Phillip Hayes Dean
Stage Manager, Performer, Writer
( b. Jan 17, 1931 Chicago, Illinois, USA - d. Apr 14, 2014 Los Angeles, California, USA ) Male
Phillip Hayes Dean was a playwright whose stage portrait of the actor and social crusader Paul Robeson aroused one of the theater's more unusual controversies and derailed his own promising career. The public dispute over Paul Robeson, which starred James Earl Jones and opened on Broadway in January 1978, involved a welter of issues: artistic license, freedom of expression, accuracy in character portrayal and black pride. But it boiled down to the dissatisfaction of a group of prominent black intellectuals with Mr. Dean's representation of Robeson, which they felt was insufficiently complex, insufficiently thorny and too easily digestible by a mass audience.
By then Mr. Dean had explored his own experience as a black man and the sociology of black communities in a number of well-received plays, including The Sty of the Blind Pig, set in Chicago as the dawn of the civil rights movement begins to unsettle the settled ways of the play's characters; Freeman, about the diverse paths of two young black men in a small Michigan city much like Pontiac, where Mr. Dean came of age; and Every Night When the Sun Goes Down, which focuses on black-on-black exploitation and violence.
All three were performed Off Broadway, and "Sty," starring Mary Alice, and "Freeman," with Louis Gossett Jr., were produced on television. But none achieved the notoriety of Paul Robeson, a play with songs, in which the story of Robeson's remarkable life as an athlete, scholar, actor, singer, civil rights activist and left-wing lightning rod unfolds in a monologue.
The play was initially intended as a television drama starring Mr. Jones, who brought Mr. Dean to the project. After it proved untenable for television, it evolved into a stage production and began touring the country in the fall of 1977 on a circuitous journey to New York that was fraught with artistic disagreements. Mr. Dean wrote several drafts of the script, and the original director, Charles Nelson Reilly, was replaced by Lloyd Richards.
The Broadway show closed after just 77 performances. But in a vindication of sorts, Mr. Jones appeared as Robeson in a public television production of the play, and Paul Robeson was briefly revived on Broadway twice -- in 1988 and 1995, both times starring Avery Brooks -- without a peep of dissent.
Dean wrote from an early age, but his first theatrical training was as an actor, at the Will-O-Way Apprentice and Repertory Theater in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. He served in the Army and moved to New York in the early 1950s to audition for the Broadway drama Take a Giant Step, by Louis Peterson. (The role went to Mr. Gossett.) He had a small part in The Wisteria Trees, a play by Joshua Logan based on The Cherry Orchard, and he was the stage manager for an all-black production of Waiting for Godot, with Geoffrey Holder and Earle Hyman.
Source: The New York Times obituary