Faculty and Staff

Stephen McKinley Henderson


Stephen McKinley Henderson

        • MA - Purdue University
        • BFA - North Carolina School of the Arts
        • Juilliard Drama Division


Professor Henderson has worked on stages throughout the United States and abroad, on and off Broadway, in television and film.  His film and television work include Steven Spielberg’s LINCOLN, (Oscar Nomination in Best Picture category) for DreamWorks, Tower Heist for Imagine/Universal; Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, (Oscar Nomination in Best Picture category) for Warner Brothers; Aaron Sorkin’s HBO series, THE NEWSROOM and Spike Lee’s, Red Hook Summer and Da' Sweet Blood of Jesus for 40 Acres and a Mule.  He co-starred on the FOX series, NEW AMSTERDAM and recurred as a judge on NBC’s landmark series LAW AND ORDER.  His work in the 2010 Broadway revival of August Wilson’s, Fences with Denzel Washington and Viola Davis earned Stephen a Tony nomination in the featured actor category.  That season he also received the Richard Seff Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor presented annually by Actor’s Equity.  Professor Henderson has been a cast member in two Tony Award winning revivals; A Raisin in the Sun in 2014 and Fences in 2010.  He is a Fox Foundation Fellow, member of the LAByrinth Theatre Company, Distinguished Alumnus of Purdue University College of Liberal Arts, and a former Chair of our department.  His term as Chair was interrupted in 1999 by his work with Pulitzer Prize winning playwright, August Wilson.

In his eloquent obituary for Mr. Wilson in 2005, Michael Feingold of the Village Voice wrote, “…To think of the great characters and scenes in August’s plays is to think of an epic parade of great African American actors who have seized their moment to make theater history: James Earl Jones and Mary Alice in Fences, Charles S. Dutton in Ma Rainey and The Piano Lesson, S. Epatha Merkerson confronting him in the latter, Roscoe Lee Browne sagely ironic in Two Trains Running, Stephen McKinley Henderson oozing malice in Jitney, Ruben Santiago-Hudson and Lisa Gay Hamilton glaring a skyful of weaponry at each other in Gem of the Ocean...”

As associate artistic director for Ruben Santiago Hudson, Stephen directed the readings of Seven Guitars and Fences included in August Wilson's American Century Cycle recordings.  Done in partnership with the Wilson Estate at WNYC's Greene Space before live audiences, all ten plays were read for broadcast, and live streamed throughout the cyber world in 2013.

In the summer of 2001, Stephen was part of a master class taught by Lloyd Richards at the Actor’s Center (NYC) and continued to study with Mr. Richards on a Fox Foundation Fellowship for three years.  The Actor’s Center master class is featured in a documentary on Mr. Richards being prepared by filmmaker Michael Schultz.  Professor Henderson established his course Introduction to Lloyd Richards’ Approach for our department in 2007.  He has led a master class module of the course for several institutions, among them Juilliard Drama Division, NYU’s Meisner School, The Stella Adler Studio, and Missouri University Graduate Program.

In Buffalo, Professor Henderson has received ArtVoice Awards for both Outstanding Performance and Career Achievement.  In 1993 he was honored with the Artist of the Year Award from the Arts Council of Western New York presented by National Endowment for the Arts Chair, Jane Alexander. The late theatre and film producer, founder of the Juilliard Drama Division, John Houseman cited Stephen’s work as a student in his memoir, Final Dress, publisher, Simon & Shuster.  Dr. Samuel Hay cites his work as an actor, director, and educator in his text, African American Theater, A Critical Analysis, publisher, Cambridge University Press.

Mr. Henderson has been part of several productions at Kennedy Center, most notably as a member of the acting company for Kenny Leon’s historic Century Cycle Readings in 2008.  His six Broadway roles from 2001 thru 2014 include Slow Drag in the revival of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom with Charles S. Dutton and Whoopi Goldberg and Van Helsing in, Dracula, The Musical, directed by Des McAnuff.  Off-Broadway his roles include Pops in Atlantic Theatre Company's production of  Stephen Adly Guirgus', Between Riverside and Crazy, directed by Austin Pendelton, LAByrinth Theatre Company’s production of Mr. Guirgus', Last Days of Judas Iscariot, directed by Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Turnbo in Marion McClinton’s celebrated production of Jitney.  During its off-Broadway run in 2000, Jitney garnered the N.Y. Drama Critic’s Award for Best Play and earned Drama Desk, Obie, and Audelco awards for each actor as members of the outstanding ensemble of the New York season.  In Los Angeles, Professor Henderson won a Drama Critics Circle Award as an outstanding featured actor and the NAACP Theatre Award for Outstanding Dramatic Performance by a Male. In London Jitney won the Olivier Award for Best New Play of the season, 2002.

For Yale Repertory’s 2009 production of Death of a Salesman, Stephen played Charley to Charles S. Dutton’s Willy Loman.   Other regional roles for various companies include Azdak in Caucasian Chalk Circle, Bynum in Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, Creon in Antigone, Falstaff in Merry Wives of Windsor, Sizwe in Sizwe Bansi is Dead, Sitting Bull in Indians, and Solyony in Three Sisters.  He played Winston in the Irish premiere of Athol Fugard’s The Island, for Dublin Theater Festival (1981) and received a Jeff Award nomination when the production moved to Chicago’s Wisdom Bridge Theater the following year.

Locally Professor Henderson directed Rajiv Joseph's Gruesome Playground Injuries for Buffalo Laboratory Theatre.  Off-Broadway in 2009 he directed Signature Theater’s production of Charles Fuller’s, Zooman and the Sign.   Other projects include several stage readings for Geva Theatre in Rochester, and a production of David Mamet’s, Oleanna for Kavinoky Theatre.  He made his New York directorial debut with ALI!, by Geoffrey C. Ewing and Graydon Royce.  Their homage to the legendary champion ran off-Broadway during the 1992 season, transferring from the John Houseman Studio to the Sheridan Square Theater.  The production garnered two Audelco Awards and an Obie for Mr. Ewing’s Outstanding Performance.  In the summer of 1993, Stephen traveled to London to re-stage ALI! for the Mermaid Theater.  It was also revived for the National Black Arts Festival in 1994 and the Olympic Arts Festival, Atlanta, 1996.  His production of The Meeting by Jeff Stetson for the St. Louis Black Repertory Theater was presented at Kennedy Center as part of the Imagination Celebration in the Theater Lab, 1994.  While on the roster of Affiliate Artists Inc. (l986-9l), he conducted workshops and presented solo “informances” throughout the nation.  A list of the corporate sponsors would include Reader’s Digest, Alcoa Foundation, Purina Foundation and U.S. Steel.

Stephen’s early education in Kansas City, Kansas, led to an academic scholarship to attend Lincoln University in Missouri, a historically black institution, where he met and was directed by Dr. Thomas D. Pauley.  In his freshman year at Lincoln, he auditioned for John Houseman and Michael Kahn and became a member of Group l, Juilliard Drama Division in 1968.  Stephen is interviewed in the PBS American Masters documentary on Juilliard, first aired in January of 2003.  His conservatory training continued at North Carolina School of the Arts (BFA) and at Purdue University Graduate School (MA), where he was Director of the Drama Workshop for the Black Cultural Center.  He has attended summer sessions at the William Esper Studio, NYC in 1993 and Rose Bruford Academy, Great Britain, 1971.