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.