The Conjurer

By Emily Gold Boutilier / January / February 2005
May 3rd, 2007

Derek Anson Jones, director of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play  Wit, died Jan. 17 of complications from AIDS. He was thirty-eight  and lived in Brooklyn, N.Y.

 Jones had been associated with the play, which is about a professor  with terminal cancer, since its premiere in 1997. (It had been  he who convinced the Long Wharf Theater in New Haven, Conn., to  produce it.) “Derek believed that theater could really matter,”  said Doug Hughes, the Long Wharf artistic director, speaking to  the Boston Herald after Jones’s death. “In a brief, extraordinary career, he demonstrated  just that.”

 Jones directed the first New York City production of Wit at the MCC Theater and also staged the national tour, winning  the Lucille Lortel Award and the Drama Desk nomination for his  work. The play was written by Margaret Edson, who had once been  his high-school prom date.

 “Mr. Jones’s approach to the play was simple, allowing Ms. Edson’s  language to dominate the stage,” wrote the New York Times in its obituary of Jones. “Still, using a series of sliding curtains  and minimal lighting, Mr. Jones managed almost seamlessly to conjure  settings as varied as a hospital, a lecture hall, and a family’s  living room.”

Recently, Jones also staged Much Ado About Nothing, Wendy Wasserstein’s An American Daughter, and Angelique. He had also directed productions at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis,  the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, and New York City’s P.S. 122.  He acted in several plays, including the revival of Cabaret.

Jones is survived by his companion, Denis O’Hare of Brooklyn,  N.Y.; his parents, Raymond and Gladys Jones; and a brother.

What do you think?
See what other readers are saying about this article and add your voice. 
Related Issue
January / February 2005