Kenneth Roberson has made a name for himself as a dancer, actor and choreographer
Kenneth L. Roberson came to UGA from his hometown of Thomson for a journalism degree. When he left, his minor in drama took him to Broadway.
“I had lots of chances to perform,” Roberson (ABJ ’76) says. “I was in ‘Uncle Remus Tales,’ a drama department production which toured the state. I performed with the Pomoja student troupe, which dipped into the black vernacular—pageantry, spirituals and dance. I sang in the UGA Glee Club. Those experiences shaped and helped me do what I’m doing now.”
Roberson began his theatrical career as a dancer. He got his first break by winning a scholarship to the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center and then danced in three Broadway shows—“Oh, Kay,” “Jelly’s Last Jam” and “Black and Blue,” which also took him to Paris for a six-month run.
Becoming a choreographer gave him new opportunities to be creative.
“As an artist, I wanted to make up things—that’s what good theater is about—and to make change,” he says.
As a choreographer, Roberson has earned credits in top regional theaters such as the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., the Pasadena Playhouse in Los Angeles and the Post Street Theatre in San Francisco.
His New York credits include “All Shook Up,” “Purlie,” “Harlem Song” and the 2004 Tony Award-winning musical “Avenue Q,” which features puppets.
“I had an opportunity to experiment with that show and to share my sense of humor,” he says of “Avenue Q.” “The show is both profane and profound; it talks about life and the rites of passage of people in their 20s. The puppets gave us leeway to talk about it all—racism, poverty and other current issues.”
Roberson also earned credits as a director/choreographer for shows at Baltimore’s Center Stage and the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park and on television productions such as “Lackawanna Blues” for HBO and John Leguizamo’s “House of Buggin’.”
He has proven to be an adept fundraiser for worthy causes, having co-produced three major benefits for the Rainforest Foundation using Broadway talent. It was very satisfying working with Sting and his wife Trudie Styler on these $2,500-a-plate dinner shows, which brought in $1 million for Rainforest projects, Roberson says.
“They do great work, and I had a chance to put a multi-racial face on these shows,” he says. “I am very proud of them.”
“It has been challenging going into the arts because artists in the U.S. are not as respected as they are in other countries. But I have been fortunate to live a great life in the arts and am so thankful for the way things are turning out.”
—John English, professor emeritus of journalism at the University of Georgia, is a frequent contributor to GM.