Avery Brooks to Play Willy Loman in New Interpretation of Death of a Salesman

By Andrew Gans
August 21, 2008

Avery Brooks, the stage and screen star best known for his work on TV's "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" and "Spenser: For Hire," will take on the role of Willy Loman in a "radical new interpretation" of Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman in September.

Directed by Justin Emeka, the Miller classic will play Oberlin College's Hall Auditorium in Oberlin, OH, Sept. 18-21.

Director Emeka, professor of theatre and African-American studies at Oberlin, "intends to bring new light to Miller's powerful portrait of how the American dream turns into a nightmare for one man and his family," according to press notes. The production "will step beyond the margins of standard-issue color-blind casting, boldly embracing nontraditional casting that incorporates the race and ethnicity of the actor into the role he or she is playing. All members of the Loman family are African-American; the woman with whom Willy has an affair is white; and the characters of Charlie and Bernard are depicted as Jewish immigrants who fled Eastern Europe during the rise of the Third Reich."

In a statement director Emeka said, "If the American theatre seeks to be more inclusive and representative of our country's diverse population, we must learn to explore the classics of American theatre through diverse cultural perspectives."

Brooks will be joined onstage veteran New York actress Petronia Paley as Linda Loman, "ER" actor Mark Jablon as Charlie, Justin Emeka as Biff and Oberlin student Raphael Sacks, who was seen in the English National Opera's Lost Highway, as Howard. Jazz musician Ralph Jones will perform incidental music onstage during the play.

In addition to his television work, Avery Brooks was seen on Broadway in Paul Robeson, as King Lear at Yale Rep, and as Othello at the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, DC, where he also played the title role in Christopher Marlowe's Tamburlaine. An Oberlin graduate, Brooks has returned to campus several times: as the college's first Artist-in-Residence, as a teacher of the Black Arts Workshop, and in performances of Paul Robeson. In 1996, Brooks was awarded an honorary doctorate.

Show times are Sept. 18-20 at 8 PM and Sept. 21 at 2 PM.

Oberlin College's Hall Auditorium is located at 67 North Main Street in Oberlin, OH. Tickets, priced $5-$12, are available by calling (440) 775-8169 or (800) 371-0178. Visit www.oberlin.edu/salesman for more information.