAVIS SMILEY SHOW. He also wrote the book DEATH OF A KING: THE REAL STORY OF DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.'S FINAL YEAR. Smiley's memoir MY JOURNEY WITH MAYA, co-written by David Ritz, will be released next week on April 7, 2015, the same day Angelou will be commemorated on a Forever postage stamp.

Angelou received more than 30 honorary degrees from universities worldwide. She is perhaps best known for her 1969 book I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS, which tells of her life up to the age of 17, and brought her international recognition and acclaim. Angelou published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, and several books of poetry, and is credited with a list of plays, movies, and television shows spanning more than 50 years. She became a poet and writer after a series of occupations as a young adult, including fry cook, prostitute, night-club dancer and performer, cast-member of the opera PORGY AND BESS, coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and journalist in Egypt and Ghana during the days of decolonization. She was an actor, writer, director, and producer of plays, movies, and public television programs. Angelou was also active in the Civil Rights movement, and worked with Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X.

Photo Credit: Walter McBride

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