Entertainment & Arts

Phillip Hayes Dean, playwright of ‘Paul Robeson,’ dies at 83

Phillip Hayes Dean
Phillip Hayes Dean, author of the play “Paul Robeson,” has died at age 83.
(Craig Schwartz)

Phillip Hayes Dean, the theater actor, director and playwright whose stage biography of Paul Robeson is currently being performed in Los Angeles, has died at age 83.

Dean died Monday in L.A. of an aortic aneurysm, according to a spokeswoman for the play.

Dean wrote “Paul Robeson,” and the drama opened in 1978 on Broadway in a production starring James Earl Jones. The playwright recently directed the drama in a production starring Keith David that is running at the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center in L.A. through April 27.

The play, which features just one actor and a musician, follows the life of the pioneering black stage and screen actor.


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His other plays include “The Sty of the Blind Pig,” for which he received a Drama Desk Award in 1971. As an actor, he performed on stages throughout the country.

Dean was born and raised in Chicago and later Pontiac, Mich. He got his first theater job at the Will-O-Way Playhouse in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., where he helped to pull the curtain and later started acting.

After moving to New York, Dean acted and wrote for the stage. He also directed stage productions, including a staging of “The Maids” at the Equity Library Theatre. In the ‘90s, he moved to California, where he taught drama classes and continued to direct.


Dean is survived by his wife, Patricia; his daughters, Wendy and Karen; four grandchildren; and his brother, Howard Dean.


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