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’s interests in education and politics have happily merged with her life in the theater. Having served as Co-Chairman of the Arts Policy Committee for President Barack Obama during his presidential campaign, she now serves as Co-Chairman of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities.
Lion is also an adjunct professor and a member of the Dean's Council at the NYU-Tisch School of the Arts. In addition, she serves on the Board of Directors of BC/EFA, the Advisory Board of The Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women, the Advisory Committee for the Public Diplomacy Collaborative at Harvard, and as advisor to both the Alliance for Inclusion in the Arts and PUBLICOLOR.
Lion’s productions have garnered 20 Tony Awards, 4 Olivier Awards and 1 Pulitzer Prize. Most recently, she was honored by the Cleveland PlayhouseSquare with the PlayhouseSquare Star Award for Achievement in the Performing Arts.
Lion's latest show, Catch Me If You Can, which had its world premiere at Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre, opened at the Neil Simon Theatre on April 10, 2011. The Tony®-nominated Best Musical began its National Tour in October 2012 in Providence, RI. Other shows in development include: a new musical inspired by The Brooklyn Superhero Supply Company and Monsoon Wedding.
Margo Lion has one son, Matthew Nemeth who is married to Tricia Kissinger, and a granddaughter Caroline. Both Matthew and Tricia are financial analysts at the New York Federal Reserve.