NEW YORK (AP) — Phillip Hayes Dean, a playwright, director and theater actor who wrote the one-man play “Paul Robeson” starring James Earl Jones on Broadway in 1978, died Monday in Los Angeles from a heart condition, according to a family spokesman. He was 83.
His plays include “The Last American Dixieland Band,” ”Moloch Blues,” ”Freeman,” ”The Owl Killer and Dink’s Blues” and “The Sty of the Blind Pig,” which Time magazine called one of the best plays of 1971.
Dean’s most famous work is “Paul Robeson,” a powerful chronicle of the singer, actor and civil rights activist, which has had three Broadway productions and a London production, and has toured across the United States and Europe. The two revivals on Broadway — in 1988 and 1995 — both starred Avery Brooks.
Wren T. Brown, the founder of the Ebony Repertory Theatre in Los Angeles, where a production of “Paul Robeson” is currently playing, called Dean “a towering playwright and brilliant man of the theater.”
Dean, who was born and raised in Chicago and Pontiac, Mich., began his theater career at the Will-O-Way Playhouse in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. He later appeared on Broadway in “Wisteria Trees” starring Helen Hayes in 1955, and was a stage manager for an all-black version of “Waiting for Godot” in 1957. Dean also taught acting and playwriting at the University of Michigan.
He is survived by his wife, Patricia; daughters, Wendy and Karen; four grandchildren; and his brother, Howard.