Lemon Andersen is a performance artist, playwright, brand architect, and Tony Award-winning poet. He first garnered national attention appearing in Russell Simmons’ “Def Poetry Jam” on Broadway in 2002, which won a Tony Award for Best Special Theatrical Event and netted Andersen a Drama Desk nomination for his writing. Andersen also appeared in eight episodes of HBO’s ode to spoken word, Def Poetry.
Over the past decade, Andersen has performed in venues across the country, from New York’s Nuyorican Poets Cafe to Hollywood’s Kodak Theater. He has appeared in four Spike Lee films, including Inside Man opposite Denzel Washington and The Soloist with Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx, and was the subject of the documentary Lemon, a look at his journey from three-time felon to bold-faced name—and how leaving one’s past behind just isn’t that simple. Lemon’s past includes a life of serious crime after being orphaned when his mother, father, and stepfather died from complications of heroin abuse and AIDS, causes he continues to fight and advocate for today.
In 2011, TED invited Andersen to perform at their inaugural TEDYouth event, live streamed to 16 countries. He was also selected to join the Sundance Institute's Playwrights Retreat that same year and, in the spring of 2012, he participated in Australia's Sydney Writers’ Festival and New Zealand's Auckland Writers & Readers Festival.
Andersen’s portfolio also includes work in branding, which he began in 2003 when Wieden+Kennedy enlisted him to create an original poem encapsulating their vision for LeBron James and Nike Basketball. Nike credits Andersen’s prose and command performance of the poem “King” as having been an invaluable touch in closing their deal with James.
Lemon Andersen’s latest endeavor is “ToasT,” a new play commissioned by the Sundance Institute. He has been interviewed and profiled by NPR, The New York Times, NBC, and The Wall Street Journal and has led college workshops, speaking engagements, and performances at campuses ranging from the University of Wisconsin and Syracuse University to the University of Michigan and the University of California-Berkeley.
Andersen earned his classically trained chops at the Public Theater’s Shakespeare Lab and his work has received support from the Sundance Institute, Ford Foundation, Multi-Arts Production Fund, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. As a guest instructor at the esteemed Stella Adler Studio, Andersen developed the first spoken word intensive to be offered at an actors’ conservatory.
Spike Lee produced Andersen’s coming-of-age autobiographical “County of Kings” at the Public Theater, for which Andersen received an acclaimed review from Ben Brantley of The New York Times. Since its 2009 debut, “County of Kings” has been staged in the United States, Europe, and South Africa. Published in 2010, the play’s script was awarded the New York Book Festival’s Grand Prize.
Andersen has performed at such iconic venues as Harlem's Apollo Theater, San Francisco’s Theatre on the Square, Gammage in Arizona, Charleston’s Spoleto Festival, Brooklyn’s Irondale Center, the Chicago Theatre, New York State’s Spiegeltent, and the Kodak and Montalban Theatres in Los Angeles.