Ozzie Jones ’92 seeks ‘truth of the words’ in directing all-black Death of a Salesman

In a recent interview, theater director Ozzie Jones ’92 discusses his production of Death of a Salesman, the first “photo negative” casting of the Arthur Miller classic to be staged in Philadelphia.

In Jones’ interview with phindie.com, a Philadelphia arts and theater news website, interviewer Henrik Eger says that Jones made the production feel like “a black play written by a black writer for a black audience.” How did Jones accomplish that?

Theater director Ozzie Jones '92 (left) talks with David Wall Rice, professor of psychology at Morehouse College, following a 2012 Bates conference of black and latino men from Colby, Bates and Bowdoin colleges. (Simone Schriger '14/Bates College)

Theater director Ozzie Jones ’92 (left) talks with David Wall Rice, professor of psychology at Morehouse College, during a 2012 Bates conference of black and Latino men from Bates, Colby and Bowdoin colleges. (Simone Schriger ’14/Bates College)

Jones answered: “I just let the actors tell the truth of the words. I didn’t spend a lot of time talking about race. I think the journey of the artist is to find and tell the truth of the moment.

“I think the performance felt authentic because the goal of the journey of the actors was authentic….I personally believe that race constructions take people further away from the truth and not closer to it.”

“Telling the stories of people other than themselves.”

Eger asks Jones how he feels about “white actors taking on all-black plays” or entire photo-negative productions, such one of Uncle Tom’s Cabin where white actors play slaves, and black actors the owners.

XXX portrays XXX in the all-black production of "Death of a Salesman," directed by Ozzie Jones '94. (Photo courtesy of Ozzie Jones '94.)

Kash Goins portrays Willy Loman in the all-black production of Death of a Salesman, directed by Ozzie Jones ’94. (Photo courtesy of Ozzie Jones ’94.)

“I love it. I am, I think, in the minority opinion about this in the black community, but I think the only way theater will bring us closer is if people explore telling the stories of people other than themselves. I further think that white artists have always told black stories in their own voice: Eric Clapton, Al Jolson, Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones, Elvis, etc.

“The only difference is now, in the theater, black artists are doing it with classical white works. Hey, it’s only fair, and I love it.”

Death of a Salesman, which ran from July 30 to Aug. 17, was staged in conjunction with GoKash Productions.

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