Award-winning ‘Wit’ director Jones dies

Helmer's work characterized by humane spirit, Hughes sez

Derek Anson Jones, director of Margaret Edson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Wit,” died Tuesday at St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York. Denis O’Hare, his longtime partner, said Jones died as a result of complications from AIDS.

Jones was born on Feb. 24, 1961, in Washington, D.C., where he attended Sidwell Friends School and first met playwright Edson. He received his B.A. in theater and American civilization from Brown U. and his M.F.A. from the Yale School of Drama.

For his direction of “Wit,” Jones won the 1999 Lucille Lortel Award and received a Drama Desk nomination. In addition to the Edson play, he directed “Much Ado About Nothing” and “An American Daughter” at the Long Wharf Theater, as well as “Angelique” for the MCC Theater.

“Wit” originated at the Long Wharf. Doug Hughes, the theater company’s artistic director, said Jones “was a master of a number of theatrical dialects, but his work was always characterized by a profoundly humane spirit. Derek believed that the theater could really matter. In a brief but extraordinary career, he demonstrated just that.”

In addition to O’Hare, survivors include Jones’ parents, Raymond and Gladys Jones of Washington, D.C., and a brother, Raymond, of Aurora, Colo.

Funeral services will be private. A public memorial service will be held Feb. 7 at 2 p.m. at the Union Square Theater in New York City. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the Gay Men’s Health Crisis Center.

The L.A. production of “Wit,” starring original cast member Kathleen Chalfant, opened Tuesday at the Geffen Playhouse.

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