Ron Allen (playwright) : biography
Ronald "Ron" Allen (September 13, 1947 – August 10, 2010) was an Afro-American poet and playwright who described his work as a "concert of language." The Detroit native employed intuitive configurations of language (i.e., image, trope, and metaphor) to invent new meaning and new structures for the exploration and expression of language arts, including poetry and theater.
Like fellow Detroit playwright Ron Milner, Allen's ear for the use of Afro-American language, particularly in Detroit, was exceptionally keen. Known for his experiments with poetic verse, character, theme and structure, Allen created centers of language experiences and rhythm through his writing.
In a 2009 interview, Ron Allen described his artistic philosophy:
- “My work is an exploration and expression of the abstract and physical nature of reality. Language or written text is the force that poetically drives the plot, character, and direction of my work. I use metaphor and trope to create landscapes of defamilarized environments and conditions that affect human consciousness.
- “I attempt to walk the radical edge of meaning and theatricality in an assault on conditioned response in behavior and thinking in our culture. I am a critic of the norms that restrict innovation and restrict the search for freedom of ideas as a human imperative.
- “My characters are social paradigms and objectified patterns of historical class and power. The point is the search for truth as undefined as that may be, but truth as realization on the scale of impersonal triumph and the struggle of more questions.
- “The issue of race which I define as the ongoing muck of American culture is the center of much of my work. I strive to explore what it means to be black in an upside-down world – a world that makes the struggle for identity and power a radical act.”
He began his theatrical career in Detroit in 1997 when he formed his acting company “Thick Knot Rhythm Ensemble” which became the medium for the production of 13 plays he wrote and produced, including Last Church of the Twentieth Century, Aborigional Treatment Center , Twenty Plays in Twenty Minutes, Dreaming the Reality Room Yellow, WHAM!, The Tibetan Book of the Dead, Relative Energy Sack Theory Museum, and The Heidelberg Project: Squatting in the Circle of the Elder Mind, a play loosely based on the life of Tyree Guyton and the struggle to create his Heidelberg Project.
After his move to Los Angeles, California in 2007, Allen wrote three more plays: Swallow the Sun, My Eyes Are the Cage in My Head (produced in 2008 by the Los Angeles Poverty Department Theater Company), and The Hieroglyph of the Cockatoo. His play Eye Mouth Graffiti Body Shop was produced in 2007 by the Theatre of N.O.T.E. He also performed with his L.A.-based jazz and poetry band Code Zero.
Ron Allen published four books of critically acclaimed poetry, including I Want My Body Back and Neon Jawbone Riot. He released a book of poetry in 2008 titled The Inkblot Theory. He was founder and director of Weightless Language Press. Ron Allen taught poetry and theater for 13 years in the drug recovery community in Detroit. He taught poetry and meditation in an assisted-living facility in Inglewood, California.
Ron Allen passed August 10, 2010 in Los Angeles.
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