Profile: Ron Allen (1947-2010)

Ronald Allen  was an African-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 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 keen. Known for his experiments with poetic verse, character, theme and structure, Allen created centers of language experiences and rhythm through his writing.


He began his theatrical career in Detroit in 1997, when he formed his acting company “Thick Knot Rhythm Ensemble”. This company became the medium for the production of 13 plays he wrote and produced, including Last Church of the Twentieth CenturyAborigional Treatment CenterTwenty Plays in Twenty MinutesDreaming the Reality Room YellowWHAM!The Tibetan Book of the DeadRelative 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 SunMy 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, originally performed at The Metropolitan Center for Creative Arts in Detroit in 2001, was produced in 2007 by the Theatre of N.O.T.E. He also performed with his Los Angeles-based jazz and poetry band Code Zero.

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. He taught poetry and theater for 13 years in the drug recovery community in Detroit. He also taught poetry and meditation in an assisted-living facility in Inglewood, California.

Ron Allen died August 10, 2010, in Los Angeles.

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