Margo Lion, nicknamed Sarah Bernhardt by her father at a young age, spent her first 18 years in Baltimore, Maryland. She founded her fourth grade softball team, the Blue Devils, which sported its own emblem, manufactured and designed by Lion Brothers, Inc. especially for the occasion. Lion later exchanged her catcher’s mitt for a lacrosse stick and a passion for American history, acting (until stage fright hit) and debating politics at a lively and partisan nightly dinner table. (She did not know fellow Baltimorean, John Waters, before producing Hairspray.)
During and after college (Mills College and a B.A. from George Washington University), Lion worked in politics, first on Capitol Hill for Senator Daniel B. Brewster (D-Maryland) and then for Senator Robert F. Kennedy in his New York office. Following Senator Kennedy’s death she taught school for six years. After spending three years at the University of Iowa’s Playwrights Workshop where her former husband, Ted Nemeth, was a graduate student, Lion’s focus turned from education to her earlier interest in theater. In 1977 she determined to become a theater producer. Her cousin, MacArthur Award recipient and director/choreographer Martha Clarke, introduced Lion to Lyn Austin from whom she learned the ropes with Austin’s not-for-profit company, Music-Theater Group/Lenox Arts Center. Lion made the move to commercial theater in 1982 bringing with her the idea for a show about Jelly Roll Morton and the origins of jazz; ten years later, that show became the Broadway musical, Jelly’s Last Jam.
Lion is an adjunct professor and a member of the Dean’s Council at the NYU Tisch School for the Arts. She serves on the Board of Directors of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids and on the advisory boards of the Baltimore Young Women’s Leadership School, and The Alliance for Inclusion in the Arts, PUBLICOLOR.
In 2009 Margo Lion was selected by President Barack Obama to co-chair the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities, a position she continues to hold at this date.
Lion’s productions have garnered 20 Tony Awards, 4 Olivier Awards and 1 Pulitzer Prize. Following the opening of Hairspray, she was awarded the key to the city of Baltimore by then Mayor, Martin O'Malley.
Current shows in development include: Brooklynite, Monsoon Wedding, and Hipsters.
Margo Lion has one son, Matthew Nemeth who is married to Tricia Kissinger, and two granddaughters, Caroline and Catherine. Both Matthew and Tricia work at the New York Federal Reserve.